Adopting Agile to boost project management
Blog posted by: Christopher Poyntz – Project Manager, PwC UK, 14 July 2022.
The world is embracing Agile working methods in project management more and more – not least in the finance and technology industries.
As management and operational structures are changing in companies – often happening in conjunction with technology integration – it has become more valuable to include Agile methods. Certainly, this comes as no surprise to technology development teams but is generally a new way of working across a broader selection of groups and departments.
While more highly structured, waterfall approaches still have their place in project management, Agile approaches can give people involved in projects a new lease of life and encourage ideas in a more iterative way.
Adopting Agile – overcoming the objections
Despite its advantages, there are obstacles to people adopting Agile methods.
First, it’s a way of working that takes people out of their comfort zone. As you might expect, there can be “pushback” when asking people to change established and familiar techniques.
Similarly, Agile might not be necessarily the best approach for every project and an element of tailoring is needed to make it applicable. The primary job for Agile advocates in project management is to make it easy to understand and usable for non-technical people (as Agile came from software development) and show how it can be used across all types of projects.
At the beginning of my career, it was true to say that I was initially hesitant about Agile. The project managers I was working with were accustomed to running things in a purely waterfall manner, even in the context of a cloud-based technology world.
However, after being introduced to Agile ideas, I wanted to learn more and taking an Agile certification helped clarify – for example – the differences between product manager and project manager roles and how Agile principles can be applied with the Dynamic System Development Method (DSDM) – an Agile framework.
Agile and PRINCE2
Coming from a PRINCE2 project management background, I needed to understand how Agile methods would complement my existing approach.
In practice, I’ve used a PRINCE2 project management – including project initiation documents (PID) and stage gates – while incorporating a Kanban board within daily stand ups and encouraging incremental delivery.
Also, in many projects, software development might be run by a Product Manager, Scrum Master and their team.However, often or not, they end up reporting to a project manager operating within a PRINCE2 structure and reporting methods. An area I feel PRINCE2 hybrid needs to be applied to have the project manager working better with the agile development team.
I encourage capturing data using Agile techniques to deliver the work itself via sprints, daily stand-ups, Kanban boards, story points, etc. The incremental, Agile delivery approach – typically used for something such as a technology application – works well by allowing regular releases and updates based on iterative feedback.
However, from a project management perspective, this needs careful combining of different methods to end up with a hybrid approach of PRINCE2 and Agile delivery.
Taking the first steps into Agile
For project managers who need to understand more about the role Agile methods can play in their projects, where should they begin?
Before selecting a course of study and certification, it’s worth reviewing online videos and other learning materials as an introduction.
Also, if a team in your organization is already using an Agile way of working, seek out people you can talk to and cross-fertilize ideas. And when starting to try new ways of working, keep an open mind about the variety of methods available and avoid getting too fixated on any one approach.As a company grows, there are advantages to gain from standardizing methods to support that expansion and ensure people – especially new and novice project managers – are working in an optimal way.
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