A guide to agile project management
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There are many project management training courses today, which teach an array of different project management techniques. One of the fastest growing techniques is agile project management. Despite the approach having been around for many years it is still considered a new approach to project management by many organisations. There is a manifesto to follow, as well as 12 key principles that need to be adopted. If this is something you are unfamiliar with, don’t fret, as we will reveal everything you need to know about this approach in this community post.
What is agile project management?
Agile project management came to fruition because project management, especially for IT projects, needed a makeover. It’s seen as the modern approach to managing a project. Agile project management is a form of project management that is centred on delivering products that are well-tested and reflect the needs of the customers, team input, scope flexibility, the continual improvement of the project’s processes and product, and the early delivery of business value. This approach has caught the attention of project managers all over the world, and has become the focus of a lot of project management causes.
It was in 2001 that agile project management came about. A group of project and software experts came together to speak about what their successful projects had in common. As a result of this discussion, the Agile Manifesto was developed. This is a statement of successful software development values. It states that through the work of finding improved methods of developing software, they have come to value:
· Reacting to change, instead of just following a plan
· Collaborating with customers, instead of contract negotiation
· Working software, instead of excessive documentation
· Interactions and individuals, instead of tools and processes
The 12 Agile Principles
The 12 Agile Principles have been put together as a collection of guidelines that support teams working on a project when it comes to the implementation of agile approaches. If you are to apply agile methodologies to your projects, you need to utilise the following concepts.
1. Your highest priority is to ensure the customer is satisfied with continual and early delivery that is valuable.
2. Agile procedures are designed to harness change for the competitive advantage of the customer. This means that you need to welcome a change in requirements, irrespective of how late it is in the development stage.
3. Shorter timescales should be preferred. It is important that a working product is delivered on a regular basis, from a few weeks to a few months.
4. Collaborative working is a must. Everyone needs to work collectively on a daily basis throughout the entire project.
5. Motivated individuals need to be the centre of the project; what the project is built around. You need to trust that they will get the job done, and give them all the support required, as well as the environment needed.
6. Face-to-face conversation is viewed as the most effective and efficient way to convey information to and within the project team.
7. The primary progress measure should be a working product.
8. Sustainability is promoted through agile project management. Everyone involved in the project needs to indefinitely maintain a constant pace.
9. Agility is enhanced through continual attention to excellence.
10. One component that is viewed as essential is simplicity, which is the art of optimising the amount of work that is not complete.
11. Self-organising teams create the best results.
12. It is important that the team has time for reflection, determining how to be more effective. Do this on a frequent basis. You can then alter your behaviour in accordance.
Agile project management in regards to customer satisfaction
One thing you will notice is that a number of the principles mentioned above have a focus on customer satisfaction. In fact, this is what agile project management is all about. Nevertheless, the first four principles really do stand out in regards to this notion.
But, first, who is the customer? The customer on a project can be defined in a number of different ways. Firstly, it can be the individual that is going to end up utilising the product. Secondly, it may be stakeholders within the organisation or a project stakeholder. Thirdly, the customer may be an external client. And lastly, the customer is the group or the individual who is funding the project.
Of course, the customer can mean a different thing depending on the nature of the project, but they should fall into one of the four categories mentioned above. So, to ensure they are satisfied, you need to make an effort to enact the top four principles mentioned. How do you do so? Here are some steps to follow:
· Product owner – You need to make sure that there is a product owner in your project team. This is an individual that has the responsibility of ensuring the customer’s wants are translated into the requirements of the product.
· Valuable features – The next step is to deal with valuable features. Product features need to be prioritised by the product owner in order of market risk or value. These priorities are then communicated to the project team. The team then works on delivering the features that are most valuable on the list. They will do this in short cycles, which are known as sprints or iterations.
· Involvement – It is important for there to be on-going and deep involvement of the product owner on a daily basis. They need to quickly answer any queries, provide feedback, make decisions, and clarify requirements and priorities.
· Frequent delivery – The next step is to ensure that working product features are delivered on a frequent basis, as this will enable the customer and the product owner to have a complete sense of the completed product.
