Agile Project Management an Overview

Businesses have always been susceptible to change, but today’s world experience much stronger winds of change and they are constantly changing its direction. Spurred on by the need to adapt to this ever-changing environment, organizations adopt flexible technologies, flexible management methodologies and predominantly flexible mindset.

The concept of Agile also is one such adaptation that arose as a response to rapid change, growing complexity and the shift in power in the marketplace from the producer to the consumer.

Meaning, Definition and Origin of agile

The word agile or agility has been derived from the Latin word ‘agilis’. The dictionary meaning of agile is or agility is to move/ think quickly and easily. In the business world, agility means adaptability, flexibility, continuous improvement and balance.

1. Adaptability: Adapt quickly to market changes
2. Flexibility: Respond rapidly and flexible to customer demands
3. Continuous improvement: continuously be at a competitive advantage by optimizing your processes
4. Balance: Adapt and lead change in a productive and cost-effective way without compromising quality

The term agile was popularized by the “Manifesto for Agile Software Development” (or simply Agile Manifesto) in 2001. Nevertheless, many organizations have been practising various tools, techniques, methods of what is called today as ‘agile’ even before the founding of “Agile Manifesto”

Agile Manifesto:

In Feb 2001, 17 thought leaders of the software industry, in an endeavour to find an alternative to documentation driven, heavyweight software development processes convened at Utah, U.S.
They formalised the agile movement with the publication of Manifesto for Agile Software Development.
Based on their combined experience of developing software and helping others do that, the seventeen signatories to the manifesto proclaimed the following 4 values.

© 2001, the Agile Manifesto authors

Some of the authors formed the Agile Alliance, a non-profit organization that promotes software development according to the manifesto’s values and principles.

Is agile suitable for only IT/ software projects?

We explained that although the term became popular after founding agile manifesto, the concept had been in application in various names in various industries.

The values, principles outlined in agile manifesto, in the past decade has spread to many industries and are tailor made to their organizational/ project requirement.

It is worth noting, agile approach can be applied at various level viz., Enterprise level, Project Level, Product Level, Process level.

Hence irrespective of the industry, products and projects agile principles, methods, tools can be appropriately tailor-made and applied. In fact, Agile is a mindset rather than Just a Methodology. This Agile mindset includes both

1. operational agility (making the existing business better) and
2. strategic agility (generating new products and services and so bringing in new customers)

Agile Software Development Vs Agile Project Management?

To elaborate further let’s compare agile software development and agile project management. Agile project management focuses on the overall management of the project. Agile product development, on the other hand, focuses on engineering activities associated with the project’s product, be it a software product or construction or automotive product. Agile software development hence falls under product development category. The goal of agile software development is to develop excellent quality, sustainable software faster and easier. Requirements and solutions evolve through the collaborative effort of self-organising, cross-functional teams, customers and end-users. It follows an iterative approach and relies on continuous feedback from business users.

Agile in software development is an umbrella term that denotes various frameworks and practices under it.

Agile project management goes beyond software development. This involves implementing agile approaches at a project level and geared toward project managers and team members adapting to an agile approach in planning and executing projects involving high uncertainty. As high uncertainty projects may span across industries, again agile project management can be used in any industry.

How does it differ from traditional project management?

Despite the industrial buzz, some organizations or projects continue to use traditional approaches. Traditional Project Management, otherwise called the waterfall method involves the bulk of planning upfront and then executing the phases/ processes more or less sequentially. Hence the traditional approach is usually termed as a plan-driven approach.

Agile project management approach, being designed for high uncertain projects, with unclear scope in the beginning, involves frequent iterations, continuous feedback from stakeholders and deliver more often incrementally to avoid rework or waste. It is a change driven approach.

It should be important to highlight that introducing agility into your projects does not mean replacing your current processes. Projects often combine elements of traditional and agile approaches, in the proportion required for the project. In other words, most projects use a hybrid approach rather than the extremes.

How to master agile project management methodology?

“The bridge between knowledge and skill is practice. The bridge between skill and mastery is time.” says Jim Bouchard.

At the outset, it is essential to start with acquiring knowledge on agile project management, its tools, practices and start implementing one by one in your projects without trying to completely transform the approach.

To start with, we recommend you to go through PMI’s (Project Management Institute) ® Agile Practice Guide. This guide is a collaborative effort of PMI and Agile Alliance ®

This guide introduces agile approach, compares it with other approaches, gives light on agile practices with suitable illustrations and cases.

Scaled Agile Framework Inc. (SAFe)® is another certification body that provide globally recognized standard and credential for agile approaches.

Upon gaining necessary knowledge and experience, we suggest you to attain credentials like PMI-ACP® or SAFe Agilist, hence it’s evident to the world that you are a skilful agile practitioner.

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