Agile Project Management: Everything You Should Know

Nov 03, 2022

Maulik

Innovify

What is Agile Project Management and Why the Hype Around It?

Companies must constantly improvise their strategies and products to match changing markets. Using an Agile product development process can help teams respond effectively to change and produce customer-focused products that address customer needs.

Despite being “the new kid in the town” compared to linear, waterfall development, Agile product management is old enough as the Agile Manifesto was published a couple of decades ago. In recent years, Agile has invaded not just software development but many other fields.

This post will look at what Agile Methodology is and how it relates to product development. We’ll compare Agile and Waterfall approaches, examine the advantages and disadvantages of Agile development, and offer some thoughts on transitioning to Agile.

So, without further ado, let’s get started.

What is Agile Product Management?

An agile project management method is an iterative approach to a project throughout its life cycle, in which several steps are taken toward completing the project.

In software development, the iterative approach is employed to enhance speed and flexibility, as it allows you to make adjustments as you move along rather than following a linear path.

Agility, one of the Agile project management’s core values, refers to ‘mobility, nimbleness,’ it is derived from the Latin ‘agere’: ‘to act, to do.’ This ability allows for quick changes in direction.

The following are the building blocks of Agile project management:

  • Transparency
  • Focus on the customer
  • Adaptability
  • Sense of ownership
  • Continuous improvement

Let’s discuss them one by one.

Transparency

When working in an Agile environment, people can share their work progress by posting information on radiators like Kanban boards. Seeing how their peers work and how they achieve their goals allows people to discuss how they might do it better.

Furthermore, team members are free to share their ideas and problems in Agile project management without fearing that doing so will jeopardize their position on the team. As a result, teams work together to own their mistakes and solve them in an environment of unity.

Customer Always in Focus

The goal of Agile project management is to ensure that customer requirements are well understood through constant collaboration. Particularly in knowledge work environments, a common challenge is ensuring that work specifications are well understood, as when work is practically invisible, the project specifications may easily be misunderstood.

Regular feedback cycles in the Agile project management lifecycle serve as checkpoints where clients can see “what they thought they wanted” in action. This brings in new knowledge and explores possible innovative solutions.

Adaptability

Considering the feedback checkpoints mentioned previously, Agile project management seeks to enable teams to better adapt to changes by providing more frequent value deliveries to customers. Because teams can receive fast feedback directly from the customer, they can ensure value delivery.

This is why instead of producing one large batch of work, Agile teams break down their projects into small chunks and continuously deliver them in an iterative fashion, retaining flexibility for the remaining work. The use of agile project management tools helps the team to get effective results.

Synchronizing what is being worked on with the clients throughout the Agile project lifecycle is the main goal. You will therefore be able to easily adapt to new situations and avoid any significant delays in project delivery as a result.

Sense of Product Ownership

Another attribute of Agile project management is the sense of product ownership within teams, which ensures leadership effectiveness.

Traditionally, project managers collect and disseminate information throughout the project. In this approach, team members are assigned different tasks. Unfortunately, some of the information may be missed with this approach.

In contrast, Agile project management makes the team members a part of the decision-making process, often through scrum and sprint planning.

It makes perfect sense to include those who are closest to the technical details in planning processes and decide how to execute their tasks best. Hence, team members are inspired to collaborate and find solutions to problems as per their understanding instead of waiting for the “boss” to tell them what to do.

Continuous Improvement

Perhaps the essential aspect of Agile project management is that it supports continuous improvement. Instead of a single “lessons learned” session at the end of the project, Agile teams frequently engage in continuous learning phases alongside the project’s development.

Small deliverables are continuously delivered to customers for assessment and feedback as work is broken down into them. This process contributes to the continuous improvement of a product or service, intending to make it ideally suited to the targeted consumer.

Principles of Agile Project Management

Organizations can adopt Agile project management methodology following its 12 principles which remain prevalent in all the project sprints. Here are these:

  1. Early and continuous software delivery
  2. Always deliver a working product
  3. Welcome requirement changes
  4. Encourage frequent communication
  5. Bring motivated individuals on board
  6. Prefer face-to-face communication
  7. Measure progress at every sprint
  8. Set realistic goals and expectations
  9. Focus on technical excellence and solution design
  10. Keep things simple
  11. Promote self-organized teams
  12. Keep improving

Agile Project Management Methods

We’ve covered Agile project management so far, including its key aspects. Now, we’ll discuss the procedure in more detail and look at some of the famous Agile management styles and methods.

Kanban, Scrum, and Scrumban are the most popular Agile project management frameworks or methods today.

Let’s begin with Kanban.

Kanban

The concept of Kanban was created a decade ago; it encourages continuous process improvement through evolutionary changes.

The six core practices of Kanban are:

  • Work visualization
  • Limiting work-in-progress
  • Flow management
  • Making process policies explicit
  • Implementing feedback loops
  • Improving collaboratively

A Kanban board is used to visualize the team’s work, and all tasks are placed on it. This will enable teams to exchange information much faster and work together more effectively while working on different projects.