· Product value growth – The team should continue to provide demonstrable and complete features on a frequent basis – every four weeks ideally, but no longer than eight weeks. The value of the total product will increase incrementally.
· Customer receives new features – Throughout the project, the customer will frequently receive product features that are new and ready-to-use. This will lead to the accumulation of value in the customer’s eyes regarding his or her investment. Under traditional project management, they may need to wait until the end of an extremely long period of time before any product features are delivered.
Of course, not everything is plain sailing when it comes to projects, and there are instances whereby dissatisfaction may arise. Let’s take a look at a few examples and how the agile approach to project management can assist with these issues and boost customer satisfaction.
The first example of dissatisfaction with a project is when a customer wants to make a change, yet they cannot do so without adding any extra time or cost to the project. Agile projects assist with this because the processes are built with change in mind. With every sprint, shifting priorities, requirement updates, and new updates can be accommodated by the project teams. This offsets the cost of such changes, as the lowest priority requirements are eliminated.
Another example of when customers end up dissatisfied is when the product is delivered when the customer does not require it. Under agile project management, you will work in sprints. This means that you are going to deliver high-priority product features often and early.
Finally, another common scenario whereby the customer ends up unhappy is when the development team have not understood the requirements of the product. This happens a lot more frequently than you would imagine when it comes to traditional project management. However, under the modern approach, the product owner will work closely with the customer, ensuring product requirements are defined and refined, and the team has clarity on what is needed. At regular intervals, working product features are demonstrated and delivered by the agile project team. If the customer feels the product does not work in the way they want it to work, they can provide feedback at the end of the sprint. This is much more beneficial than providing feedback at the end of the project whereby it becomes very difficult and expensive to make any big changes.
What makes agile projects better?
Now you have a bit of an understanding about what agile project management is. However, why has this approach become so popular? What are the benefits associated with it?
· Scope creep – The idea of scope creep is minimised with agile project management, as it allows for changes to the project to occur earlier and more easily. With this type of project, at each sprint, you can add more requirements without the flow being disrupted. You stop scope creep from being a threat to critical functions by creating prioritised features first.
· Project success – Another key benefit to consider is that with agile projects there is virtually no risk of catastrophic project failure. Early failure or success is ensured because this approach to project management prioritises business value. You will find any problems early because of the agile approach to testing. This potentially saves you from wasting a lot of money and a lot of time.
· Right product – You will build the right product using agile project management because you have the ability to embrace change, and you are also able to allow agile development requirements to evolve and emerge. When using the conventional approach to project management, you can find that a ‘successful’ project is delivered. However, the product itself was not what was needed or expected. With an agile approach, building the right product is where the emphasis lies.
· Customer satisfaction and business engagement – Another reason why agile project management has proved to be so beneficial is because you benefit from much better customer satisfaction and business engagement. This stems from numerous factors, including the flexibility to change when it is required, high visibility of progress and the product, as well as active involvement of the product owner and/or user representative.
· Cost control – You can benefit from a fixed budget if you follow an approach of evolving requirements yet fixed timescales. As opposed to the cost being variable, the features and the product are.
· Flexibility – It’s not called ‘agile’ project management for no reason. Change is expected with this approach.
· Visibility – Another key benefit associated with this approach to project management is visibility. An extremely cooperative collaborative approach is encouraged, as is active involvement of the users during the development of the product. This leads to great visibility for the key stakeholders, both in regards to the product itself as well as the progress of the project. This is beneficial because it ensures that expectations are managed successfully.
· Quality – Any problems regarded quality are discovered early on, and the project manager can make the necessary adjustments. This is because of the integration of testing during the lifecycle, which is a core principle of agile. This ensures that the working product is inspected regularly.
· Speed-to-market – Early and regular deliverables are supported by the agile philosophy, as well as the boost in revenue that comes from incremental delivery.
· Revenue – This leads onto the final benefit perfectly - revenue. You can realise some of the benefits early due to the features being delivered incrementally.
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding regarding agile project management and how to implement it at your organisation. If you follow the 12 principles that have been mentioned in this post, you can adapt this approach to project management to meet your business needs. As you can see, there are many benefits associated with doing so.
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