agile-project-management

Agile Project Management

Agile project management (APM) is a strategy that breaks large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks. In the APM methodology, each project is completed in small sections – often referred to as iterations. Each iteration is completed according to its project life cycle, beginning with the initial design and progressing to testing and then quality assurance. 

Understanding agile project management

In a dynamic and complex world, businesses must be able to change direction and adapt quickly.

While the software and marketing industries are perhaps most associated with APM, all businesses can benefit from adopting agile methodology. Indeed, it is now being utilized in car manufacturing, universities, and also for military purposes to name a few.

The time that it takes for an iteration to be completed is called a sprint, and sprints typically run for a few days or as many as four weeks. Ultimately, this approach to project management allows iterations to be released as they are completed. 

Upon release, each iteration is then critiqued by a review team composed of key stakeholders. These stakeholders gain insights from the current iteration to guide the direction of the next iteration (step) in the process.

The four key values of the agile project management 

The APM framework is based on the Agile Manifesto which was originally written to guide software development. However, the four key values listed in the manifesto can be applied to almost any industry that has a focus on meeting consumer needs.

They are:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools. In the face of advanced technology, the APM framework still recognizes the importance of human input.
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation. When project teams avoid being bogged down by small, insignificant details, they can focus on delivering results.
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation. Traditionally, customers are only involved at the beginning and end of project management. However, in APM the customer is involved with every step of the process to ensure their input is incorporated.
  4. Responding to change over following a plan. Agile project management works with change instead of actively trying to resist it. It emphasis creating a minimum viable product (MVP) at regular intervals as the process moves from iteration to iteration.

Advantages of the agile project management approach

  • Early error detection. By allowing faults to be detected as they occur, agile project management negates the need for expense fixes once a product has gone to market. When travel company Thomas Cook found that their slow website left customers unable to purchase, they switched to APM. Over the next 3 months, the company was able to detect loading errors early and recouped an estimated $190,000 in lost business.
  • Empowerment. The APM approach increases trust, builds accountability, and encourages a diverse range of ideas. As a result, projects are delivered efficiently with a focus on continuous improvement and user experience.
  • Increased sales and profits. Businesses who adopt a more agile approach spend less time and thus less money developing products. But perhaps the single biggest cost-saving lies in the decreased reliance on expert consultation to guide the development process. In the APM approach, the experience level of junior engineers and developers is fast-tracked through hands-on learning.

Project Management, simply, is a way to manage and organize things with a team of professionals working closely to achieve business targets and goals. Every department of a company, whether small or big, can’t survive without proper management and monitoring of its employees and their workings.

We’ll see in this article how a clear project management process helps your organization in being more productive and your business model better rolled out in the marketplace.

The Importance of A Project Management Process

From outside the four walls of an organization, project management might seem simple and an easy process, but to a surprise, it’s not merely limited to knowing the workflow, solving the complex puzzles and implementing the designed rules.

This field of work involves much more than expected and has some technical aspects as well that needs to be well defined and well processed. Take a look at a few:

  • Internal/External Tasks
  • Business Budgets
  • Dependencies
  • Risk Management
  • Employee Management
  • And much more…

Why does project management in some cases fail? Let’s see some of the reasons:

  • Projects sometimes become hard to handle as new projects may involve new working style
  • Many times project managers are not able to understand the problem-solution space to get the expected results.
  • Customers themselves are not clear with the actual requirements of the product/service they need
  • Organized Working is something not achieved while handling teams, coordinating with peers, meeting deadlines, lack of resources, etc.
  • Lack of proficiency and knowledge in the managers pulls back their growth due to which they are unable to see the big picture.

These were some general points to discuss and now take a look at the challenges the Project Leaders face at their job along with their respective fixes. Take a rundown:

Unreachable Deadlines

One of the most commonly seen reasons why projects don’t get deployed on time is due to unrealistic expectations from the clients regarding the delivery of the product/service asked for.

The ‘Initial Deadline’ set is something that is not achievable due to which the project timelines usually slip, and the attempts go in vain. In the cutthroat competition, targets are not set as per the real timeline frames, instead are driven by targeted business goals and requirements.

The Fixes to unreachable deadlines

Here, the senior level personnel can take care of the deadlines and other related parts which requires proper planning, analysis, coordination and communication and by keeping a close eye on the real-time progress of the ongoing project(s).

Many project management software and tools are available that helps you keep all the checks and plan your events, schedules, meetings, etc., thus keeping a clear track.  

Poorly Defined Goals

A significant difficulty that not only PMs face but also the team members along with them is- what exactly to do, what to expect, where to start, and how to end. The first step from where a project begins is with its achievable goals and acquirable objectives with a blueprint of all the phases to be executed. The interrogatives how, when, and why must be answered before making a headstart.

If the goals and aims are not pre-defined in a transparent and explainable way, your endeavor is undoubtedly doomed to fail with a lot of confusion and chaos leading you nowhere.

The Fixes to poorly defined goals

The initiation must be with clear goals, prepared plans, specific direction, feasible deals, kickoff meetings which will allow you to reach your destination with an understandable road map. One can look upon the management and planning tools to better run the business projects.

Unaligned Scope

Scope creep is what many senior professionals fear of and never want to witness. The scope and direction of the project get off track when a project starts and moves in a certain way, but as it progresses, it is on another track leading a different path totally opposite to the specifications of the customer or client.

Many times, it is seen the project takes a different shape and a look, unlikely the beginning, which often results in project expansion outside the pre-set objectives. This may further increase rework and use of additional resources, thus, incurring more cost and efforts.

