5 Things to Know When Adopting Agile Project Management Methodology
2020 taught us many things, and key among them was learning how to pivot. When the pandemic hit, IT teams worldwide performed the tactical triage necessary to pivot to a remote workforce—practically overnight. A year later, companies continue to rethink their products and services. As a result, they redefined their workplace model, and reframed social and political issues from the inside out. This is change management– 2021 style. The difference? It’s nimble, and it’s swift. It’s, well, agile.
What does Agile Project Management Methodology mean to me?
At its core, Agile project management enables organizations to rapidly respond to change and increase value to customers while minimizing risk. It’s a proposition that requires senior leadership commitment. That is to say, a clear vision, organizational alignment, effective teamwork, and a culture of continuous improvement. The four key values of an Agile project management methodology that allow your company to thrive in this ever-changing landscape are focused on:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
- Working software over comprehensive documentation.
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
Responding to change over following a plan. Is your organization or team considering a move to Agile? Let’s take a look at the areas you need to consider.
First Things First: What or Who is Missing?
When adopting an Agile project management methodology, the first step is to determine what and who is needed to make the transition possible. It’s essential to recognize that this transition is a team effort, and everyone must embrace the change to succeed.
An experienced Agile Coach or Scrum Master can help facilitate and implement best-in-class transformation practices. You can also consider implementing a Lean-Agile Center of Excellence (LACE) or an Enterprise Agility Team (EAT). These teams are tasked with communicating the need, vision, and urgency of an Agile transformation, developing the implementation plan, and establishing KPI’s. Whether you’ve identified existing staff to lead the change, or plan to onboard Agile specialists, be sure they possess the necessary experience and skills to effectively champion and implement your goals. Positive work relationships and a collaborative environment are critical to Agile project management adoption and transformation.
Continuous Training Means Continuous Innovation
To foster an Agile mindset, you’ll need to provide and encourage an environment of continuous learning. Consider establishing Communities of Practice (CoP) groups or “micro-learning” sessions relevant to specific teams so they can apply their learnings to individual work experiences. Continuous training enables your teams to share their successes, best practices, and lessons learned.
The very nature of Agile project management takes place in a constant learning and testing environment. While individual Agile methodologies have distinct attributes, they all rely on the principles of iterative development and continuous feedback. Encourage your teams to incorporate short feedback loops and establish frequent retrospectives to boost collaboration and innovation while reducing risk.
The ultimate goal of moving to an Agile project management methodology is to enable an organization to quickly respond to change and establish a culture of continuous training, improvement, and innovation.
As of late 2020, seven out of ten companies had adopted Agile project management methodology in some form or another. Why? Because nearly all of them report achieving project success as a result of adopting its methodologies. The vision and intended outcome behind Agile methodology is to develop applications in small, functional stages. Each stage is tested, and iterative changes are made along the way before its considered complete. This process ensures that quality is “built” directly into the product instead of completing development and inspecting for quality later.
Heavy focus is placed on understanding customer requirements through constant collaboration with team members, internal stakeholders, and customers. The goal is to provide customers with what they need, not just what they asked for. Agile teams can quickly adapt the product roadmap to the changing needs of the customer and optimize delivery. This frequent collaboration increases efficiency to projects, creates lower production levels, and delays cost, making the final deliverable cheaper for the end customer.
Communicate and Collaborate
Agile project management methodology is based on simplicity, flexibility, and continual iteration. That means communication plans should make it easier for developers and stakeholders to share information and move the project forward, not harder.
Agile teams essentially learn as they go, so it’s difficult to know exactly what the communication needs may be on any given day. Instead of creating a detailed and finite communication plan, consider these strategies as you adopt an Agile environment:
- Business units and developers need to work together every day throughout the project.
Instead of traditional project management plans that rely on specific deliverable dates, Agile requires close collaboration and information sharing among stakeholders. This allows quick decision-making and enables teams to pivot throughout the process.
- The best and most efficient method between stakeholders and a development team is face-to-face conversations.
An Agile environment favors quick, in-person conversations, not heavily documented and structured meetings. The nature of Agile development and iterative change means you can’t always plan what conversation you’ll be having. Develop guidelines to facilitate and evaluate clear and productive communication.
- If it’s working, there’s progress.
An Agile environment doesn’t mean there won’t be documentation. Regular sprint reviews that demonstrate functional deliverables have greater value than status reports to track and measure progress.
- Maximize the amount of work not done.
Agility means reducing the steps required to deliver information and requires a minimalist approach. Simplicity and brevity are key. Agile documentation (i.e., artifacts) should be pared down to include only the necessary information that coveys project details at a glance.
Last, make sure your team champions and socializes success stories internally to highlight the value achieved from adopting an Agile transformation. Ultimately, you’ll want to encourage the adoption of Agile practices across non-development functions.
It may seem like an oxymoron to make a steady transition to a rapid-fire environment, so it’s helpful to define the contrasts between organizational transformation and Agile scaling. Transformation is how your organization structures and empowers employees to embrace agility, while scaling means how your company executes it.
Many frameworks help an organization or team scale efficiently: Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Scrum @ Scale, Nexus, and Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS). Most commonly, Scrum is a way to tackle a project using Agile, and SAFe is a way to make your entire end-to-end business Agile, including non-project work and non-project employees.
While Agile methodologies are generally used in project management and software development, they can also be implemented across organizational processes. You can encourage non-development functions to adopt Agile practices. Whether it’s implementing Agile Marketing to plan and track campaigns or creating a Kanban board for resource planning, an Agile mindset and practices can improve output across the organization.
Need an Agility Expert?
Over the past 15 years, Benchmark IT has placed dozens of Agile project management and development professionals across numerous companies and industry verticals. Whether it’s an Agile Coach or SAFe-certified expert to plan and lead your transformation, Scrum Masters and Product Owners to build out your team, or technical teams to implement the tools you need to collaborate seamlessly, we have a deep bench of talent to call on. We’d be happy to discuss your needs and help match the right professionals to the job. Contact us today!
About Benchmark IT –Technology Talent
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