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What is Project Management? – Agile Project Management

CMS Vocational Training Hadyn Luke posted this on Monday 3rd of February 2020 Hadyn Luke 03/02/2020

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What is Project Management? – Agile Project Management

In our earlier blogs, What Is Project Management? and Words Used in Project Management, we looked at how project management is used to carry out complex tasks and deliver change in an organisation, and at some of the terminology commonly used.

Today we are looking at Agile Project Management, which offers a more flexible approach to running specific types of projects.

When is Agile Project Management useful?

Agile Project Management is a useful tool in a variety of situations, for example:

  • When frequent changes are required during the course of a project
  • When the project is developing in a fast-moving environment
  • When those directing the project are trying out new ideas
  • When a project is particularly complex and involves experimentation
  • When a project is urgent and needs a fast, flexible approach

How does Agile Project Management work?

Flexibility is key. Those working on the project will usually focus on short bursts of activity, followed by checking or testing and adjustments. This means that the final result is often different from what was projected at the starting point.

For new product development, this might involve testing with customers and making changes in response to their feedback, to ensure that the final product meets their needs.

Where did the idea of Agile Project Management come from?

While the fundamentals of Agile Project Management are not new, a 1986 article in Harvard Business Review – The New New Product Development Game by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka – compared developing new products to a rugby game, where teams re-evaluate and respond as things happen. Then, in 2001, the Agile Project Manifesto, was created by a group of software and project experts.

What is the process for Agile Product Management?

Following the principles of the article and manifesto mentioned above, Agile Product Management uses a “scrum” and “sprint” framework, inspired by rugby games.

The scrums are meetings and events where an expert “product owner” decides on priorities and sources funding, with a “scrum master” managing the overall process and a “team” to carry out the activities, working in “sprints” – short phases of work.

Sprint planning meetings help the team to set a goal and assign tasks to deliver a specific outcome in an agreed timeframe. The only focus should be on the goal and each day there is a 15-minute meeting to assess progress, plan the day’s work and discuss challenges. Teams are self-managed; communication can be in person or via virtual meetings; and some teams may use social media groups to communicate.

After each sprint, team members meet with the product owner and key stakeholders to decide what might need altering for the next sprint. Then the scrum master will hold a retrospective meeting to decide on any improvements to be made for the next sprint.

How does Agile Project Management compare with the traditional approach?

The standard approach to project management has less flexibility built in. If applied to the traditional model, the checks and adjustments used in Agile Project Management would almost certainly result in higher costs and workload. Deadlines are likely to be missed and the end product may no longer be relevant.

In Agile Project Management:

  1. Teams follow rules but are self-directed, rather than working to detailed plans and being controlled by a project manager.
  • The requirements of the project develop during the process, rather than before the start of the project.
  • Testing and feedback from customers takes place throughout the process and is used to make changes, rather than happening near the end of the project.
  • Scope and direction are assessed during the process, which makes it harder to write the business case for the project, but ensures the end result is relevant to customer needs.

Because of these differences, Agile Project Management works best in fast-moving environments, whereas traditional project management is better for a more fixed environment and budget.

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