Agile Project Management Methodology

Agile Project Management Methodology – From Zero to Hero

16 min. read

Project Management Professionals frequently tend to compare Agile with the Waterfall methodologies. Because both have advantages and disadvantages regarding the conditions and expectations of the project. So, there is not one ultimate choice which fits for any kind of project, that I can share with you. So, in this article, I am going to delve into what Agile Project Management methodology is, which you can use to leverage your projects by applying methodologies, frameworks, and tools under the title of Agile.


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Why is Agile Project Management Methodology emerging?

As the global competitive environment continues to warm up, the need for companies to launch their products faster into the market for their customers is increasing. Hence, there is constant pressure on companies as customer expectations escalate and pushing them for continuous improvement. The values and principles of Agile will continue to provide an understanding of continuous improvement to the professional practitioners, placing Agile Project Management methodology as a collaborative approach that serves continuous delivery, competitive advantage, and sustainable development.

A Basic Definition: What is Agile Project Management Methodology?

Agile is a time-boxed, iterative approach that helps teams and organizations providing quick and accurate responses to the requirements of their project.

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Furthermore, maintaining tailored agile processes in your organization has been proven to help offer high-quality products to customers in a fast continuous streak. The values of the Agile Manifesto are simple and obvious to encourage practicing at once. All are there to support an agile team working closely with each other and open to collaborating with all stakeholders in order to produce better deliveries that are shared with the customer in the fastest way. Therefore they create the most value in the least time. Adopting an Agile project management methodology mindset is the main point to reach these benefits with using whichever framework that fits the best to your processes and organization.

A Brief History: The Agile Manifesto

In 2001, a group of software professionals who called themselves The Agile Alliance published The Manifesto for Agile Software Development.

They aimed to outline efficient ways to implement an Agile working style with the values and principles that are accepted as a basic structure for Agile Project Management methodology.

The 4 Values of Agile Project Management Methodology

The Manifesto states that if there is any crossing between the right and the left side of any value, it is better to go with the right one.

1.      Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

2.      Working software over comprehensive documentation

3.      Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

4.      Responding to change over following a plan                                    

The first value underlines the importance of people who do the project work, and also the great value of the connection between stakeholders of a project. It can be used by various tools and methods to raise the quality and efficiency of interactions.

The second value of the agile project management methodology emphasizes to start working on the product as soon as possible by reducing the amount of documentation that prevents productivity when people try to include all aspects of the work. This does not mean to leave writing. In this case, it is a better idea to divide the documentation work into manageable small pieces and keep maintaining the actual work and writing in parallel.

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The third value reminds the reason underpins our work, the customer’s place is always in the center with the obsession by the team. So the project team has to be sure about the involvement of the customer to the project work who have to be satisfied at the time of every delivery. Another vital aspect is defining the right customer who must be your end-customers or the person represents them.

The fourth and last value of the agile project management methodology highlights changing requirements as opportunities that ensure success when the team welcomes them and adjusts their work to provide a competitive advantage for the customer. And, this value is the most challenging one that differs excessively from the traditional waterfall project management methodologies.

The 12 Principles of Agile Project Management Methodology

The 12 principles of Agile support the values of Agile and guide Agile Project Management methodology. They are like a guideline to the community who wants to implement Agile frameworks and adopt the Agile mindset.

1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.

3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.

4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.

5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.

7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.

8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.

10. Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.

11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.

12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

What is Agile Project Management?

Agile Project Management methodology came up with the aim of supporting and guiding software development teams by increasing adaptability and improving flexibility, and collaboration, in order to produce valuable and viable outcomes in short response times.

In other words, Agile Project Management methodology is an iterative approach to establishing a collaborative and rapidly enhancing working environment where people are willing to interact with customers for their changing demands on the product by considering the time value of their efforts.

At this point, I also have to note that Agile project management methodology is not hybrid project management. Hybrid is a different term, it means separate teams are using different methodologies (such as waterfall, scrum) in the same project lifecycle. And there are other challenging topics to discuss and determine including tracking the project progress for Hybrid management methods.

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Advantages of Agile Project Management

In the project management profession, the Agile mindset provides project teams and project stakeholders many significant benefits with its well-known frameworks, artifacts, and tools including:

  • Continuous delivery of solutions/versions for product/project
  • Generating creativity through allowing to use of minimum resources
  • Adopting change to Increase flexibility and team development
  • Enhancing success rate with more focused activity
  • Increasing the speed of production rate
  • The increased response rate to defects
  • Optimized distribution of work-load
  • Tracking the project work accurately
  • High ability to prioritize the most valuable customer needs efficiently
  • High level of quality for the connection between people

What are the most common of Agile Frameworks?

There are various agile frameworks, which are typically used for breaking tasks into small and meaningful increments with minimum planning involved in order to allow for continuous agility. Hereby, I am going to dive into the most common and known frameworks including Scrum, Kanban, Lean, and XP.

