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Project Management in an Agile Environment: What’s the Difference?

August 8, 2014

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Project Management in an Agile Environment: What’s the Difference?

August 8, 2014


I get asked this question a lot? It’s not a simple answer. As to why I should care as a project manager, just look at the modern business environment that is prevalent today. Businesses need to be able to respond more and more quickly to the environment. The rate of change is getting faster and faster. Business and IT environments need to deliver more frequently, respond to feedback and pivot almost at a moments notice. Those businesses that succeed in mastering change and shortening delivery to their market will survive. As a project manager, you need to understand how the role may be changing in this environment and how Agile methods can benefit the organization. I won’t go into all of the benefits, but some of the top ones are:


Quicker time to market/delivery with working deliverables (working systems)
Increased stakeholder/customer feedback and response to the feedback (customer collaboration)
Higher quality deliverables that meet stakeholder/customer needs
Managing and exploiting variability (Responding to change)
This said, let’s talk about what is different with an agile project and what changes in the management of that project.


First – in an agile project, the teams involved will be building deliverables (working software or something else) iteratively and incrementally, at short intervals, let’s say every two weeks. In order for this to happen, what will I need to see, hear, and do as a project manager to support this?


Response time – When the teams have issues or impediments, they will need action quickly to resolve them in order to make good on their short-term commitments. This is in contrast to the longer time frames that are usual in more traditional waterfall projects.


Issue resolution – The teams are not complaining, they are reporting real problems that are impeding their ability to deliver in the two-week time frame – real action will be required. Management in other parts of the organization may need to be engaged in order to resolve.


Second – In agile projects we measure delivered results, not time spent or tasks completed. We will look at real, working, valuable deliverables as the primary measure of progress. Dollars spent on labor are predictable – based on team allocation, so dollars spent doesn’t show progress, only sunk costs.


Measurement – The primary measure of a team’s effectiveness is what they actually deliver, not time spent. This gives more valuable and effective information to use in stakeholder communication.

Stakeholder Communication – Progress will be more visible, stakeholders will be able to see advancement towards the desired outcome, give feedback and make appropriate decisions based on real-time accurate information. Communication frequency is increased, which will ultimately increase the trust between the business stakeholders who see what they have asked for being worked on and delivered, and the teams building the products.


Response to changing priorities – As things change, and they ALWAYS do, both the stakeholders and the teams building the products/delivering value will be able to manage and communicate those changes and react to them in a controlled manner which will enable adherence to quality while satisfying the stakeholder/customer needs – satisfied customers.


Third – the need for project management in the enterprise does not go away just because the enterprise is modifying the way they respond to change. Project management is still required, but how we manage the work, stakeholder interactions, communication with executive management and with the delivery teams does change. The points where decisions are made – centralized vs de-centralized changes.


Want to learn more about how to effectively and successfully deliver products or services through the transformation to agile values and implementation of agile practices.  Sign up for the Agile Project Management Certification today.




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