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The Beginners Guide to Agile Project Management

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There are tons of project management frameworks but none are quite as beneficial as agile project management. It’s worth all the buzz around it and more. What does it mean? How is it different from the traditional method? How can agile benefit your team? We cover all this in this article.

What is Agile project management?

Agile project management is an iterative project approach. The framework is cyclical and collaborative, dividing the project into stages called sprints that guarantee short-term gains while driving toward long-term goals. 

Once a stage is completed, a review happens, and the feedback obtained is used to improve the process and output. The sprints allow for responsiveness to feedback which the project team will receive with every completed stage and factor into the planning and execution of the next phase.

Thus, agile shortens the development phase by putting planning and execution together while maximising resources and stepwise improvement and managing risks. Agile focuses on delivering maximum value despite time and budget constraints, especially when risk is minimal. 

Core Values and Principles of Agile project management

Agile started as an approach to software development. Back then, it had four core values:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation.
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
  • Responsiveness to change over a plan.

These four values form the basis for the 12 principles of agile project management. These are 

  1. Customer satisfaction through early and constant delivery is a priority
  2. Welcome changing developments, even late in development. 
  3. Deliver value frequently 
  4. Avoid communication silos by ensuring proper inter-collaboration between team members.
  5. Build projects around motivated individuals. 
  6. A face-to-face conversation remains the most effective and efficient.
  7. A working product is the primary measure of success
  8. Maintain a constant working pace
  9. Operational excellence will aid agile response to changes.
  10. Simplicity is essential
  11. Self-organising teams are invaluable.
  12. Reflect on work processes and adjust your behaviour to improve effectiveness.

Types of Agile Processes

There are various processes involved in agile management. Two of the most common ones are Scrum and Kanban. Others are Lean and Nimble project management.

How scrum works

scrum

Scrum uses fixed-length iterations of work called sprints. Roles are assigned to every member of the scrum team, which is typically cross-functional.  Key roles include scrum master or champion of the scrum method for the team and the product owner. 

An ordered list known as the product backlog is compiled during the sprint planning. It contains a list of activities that must be covered before the entire project is complete. A sub-list called the sprint backlog is then compiled from the product backlog till the sprint backlog reaches its capacity. 

Four ceremonies bring structure to each sprint; sprint planning, demo, daily standup, and retrospective.

  1. Sprint plan: A team planning meeting to determine items for completion in the next sprint.  
  2. Sprint demo: A sharing meeting where the team demonstrates what has been accomplished in a particular sprint
  3. Daily standup: This is a 15-minute mini-meeting that is held daily and allows every team member to stay abreast of the project and how it is progressing.
  4. Retrospective: This is like a post-mortem of a sprint to determine what went well and what didn’t so it can be adjusted in the next sprint.

Scrum boards provide a way to visualise all the work in a particular sprint. It shows all the multiple steps in a workflow, including current items, in-review, and done items, bringing transparency to the project.

How kanban works

Agile Project Management

Kanban is another agile framework method. Kanban focuses on getting work done as quickly as possible increasing responsiveness. Kanban matches the work available to the team’s ability using WIP limits.

Instead of a backlog of activities, all work to be done is placed in a To-Do column. All of the work is visible and ready to execute. Team members focus on taking down the items one after the other. 

Like Scrum, The kanban framework also has four components:

  1. List of work (or stories): these are tasks that need to be completed
  2. Columns or lanes: Separate columns separate tasks from different workstreams, team members, or projects.
  3. Work in Progress Limits (WIP): This defines the amount of work that can exist in each column of a workflow
  4. Continuous Releases: Every work, story, or task is completed within the WIP limit and can be released at any time. 

Kanban boards help visualise all current work, plan resources, and develop timelines. It is structured into individual columns bearing different stories. Each column contains as many stories as the WIP limit allows and is organised by priority. Each issue should be something that can be completed at once. 

Traditional vs. Agile Project Management

Agile is as different from traditional project management as you’ll get. Here are some of the ways they vary

Traditional methods Agile methods
Define target Define vision
Take aim Begins in a broad direction
Launch and manage the project Learn and adapt
Focus on target Evolve towards target

Waterfall vs Agile Project Management

The Waterfall project management methodology is a traditional project management approach in which a project is completed in sequential order, with one phase beginning after the previous has been completed.

The waterfall and agile project management approaches differ in the following ways

Waterfall  Agile
Process Pre-defined Iterative
Planning Done before the project commences Done with flexibility using a robust backlog
Documentation Detailed and concise documentation from the outset Documentation is always changing so it is not prioritised.
Focus The focus is on completing the project according to the standard set. The focus is on client or customer satisfaction
Client involvement The client gives detailed input during the research phase before the project commences. The client is part of the development process as his feedback drives the iterations.

 

Go Agile

If you’re steeped in the traditional approach to project management, switching to an agile method may require some extra help. With Procept Africa, you get all the help you need from world-class experts. Send a message to info@proceptafrica.com to get started

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