An Overview of Agile Project Management

While many factors influence the success or failure of a project, agile methodology can help project managers reach goals quickly while isolating problems and mitigating risk.

To learn more, see the infographic below created by Brandeis University’s Online Master of Science in Project and Program Management.

An Overview of Agile Project Management

Project Management Today

Even though most projects meet their original goals and business intents, only 57 percent of projects finished within their initially planned budgets, while 51 percent finished within their original schedules and 49 percent experienced scope creep.

Approximately $97 million is wasted for every $1 billion invested in project management globally, and only one in five global organizations use standardized project management practices consistently.

Project Management Approaches in Use

The most commonly used management methodology is the waterfall approach, which is utilized 37 percent of the time.

However, the agile approach, the hybrid approach and other management methodologies are also used regularly, with 21 percent of all projects using the agile approach, 20 percent using the hybrid approach and 23 percent using other approaches.

Common Reasons for Project Failures

Approximately 41 percent of projects fail due to changes in an organization’s priorities, whereas 39 percent of failures are caused by poor requirements in the gathering process and 36 percent are caused by changes in project objectives.

Setting inadequate goals, providing inaccurate cost estimates and neglecting to define risks may also cause projects to fail.

Agile Project Management Style

During the late 1990s, project management methodologies emphasizing speed and adaptability started gaining steam as alternatives to established waterfall approaches.

These methodologies emphasized collaboration between development teams and business stakeholders, iterative work cycles with consistent end-of-cycle evaluations, and basing the final deliverable on the results of these evaluations.

The Four Values of an Agile Manifesto

The agile approach to project management is based on these four main values.

  1. Interactions and individuals take precedence over tools and processes.
  2. Working software is more important than comprehensive documentation.
  3. Collaborating with customers provides greater benefits than negotiating contracts.
  4. Responding to change is more helpful than following a rigid plan.

Principles of Agile Project Management

Successfully implementing an agile approach also requires companies to keep the following principles in mind.

  • Customer satisfaction is of the utmost importance.
  • Technical excellence, proper design and working software are all vital to a project’s success.
  • Teams should be able to self-organize for the sake of developing the best ideas, outcomes and processes.
  • While project requirements may change at any point of the process, teams should be able to maintain an ongoing pace.
  • Teams should also evaluate their methods on a regular basis to check them for effectiveness.

Methods for Implementing Agile Project Management

Here are several tools and methods that can be utilized when establishing an agile approach to manage projects.

  • Extreme programming, or XP, works by responding to evolving customer requirements.
  • Kanban allows teams to create visual representations of their workflow, moving it through each of the project’s stages to pinpoint roadblocks and see progress.
  • Scrum is a popular iterative model that involves setting up consistent meetings, roles and responsibilities.
  • The dynamic systems development method (DSDM) is centered on a series of core principles. These include focusing on business need, using an iterative process and delivering projects on-time without compromising quality.
  • A unified process involves hiring knowledgeable staff, following the core values of agility and focusing on high-value activities.

Pros and Cons of Using Agile Project Management

While companies have identified numerous benefits associated with using agile project management, many have also noticed a number of challenges linked to using this approach.

Pros of Using Agile Methodology

Approximately 88 percent of surveyed companies reported that using an agile approach allows them to manage changing priorities. In addition, 83 percent reported that using agile methodology increases project visibility and productivity, with 74 percent reporting that this method reduces risk.

Cons of Using Agile Methodology

Despite the many benefits associated with implementing agile methodology, 63 percent of companies stated that core agile values are at odds with company culture, 47 percent reported that they lack experience with these methods and 45 percent noticed a lack of support from management.

The Waterfall Approach

The waterfall approach is linear and formal, placing an emphasis on long-term planning cycles where each step follows a preplanned sequence. Everyone in the project group must meet to discuss goals, and end goals are clearly defined in the project’s early stages.

The waterfall method focuses on the documentation of processes. Teams tend to run tests and request feedback in later stages of development. This approach to project management is easiest to adopt in larger organizations.

The Agile Approach

In contrast, the agile approach is iterative and flexible, involving shorter planning cycles. Different teams can run projects concurrently, with small project teams meeting frequently to discuss different goals. The end goal of a project may often be undefined.

The agile method focuses less on documentation. Testing is ongoing and feedback is requested throughout the process, making this approach easiest to implement in smaller organizations.

Top Reasons for Becoming More Agile

Approximately 72 percent of organizations report becoming more agile over the past five years, with 98 percent of global organizations realizing success from agile projects.

Among the organizations surveyed, 53 percent reported that agile methodology inspires a desire to innovate and 51 percent reported that it is changing customer demands.

An agile approach to project management can provide speed and flexibility to all sorts of projects. As several of the top reasons for project failure result from inflexible processes that neglect to account for changes, organizations may find that implementing an agile approach is worth a try.

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