5 things Project Managers Need to Know About Agile Methodology

5 things Project Managers Need to Know About Agile Methodology

If you work within a team, you’d probably agree with me when I say that you are always looking for ways to improve your process as well as the end product.

In terms of project management, that is exactly why the agile methodology was developed.

What is the Agile Methodology?

The agile methodology is an alternative project management approach that allows more flexibility throughout a project lifecycle, and typically consists of short rounds of production which allow adjustments — that would normally significantly delay a project — to take place quickly and within shorter timelines.

Today, I’ll review 5 very important things that project managers of any type of company need to know about the agile methodology, as well as some tips and tricks for improving the way teams are managed.

Agile Methodology isn’t just for Software Teams

Although originally refined for software development some 15 or so years ago, the agile methodology has since been evolved for further usage by multiple other industries. Known as the business agile methodology outside software, it is a marked step away from the previous model — the waterfall methodology — that was likely adopted from the construction industry.

In the waterfall method, there is a pre-established solution which makes the likelihood of adjustments to the scope less likely. As projects — and especially those in the technology industry — began to require more flexibility, these project management styles quickly presented challenges.

Waterfall project management is contingent on a single sequence of tasks with each step dependent on the completion of the one prior. If there are any changes in scope, returning to the planning stage is very difficult.

Alternatively, agile projects consist of multiple production rounds, called “sprints,” where small cycles of the overall deliverable are mapped out, produced, and implemented into the larger workflow. If adjustments are needed, the agile wins over the waterfall method in that it can make real-time changes without having to revisit the original plan or effect the next cycle in the process.

Communication and Cooperation are Paramount for Agile Methods

In his book Agile Software Development, Alistair Cockburn provides a great explanation and visual on how communicating influences the way people work together. While the book is geared towards software development, it’s principles can be applied towards the business agile methodology as well.

Source: http://agilemodeling.com/essays/communication.htm

Cockburn argues that the richest, most effective communication method is face-to-face at a shared modeling medium like a whiteboard. On the polar opposite end is via paper, with no face-to-face interactions. He also contends that the benefit of face-to-face and other in-person or video interactions includes additional communication modalities, such as facial expressions or body language. Additionally, you see that the modeling arc ends at a point which distinguishes our ability to answer questions in real time, something that helps teams understand each other more effectively.

Face-to-face communication is the preferred method within the agile approach. If teams can get together for short meetings and discuss each member’s tasks, goals, challenges, wants, and needs, they are engaged and informed during the project’s entirety.

Obviously, not all teams have the benefit of face-to-face interaction, but it is important to recognize hot and cold communication channels and why they can contribute or negate from the richness of interactions.

It is also important to recognize that there are preferred communication technologies for every situation. Here are a few to consider:

Communication Technologies

(click to expand image)

Source:

http://agilemodeling.com/essays/communication.htm

Utilizing an Information Sharing Tool Enhances Project Visibility

In a business environment, meetings can only take a team so far. They need other tools to keep them on track and up-to-speed. Project managers, in particular, need to keep track of what each team member’s responsibilities are, what they are working on, what progress they are making, if they will be meeting deadlines, and how productive they are based on their allotted hours (in professional service organizations).

As mentioned in the above section on communication technologies, collaborative SaaS tools can be a great asset. These tools allow for the effective project management and planning of all stakeholders. More advanced tools will help with time tracking, productivity, and capacity utilization to make the job of the project manager as streamlined as possible.

How to use Agile Methodologies in Business

You can think of the agile method as a way to simplify business processes where unpredictability is common. In software (where agile is most common), development teams use the principles to adapt to changes in project requirements. For businesses where the projects are not software related, you can use agile methods to respond to client requests, help increase productivity, and adapt more quickly to changing business scenarios.

You can even begin to adopt agile methodologies into your existing projects to see if the approach is a good fit. With the goal of creating continuous and incremental improvement to your deliverables, start with retrospectives.

At your next team meeting (preferably face-to-face), document retrospective topics such as those outlined in this article on embracing agile technologies:


Asking these questions, the author states, helps improve client relationships and creates better relationships within the office.

You can Use Agile Methods Alongside other Project Management Styles

It is common for project managers to adopt multiple project management methods for specific teams or segments. If one thing holds true for the agile methodology, it’s that it can work alongside other project management styles because it was designed to be flexible. I know of several enterprises that utilize a mixed waterfall/agile approach and rave about the rich communication and quality output.

Adopting agile methodologies in your business doesn’t mean you have to abandon other project management styles that may be working in your company. There are a number of project management techniques that you may be utilizing; determine which ones work for each team or project and avoid trying to put them all under one pre-defined style.

If you are a project manager and are interested in collaborative tools to improve the way you improve your process as well as the end product, find out more about how Allocable can help your team work more productively.

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Allocable is a cloud-based automated time tracking and business intelligence (BI) software platform that provides  a complete visualization of your workforce and project productivity data empowering you to turn information into actionable insight to optimize and forecast performance with more certainty.

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