Curious about how agile project management could work for your organization? Start here for an introduction to agile, and best practices that will help you achieve success.
Are you among the 91% of folks planning to implement agile in the near future? It could be a very good call for your organization.
Agile project management comes with a ton of benefits including optimized processes, less resource wastage, and most of all, higher customer satisfaction.
In fact, McKinsey found that in comparison with non-agile organizations, agile ones see:
Not sure where to start? We’ve got the full rundown of what the agile methodology is, its lifecycle, and challenges to be mindful of (including tips to overcome those challenges).
Let’s dive in.
The agile methodology is a project management style focused on working in short cycles, called sprints or iterations.
It centered around teams working quickly on different aspects of a project, taking end-user feedback at each cycle, and quickly pivoting or adjusting as needed. In doing so, the agile project management method helps save time and resources.
There are different ways to structure your agile project management, including:
It involves working in sprints or development cycles, often 2-week long, with defined project goals and roles.
It’s best for small teams that work collaboratively, ideally for projects with a lot of uncertainty around the product.
This agile methodology divides projects into flows that are visualized in columns on a Kanban board. These flows can be as simple as ‘to-do,’ ‘in progress,’ ‘in review,’ and ‘done.’ But they can be tweaked to meet project requirements.
The Kanban project methodology is best for structured projects where you know exactly what needs implementing and at which project stage.
This method combines scrum and Kanban agile methodologies, picking up the best of both worlds. It divides work into sprints, often longer than in scrum-run projects (think: 3 to 6 months, even a year).
Work is often visualized in a Kanban board and it’s not as meeting/events-heavy as scrum tends to be (although some events like retros and ad-hoc planning sessions are highly encouraged).
The lean methodology focuses on optimizing project resources by removing all "wasteful" activities from a project - basically, any steps that are judged not to bring value to the end-user. To this end, it involves creating a minimum viable project (MVP) that the team then continuously iterates based on customer feedback.
Since lean software development empowers team members to make important decisions on their own, it’s best fit for small projects with an experienced project team.
This method values quality feedback, extensive collaboration, and knowledge sharing. It’s why it involves peer work where team members work together to provide each other feedback for improvement consistently.
Extreme programming is great for mixed teams where junior and senior team members work together on tight deadlines and with smaller budgets.
It involves working on a feature basis, making progress on one before starting on another. It’s often divided into the following five stages: modeling a project, creating a feature list, planning by feature, designing by feature, and building by feature.
This methodology is best suited to large-scale software development where releasing features is a priority.
This agile framework emphasizes talent and collaboration over tools and processes. It doesn’t prioritize extensive documentation and reporting and team members make their own choices for how to work based on the project requirements at hand.
It’s best for projects with urgent deadlines as the project team can adapt their way of working and make changes as required.
The exact roles that make up your agile project team will depend on your project size and its nature.
For example, in smaller projects, agile project management doesn’t use a dedicated project manager. Instead, the typical responsibilities of a project manager (scheduling, reporting, and quality control) become all team members’ responsibilities.
In most cases though, you’ll likely use a project manager — often referred to as the team leader or scrum master.
Let’s get into the details below:
In a Kanban setting, a project manager is often referred to as the team leader. Their role involves:
Scrum masters are team leaders or project managers in a scrum agile management setting. They’re responsible for:
This role is a must for projects involving software/product development for managing the following responsibilities:
This person or group of people is responsible for executing the vision the project owner makes. They help with:
Also referred to as technical experts, these agile roles may come into the picture as needed. They’re usually brought in to solve specific challenges. They help with:
Like domain experts, these folks usually aren’t part of the project team. However, they’re brought in before submitting the deliverable(s) to assist in:
Stakeholders are people with a stake in the project including investors and end users. You can always divide them into internal and external stakeholders for effective project management.
➡️ Here’s more advice on mastering stakeholder management to keep project roadblocks at bay.
On top of these roles, you might have a handful more for larger projects. For instance, an integrator for managing separate teams so they function as a cohesive whole.
The exact breakdown of a project life depends on the agile project methodology you use. Broadly though, the focus in all agile methodologies is typically on:
That's why the agile methodology is divided into the following six lifecycle stages that prioritize testing and quality assurance:
Agile project management comes with a ton of benefits including breaking team silos, emphasizing customer feedback and project quality, and preventing wastage.
However, this doesn’t mean it’s not free from drawbacks. If anything, agile management can never be a success without the right tools, effective collaboration, and ownership.
Let’s dive into these challenges below:
A project owner might not have enough information to plan project specifics. In turn, this lack of information means you’d likely have vague or changing acceptance criteria which can slow project progress — even add to the work.
Since the agile methodology relies on continuous testing, it might be hard to define boundaries. For example, there’s no saying when your product is final as there’s always room for improvement.
Agile works best when team members proactively take ownership of their work and the decisions they make. But this can be challenging – especially as new team members work or if you’re in your initial phases of trying the agile work methodology.
Dig deeper: What is Team Cohesion & How to Achieve it
As with taking ownership, agile project management thrives on efficient team communication. Without proactive communication between various team members including testers, developers, and product owners, agile is bound to fail.
Agile processes involve continuous feedback sourcing, iteration, and releases. If all this work is handled manually or using tools that don’t streamline processes, project progress slows down.
The good news is all the agile project management challenges we reviewed above are entirely solvable.
Just make sure you invest time into the following to maximize your odds of success:
Instead of using the agile methodology to manage a large project, begin small.
That is: test drive the project workflow to manage a small project first.
Review how team members collaborated and in what ways agile was better than your traditional project management process.
As you apply the agile methodology to more projects, reflect on the mistakes you’re making and work out ways you can improve as you scale.
The agile management philosophy thrives on continuous feedback sourcing and sharing, both internally among team members and externally as end users test the product.
So make sure you host workshops and training sessions on different aspects of feedback management including:
Retros assists project teams in understanding what’s working, what’s not, and things to improve.
The scrum agile methodology prioritizes these. However, it’s best to implement them regardless of the type of agile methodology you implement.
This way, you can learn not just how to improve the project but also ways to improve you work processes.
But be sure to use different retrospective templates so you prevent the meetings from getting boring and encourage various team members to share their thoughts.
Budget time for reviewing tools that’ll help you manage feedback and iterative cycles.
As you manage more and more agile projects, you’ll also want a reliable platform to not only manage projects but your capacity and resources as well.
For this, select a tool that supports both the flexibility and fixed nature of agile resource planning. Because at the end of the way, you don’t need to think of resource allocation in terms of projects but product development.
The same holds true for sprint capacity planning. If you plan to change the project team on a sprint basis, you’ll need a tool that gives you a full overview of your overall capacity and each resource’s availability.
All in all, remember to select a tool that integrates with your current tech stack, prevents things from falling through the cracks, and is cost-effective enough to meet your changing needs.
To summarize, agile project management prioritizes feedback sourcing and sharing. Executed well, it can save you tons of time and resources — helping you create products that end users will love.
But remember to start small and leverage the right tech stack to keep things running smoothly.
Looking for an agile management tool that’ll leave a definite impact on your project processes? Consider Runn.
Runn shows you project progress and milestones in one place, making it easy to run multiple projects at a time. It also serves as your central resource repository — giving you an overview of team members’ availability, and their skills and interests.
Still on the fence? Book a demo today to learn how Runn can help you manage your agile projects.
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