Agile Project Management with Scrum

Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland created Scrum in 1995. Scrum is a simple framework to manage complex project work with its roles, events, artifacts, and rules. It is easy to understand and apply to various kinds of projects in different fields while providing a productive and creative perspective to team members. It also focuses to produce the highest value in a defined period of time constantly. Note that, Scrum is the most popular agile project management methodology and many organizations are applying Scrum.

Scrum basically consists of sprints. Below there is a short description of what is done from the start of a sprint to the end.

  1. The product owner manages a product backlog, which comprises customer requests (work to be done).
  2. The team decides items to accept from the product backlog with the guidance of the product owner and determine a way to deliver the work at the end of the sprint according to their expertise.
  3. During the sprint, work is completed collaboratively.
  4. The Scrum Master looks after the team each day if there is any obstacle or not. He presents his guidance throughout the sprint.
  5. They periodically organize sprint reviews at the end of each sprint.
  6. The process keeps going in a continuous and iterative manner until all work is placed in the product backlog.

These 5 values below shapes the Scrum process:

  1. Courage: Scrum supports agile project management team members to do the right thing at the right time when they face difficult problems.
  2. Focus: Delivering the expected outputs at the end of a sprint is the main focal point for everybody who contributes their efforts to the project work.
  3. Commitment: People place themselves as the owners of the processes and the sprint goals.
  4. Respect: Team members respect each others skills, experience, and motivation
  5. Openness: Transparent and open-minded approach is adopted against the challenges during sprint work.

Scrum consists of 3 Scrum roles per team:

  • The Product Owner
  • The Development Team
  • The Scrum Master

Scrum organize the work with 5 events within the Sprint that is an event itself:

  • The Sprint
  • Sprint Planning
  • Daily Scrum
  • Sprint Review
  • Sprint Retrospective

Scrum Artifacts are used to keep track of the work during the performance of the Scrum team.

  • Product Backlog
  • Sprint Backlog
  • Increment

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Agile Project Management with Kanban

The Kanban framework was invented by Taiichi Ohno who was working as a Toyota engineer in the late 1940s. Toyota was in need of taking the lead about the competitive advantage against its rivals in those years. So in order to maximize productivity while reducing the stock cost of their goods, they created The Kanban system.

Kanban agile project management methodology mainly focuses on using resources efficiently for the work that has to be done according to the team’s capacity. The team aims to pull the tasks as fast as possible during their activities. The method also gives the opportunity to react to changes even faster than scrum.

Using only Kanban on a project mostly means working without separate backlog documents. All the items are distributed well in the columns of TO DO, DOING, and DONE with the intent of displaying all the work to team members transparently. So this makes Kanban teams focus on productivity by keeping an eye on the list continuously to enhance the overall performance along with choosing the most valuable items from the list. Every team member has a goal to start on the next task once they complete the current task.

But there is a limit for the in-progress task number that depends on the number of people in the team and their capacity to handle the maximum number of tasks as a team. So this limit prevents the team from losing its focus and decreasing the ability to release the tasks on-time.

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A basic Kanban work-flow consist of the following steps:

  1. Ideation: Determining the product requirements together with all stakeholders.
  2. Replenishment Meeting: The product manager organizes this meeting and it is close to Scrum’s planning meeting.
  3. Development: Pulling the tasks from the TODO list in accordance with the capacity limits of the team.
  4. Acceptance: Controlling the completed items with stakeholders prior to delivery.
  5. Production: Launching the ready-to-go items then starting again from the first item with performing improvement activities continuously.

Kanban differs from the iterative approach of Scrum with its continuous work-flow. So Kanban doesn’t need to stick to time slots like Scrum’s sprint. Also, it is open to changing the content of the work if there is new arrival of tasks with high priority. Because of its nature, it is a better match for the environment where unknown risks may arise or unplanned requests may be delivered during the scheduled work.

Lean (LN) Software Development

Lean Software Development tailored from Lean manufacturing principles to software development processes in a book written by Mary Poppendieck and Tom Poppendieck in 2003. Mary Poppendieck decided to write this book after achieving great success in implementing Lean manufacturing principles in her work to increase productivity.

Lean comprises 7 principles that are close to lean manufacturing principles. The following are the principles of this agile project management methodology.

  1. Eliminate Waste:

This principle focuses on eliminating anything useless to the process of development. In Lean manufacturing, some of the wastes are overproduction, unnecessary transportation, inventory, task-switching, defects, over-processing, and waiting. Lean Software Development transferred those wastes into its field in different terms but for the same purposes.

  1. Amplify Learning:

In Agile frameworks continuous improvement is supported for both the product aspect and the team that consists of individuals who seek to enhance their skills to cope better with challenging tasks. Lean contributes to the learning process by allowing us to practice more with coding instead of expecting heavy documentation.

