30 Jan

Agile Project Management: The Step in The Right Direction

Agile Project Management

The specialized discipline of Software Project Management is critical to the development of value-oriented software products. By supervising the various phases of a project such as planning, implementation, testing, and deployment, it ensures the final product meets the desired objectives. Without capable project management, the development teams may run the risk of pursuing inappropriate project goals.

Moreover, the inability to utilize the right mix of skill-sets and technology could impede the software product’s functionality to the extent of turning the entire exercise into a disappointment in the end.

The software business environment, which is highly dynamic, needs a better monitoring mechanism which can allow it to respond swiftly to the rapid shifts in market demand and technological advancements. Therefore, the Agile system of managing projects is steadily gaining preference among software project managers and CIOs. In the years to come, the Agile methodology, which is highly adaptive and result-oriented, is expected to turn the de facto method for not just software development, but also for other critical business domains such as Marketing and Finance.

What is Agile Project Management?

Agile project management is all about constant improvement in various aspects of the development process. These features focus on maximizing the possibility of achieving overall success by improving the quality of the delivered software through increased flexibility to manage changing priorities of the client or the scope of the project.

Self-organizing teams with multi-talented experts, the rapid pace of implementation, along with the reduced emphasis on detailed plans, are some of the primary characteristics of the Agile project management methodologies.

These methodologies, which include extreme programming (XP), Scrum, Lean programming, etc., have evolved their unique specialized features. However, they all adhere to the Agile principles and the core Agile Manifesto.

What is Agile Manifesto?

Considered as an improvement to the archaic and document-driven project management practices, the agile software development Manifesto is built on four core values that focus on:

•  Functional prototype over convoluted documentation and elaborate planning.

•  Regular interactions and individual talent over tools and processes.

•  Responsive to feedback over Resistance to changes.

•  Collaboration of all stakeholders over quibbling negotiations.

How to manage an Agile Project?

When considering the various Agile Project Management methods, Scrum is one of the most popular models that endorse all its primary characteristics such as flexibility and simplicity.

Essentially, Scrum focuses on regular feedback to guide the development process that is mostly interactive and empirical. The process symbolizes the self-management initiatives of the team striving to build a quality product, quickly and efficiently through increments and within short iterations.

In conformance with the
Agile project management practices, a typical Scrum project divides responsibility among more than one team member. It comprises of three major roles that include the Scrum Master, Product Owner, and the development team.

The product owner (PO) is role played by one of the representatives of the major stakeholder and is responsible for the business aspects of the project. The primary task of the PO is to ensure the product complied with the desired requirements and developed accordingly. Given the power to make significant decisions, the Product Owner has to stay available all the time, as he or she would be required to balance the competing priorities that can pop up anytime.

The Scrum Master, on the other hand, is responsible for guiding the team by ensuring the members work together to deliver the right product at the right time. The Scrum Master is the one who ensures the basic principles of Agile Project Management are followed by facilitating regular discussions and meetings among the members. He or she also has to remove the impediments to the project’s progress by tracking the progress of individual members regularly.

The team is the most important aspect of the entire mix, where each member has to utilize his or her talent to assume a flexible role with an aim to determine the ideal way to achieve the project’s goals as defined by the PO.

While the collaboration is the key to determining the assignments of the given tasks, it is also important to channelize the available resources such as the tools and technologies to achieve the stated goals.

By providing more viable opportunities to assess the direction of a project through the development lifecycle the Agile approach is implemented through a regular cadence of tasks known as ‘Sprints’ or iterations.

During a Sprint, all the members work together to achieve a set objective, and at the end of every such iteration, they are required to deliver a potentially shippable product increment. The typical characteristics of the agile methodology which have come to denote it as incremental – are these repetitions of abbreviated work cycles.

The meaning of the word SCRUM can be further extended to various types of interactive sessions that include:

•  Sprint Planning Session: The purpose of the meeting is for the Product Owner to list and describe the product’s features to the team as per their priority. The team members get a chance to have their doubts cleared and turn these descriptions into the more detailed tasks to achieve the ‘sprint goal’. The tasks that are already being performed by the team are accounted under the ‘sprint backlog’.

•  Daily Scrum (daily discussion of 10-15 min): The primary purpose of the Daily Scrum is to encourage interaction and collaboration among the team members while letting them have an idea of where each of them stands with their work. Simple instance such as team members looking only at the Scrum Master when speaking could be deduced as a discouragement towards operating as a self-organizing entity.

•  Backlog Elimination Session: As the name suggests, these meetings are held regularly to help the team members overcome the challenges, if any, and enable them to complete the given tasks on time.

Sprint Review Meeting: It’s an informal meeting where the team members get an opportunity to display their accomplishments during a sprint.

The entire framework can operate like a well-oiled machine through proper applicability of managing and controlling each iterative to deliver the final result.

Why is Agile better?

The Agile technique of supervising an ideal for a project involving many iterations which need constant improvements till the final product is ready for the release. The newer approach of not having to wait for months for a result, which could either be flawed or just fall short of the future requirements, appears practical and safe. The ability to produce a basic working model within a couple of weeks, which can be improved through instant feedback until it’s complete, makes the Agile initiative much more viable and valuable.

By allowing teams to deliver a functional prototype, while using the direct feedback to improve it with every cycle, gives the Agile approach a progressive disposition. It’s because with each new iteration comes the much-needed opportunity for the teams to learn and improve.

Through collaborative troubleshooting, team members have a better chance of tackling the new requirements and sudden shift in priorities much more quickly and efficiently, which in turns boosts productivity.

The flexibility of the process which empowers team members to work creatively and efficiently, also allows them to prioritize their job based on the features of the software that are required more urgently. These essential collaborative aspects of the ‘Agile Manifesto’ that bolster collaboration and interactions can provide an environment that’s conducive for improved visibility and transparency of the overall project.

As the software can be concurrently developed when gathering the requirements, the wastage of resources by unwanted activities is less likely to hamper the team’s progress. Moreover, the benefits of the “introspect-and-improve” approach to the Agile project management have proved to reduce both the development costs and time to market.