The Fixes to unaligned scope

Avoid such a situation with proper planning, right aligning of goals, understanding customer needs, making realistic assumptions, documenting feasible deadlines, well communicating the objectives to the team.

All these will, indeed, help you lead your management efforts to the right path, befitting you and your organization.

Lack of Skills and Abilities

A manager proceeds with his endeavors with the support of his team and its members. Mostly in small companies, it is seen that people are assigned as per their availability, not their expertise and work experience, primarily when a new project is undertaken and to proceed with it. Lack of knowledge and skills to work on new technologies, systems, and software prove to be dangerous for your project’s advancement.

The team members in parallel with the seniors are not trained to be a good fit for the roles, meet challenges and perform the assigned tasks, undoubtedly the project development is going to see a setback in its progression and may lead to a halt.

The Fixes to lack of skills and abilities

Core competencies and master skills of employees must be documented, which may provide useful insights about an individual’s expertise and area of work so that the right person can be aligned with the proper role to perform.

Also, the skill gaps can further be reduced by the provision of seminars, webinars, training, sessions, certifications, etc., encouraging them to boost their knowledge, thereby, improving their as well as business’s productivity.

Disconnected Communication

The final deployment of your project with the desired outcomes can never be done with a miscommunication with the peers. Poor communication is one of the biggest challenges to surpass to make your project’s delivery a big success.

Giving instructions, asking queries, and providing information all when done in the right and clear way dispenses semantic outputs. So, open communication is what is needed where managers must pay close heed towards it by applying the best ways to portray the project and company goals for clear visibility among the team members.

The Fixes to disconnected communication

There are collaboration software and tools available in the market which are specially designed for the proper flow of communication among teams and different departments. Such tools enable all the associated people to remain in a loop to be updated regarding the various iterations of the project development phases.

Key takeaways

Project Management is an inevitable aspect of Business Management, where high authorities and senior professionals must get aware of the management techniques and methodologies to derive fruitful benefits out of your attempts.

There are many online training and courses available which one can go for to enhance their dexterities and show them up in their real-life projects to expand the brackets of knowledge and career both.

Hope the soft documentation would help you sort managerial issues pulling back your growth.

Key takeaways:

  • Agile project management is an iterative development framework that breaks large projects into smaller parts, known as iterations.
  • Agile project management advocates human over machine input and a focus on delivering results. It also focuses on customer collaboration and continuous product improvement.
  • Agile project management allows businesses to develop products efficiently without an over-reliance on expensive consultation fees.

Related Business Frameworks

Business Model Canvas

business-model-canvas
The business model canvas is a framework proposed by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur in Busines Model Generation enabling the design of business models through nine building blocks comprising: key partners, key activities, value propositions, customer relationships, customer segments, critical resources, channels, cost structure, and revenue streams.

Blitzscaling Business Model Innovation Canvas

blitzscaling-business-model-innovation-canvas
The Blitzscaling business model canvas is a model based on the concept of Blitzscaling, which is a particular process of massive growth under uncertainty, and that prioritizes speed over efficiency and focuses on market domination to create a first-scaler advantage in a scenario of uncertainty.

Jobs-to-be-done

jobs-to-be-done
The jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) framework defines, categorizes, captures, and organizes consumer needs. The jobs-to-be-done framework is based on the premise that consumers buy products and services to get jobs done. While products tend to come and go, the consumer need to get jobs done endures indefinitely. This theory was popularized by Tony Ulwick, who also detailed his book Jobs To Be Done: Theory to Practice.

Customer Obsession

customer-obsession
Customer obsession goes beyond quantitative and qualitative data about customers, and it moves around customers’ feedback to gather valuable insights. Those insights start with the entrepreneur’s wandering process, driven by hunch, gut, intuition, curiosity, and a builder mindset. The product discovery moves around a building, reworking, experimenting, and iterating loop.

Value Proposition Canvas

value-proposition
value proposition is about how you create value for customers. While many entrepreneurial theories draw from customers’ problems and pain points, value can also be created via demand generation, which is about enabling people to identify with your brand, thus generating demand for your products and services.

Business Design

business-design
business designer is a person that helps organizations to find and test a business model that can be tested and iterated so that value can be captured by the organization in the long run. Business design is the discipline, set of tools and processes that help entrepreneurs prototype business models and test them in the marketplace. 

Design Sprint

design-sprint
design sprint is a proven five-day process where critical business questions are answered through speedy design and prototyping, focusing on the end-user. A design sprint starts with a weekly challenge that should finish with a prototype, test at the end, and therefore a lesson learned to be iterated.

Agile

agile-methodology
Agile started as a lightweight development method compared to heavyweight software development, which is the core paradigm of the previous decades of software development. By 2001 the Manifesto for Agile Software Development was born as a set of principles that defined the new paradigm for software development as a continuous iteration. This would also influence the way of doing business.

Read Next: MVP, Lean Canvas, Scrum, Design Thinking, VTDF Framework.

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Published by

Gennaro Cuofano

Gennaro is the creator of FourWeekMBA which reached over a million business students, executives, and aspiring entrepreneurs in 2020 alone | He is also Head of Business Development for a high-tech startup, which he helped grow at double-digit rate | Gennaro earned an International MBA with emphasis on Corporate Finance and Business Strategy | Visit The FourWeekMBA BizSchool | Or Get The FourWeekMBA Flagship Book "100+ Business Models"