I notice that there has been plenty written about Agile but it is a topic that will be discussed for as long as there are projects being managed. As project managers we all strive to improve our capabilities and project outcomes with each project. We hope to learn from past projects and put that learning into practise to avoid the same mistakes on future projects. Anyone who has been working in a project-based environment for some time will be realistic enough, of course, to know that the theory does not always match up to the practise but still we try and improve and over time, through our failures and successes as project managers, our experience grows and develops.
Part of that growing as a project manager should involve having an open mind about each new project that comes along and also about different project management practices and techniques. Experience is important but so too is a willingness to learn from different methods. I remember the time my young daughter, who was about 10 at the time, first suggested a brilliant idea (in the proper grown-up sense) – I was quite taken aback that someone so young could produce such a good idea. That was a real lesson for me but since then I actively seek knowledge from those less “experienced” than me or from new or less well-established methods and techniques. That’s all part of learning.
And that’s how I view Agile – it’s younger than me but has a lot to teach me.
There is plenty of debate about the advantages and disadvantages of an Agile approach to project management but clearly there are benefits so, not surprisingly, more and more organisations are beginning to take notice and assess whether it is a suitable approach for some of their projects.
If you’re thinking about adopting a more Agile approach to some of your projects, ask yourself the following questions to see if it might be right for you:
- Do the business requirements lack clarity so you will need regular customer feedback on interim deliverables in order to help develop the requirements more fully?
- Are you employing new technology that is likely to have issues, problems or faults that will need to be quickly identified and resolved?
- Does your project need to be flexible in order to respond easily to changing market forces or new information?
Agile can help solve many project problems but as with any approach it also has it’s disadvantages:
- As an iterative approach the scope needs to be managed tightly to prevent scope creep.
- Closing out a project can be difficult as there is a temptation to continue improving and refining the product.
As with any project management approach Agile is no more a panacea than, say, PRINCE2 or the APM approach, but it is suitable for many types of project. As a project manager you should have all tools at your disposal and be adaptable enough to select the ones that are right for a particular job rather than shoe-horning a project into an unsuitable method.