Project managers and teams can use a Kanban board to organize and manage work effectively, keep track of several projects, and acquire a better perspective of the process by dividing the board into columns representing different stages of the workflow.

Work-in-progress (WIP) limits are one of the most important Kanban practices. It is the amount of work allowed in each column on the board. These limits can be used to boost your team’s focus and prioritize completing WIP to improve overall efficiency.

Any team in your company, from IT to marketing, can use Kanban.

Scrum

Scrum is a prescriptive framework, not a native Agile method. Scrum is a time-boxed, split-project iterative approach by nature which is quite similar to Agile, and that’s why many believe it is an Agile method. Teams use scrum to produce high-value products keeping productively and creatively on steroids.

A scrum team has three main roles:

  • Product owner
  • Scrum master
  • and the team

Here, the product owner represents the client and other stakeholders, creating and managing the product backlog, which is a prioritized task list of all the work required for the product. The Scrum Master is a servant-leader of the team, emphasizing leadership and helping everyone follow the rules correctly. The product owner selects and moves work items from the product backlog to the Sprint backlog until the Sprint is filled up.

A Sprint is a project with a fixed length of no more than one month in which the team itself performs the work.

Scrumban

Scrumban got into the limelight when people from the Agile community noticed an opportunity to combine Kanban and Scrum in a way that would make it easier for Scrum teams to focus on continuous improvement and evolutionary change.

In fact, 81% of the Scrum masters use Kanban along with the Scrum principles. Scrumban combines the Scrum approach with the Kanban method and eliminates some restrictions.

Now you know the Agile project management, the 12 principles of Agile, and how projects are managed in an Agile environment.

However, it is obvious to ask how Agile differs from conventional project management methodologies like Waterfall.

Let’s find out.

Pros and Cons of Agile Project Management

There are both advantages and disadvantages to using Agile product road mapping. Each situation is unique, so their value or lack thereof depends on them.

Pros of Agile Project Management

The benefits of agile project management are as follows:

Explaining the “Why”

An Agile product roadmap doesn’t care how the product gets where it needs to go, but it does communicate why each outcome was selected in the first place. By capturing the narrative and crafting a cohesive narrative despite having multiple teams working on different things, agile product roadmaps accurately shift the focus away from features and onto outcomes.

Strategic Alignment

A product roadmap provides a framework for structuring and communicating a product strategy in order to achieve alignment across teams and avoid missed objectives. The framework provides structure and clarity in a fast-paced setting where independent teams race to deliver value.

Project Visibility

Most often, senior management does not attend daily standups in order to learn about each team’s short-term goals. Instead, a product roadmap can provide them with the big-picture and context about the team’s initiatives and project status.

Transparency

Not only the top-level management but all the stakeholders should know what’s going on in a project. An Agile product roadmap can be used to disseminate information widely and consistently.

Cons of Agile Project Management

Despite being the beneficial and ideal choice for most projects, Agile can sometimes be a challenge if not implemented the right way. Following are the cons of Agile you may face in such scenarios.

The Roadmap Can Become Irrelevant

When the Agile process is running smoothly, teams are always taking action and making decisions. In such cases, an Agile roadmap gets out of date pretty fast if it is too specific or detailed. Also, without regular updates, an Agile roadmap becomes an “artifact” in a negative sense pretty fast—another reason for including themes and objectives rather than specific features.

Derailing the Project

An incorrect product roadmap could result in grumpy customers and stakeholders if not managed well, updated, and promptly shared. It is because the dynamic nature of Agile product management can lead a product in such completely new directions that the product roadmap is outdated.

Not Strictly Time-Bounded

An Agile product roadmap doesn’t provide information on when features or functionalities will be available. It’s important to squelch these expectations early in the Agile transition process.

Agile vs. Waterfall Project Management Methodologies

With a traditional waterfall approach, roadmaps define long-term plans and strategies in rather specific terms. Although things may be altered due to unexpected developments, the general idea for the long-term is envisaged with this approach.

However, a clear understanding of the entire product roadmap helps various departments plan properly. People can prepare for what’s coming, whether it’s hiring staff with specific skills or acquiring technologies.

The rigidity and predictability of waterfall-based product roadmaps are one of the reasons they are so unpopular among the Agile crowd. Especially when principles with speed, adaptability, and flexibility go against the rigidly planned route.

The Agile approach emphasizes speed over everything else, so it leaves the majority of the details to be determined later in the development process. Agile product roadmaps, in contrast, function as guiding documents rather than restrictive barriers to innovation. They still point the way but don’t specify the route or timetable.

Embrace the Inevitable

Organizations that have yet to begin using Agile methods are likely to do so in the near future. They may choose to adopt a few Agile principles, such as daily standups and shorter release cycles, or they may fully embrace all 12 principles.

Moreover, product managers who have been acquainted with the conventional may find Agile challenging. However, Agile rituals and routines will make product managers feel that things are predictable.

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Prakash Pilley, Client Services Director
Prakash Pilley

Client Services Director