  1. Decide As Late As Possible:

One of the most crucial management skills is planning which comprises critical decision-making processes for every methodology and framework. This principle also points out not to decide any action without enough clear facts and quantitative information for the sake of preventing costly results.

  1. Deliver As Fast As Possible:

The main idea behind delivering fast is receiving the responses from customers as fast as possible for further iterations to increase the stability and quality of the product. This also makes customers recognize their needs and requirements with the first version of the product. And also, it is always better to discuss on a live product to understand what to do the next.

  1. Empower The Team:

It is proven that teams who are self-owners of their product and processes produce higher quality results. Agile mindset encourages the team with other principles to reach fast product delivery and also respects the needs of the team in the first place.

  1. Build Integrity In:

Integrity is expected from team members to customers to keep the pace steady during the further activities of the product development lifecycle. Maintaining an integral architecture is a tough duty for stakeholders besides it has always a high priority to stay on track with the evolution of technology. Refactoring is an effective activity to check the overall status of the software system then it does restructuring and improving the design and implementation of the software. Technical debt is another term to describe postponed works that we need to take care of periodically. In addition to automation tools, you must include a mature and continuous product development process.

  1. Optimize The Whole:

Standardization of processes comes into the stage to create smooth relations and interactions between shareholders during the project work. Establishing ground rules to manage value creation activities in the long term is far more beneficial than short-term results. 

Reducing waste is the common perspective of both Kanban and Lean. Thus, it is substantial to optimize the workload by separating the essential from the waste during processes.

Agile Project Management with Extreme Programming (XP)

Extreme programming is one of the first Agile software development methodologies that contains high-level programming practices alongside with Agile principles. It was Kent Beck who introduced this methodology in the early 90s.

Extreme programming agile project management methodology focuses on producing top-quality software products by providing high-quality software development experience to the team members. This framework is software engineers centered and seeks for high skilled teams that are established with experienced developers. Tester’s role in XP is positioned as providing assistance and coaching to customers and programmers. Also, automation is a precondition to establish XP in your organizations. XP teams need dedicated team members from other IT units like operations in order to maintain daily continuous deployment activities. In XP it is suggested to organize the first-level management layer with highly skilled technical managers who can capable of understanding the true meaning of software development practices.

This agile project management methodology approach is seen as a next step to the post-implementation of the Scrum framework.

Pair programming has become famous after XP which uses this technique to increase the defect detection and correction pace instead of code reviews. There are also other practices that are used during practicing the XP methodology as below.

  1. Planning game.
  2. Test-driven development(TDD).
  3. The whole team(customer/actual user of the program shares feedbacks directly to the team).
  4. Continuous integration(CI).
  5. Refactoring of design improvements.
  6. Small releases(Daily release goal).
  7. Coding standards.
  8. Collective code ownership.
  9. Simple design.
  10. System metaphor (naming things simple and clear to make easy to understand by every stakeholder including customers)
  11. Sustainable pace (focussing on long term achievements).

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Other Popular Agile Project Management Framework and Methodologies

With the above-given frameworks, there are some other popular methods in Agile. These methods include:

  • Dynamic System Development Model, (DSDM)
  • Crystal
  • Adaptive software development (ASD)
  • Agile Unified Process (AUP)
  • Crystal Clear methods
  • Disciplined agile delivery
  • Feature-driven development (FDD)
  • Scrumban
  • RAD(Rapid Application Development)
  • safe

Agile Project Management Certification And Training

As the agile methodology is in high demand thanks to its competitive benefits to organizations, it is a smart thing to invest in new skills related to it. So I listed some of the agile-focused certifications for your knowledge.

  • PMI-ACP – see our PMI-ACP Training
  • APMG International
  • Strategy Certificate (Associate or Master’s) in agile
  • International Consortium for Agile (ICAgile)
  • Agile Certification Institute
  • Scaled Agile Academy
  • Scrum Alliance (You can read our PMI-ACP vs CSM post to learn more)

Conclusion

Project professionals will keep looking for better ways to reduce time-to-market for high-quality products with various combinations of Agile Project Management Methodology. So this article is a good start point of establishing a tailored agile process as regards the specific requirements of your business. You can think Agile Project Management with Scrum is more popular rather than Agile Project Management with Scrum. On the other hand, you always have a chance to mix them up for a fitted Agile Project Management Methodology. So let’s think about the right framework and tools that will turn your team to real game-changers.

Author

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Tayfun Odabas, PMP, PSM, PSPO is an IT Project Manager with more than ten years of working experience in Frankfurt. Furthermore, he participated in delivering large transformation projects that applied in different departments of broad-scale organizations. He also obtained strong agile process knowledge by supporting and leading 3 agile teams of 3 different enterprise products as a scrum product owner. Tayfun is also aiming to utilize his strong prioritizing skills and analytical ability to achieve the goals of his company with significant results. When he’s not designing and directing software development projects, he likes to do board sports.