What is Agile in Project Management? How it Works and Examples of Leading Solutions

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What is agile in project management? It is an iterative approach to project management, in contrast to traditional project management, also called Waterfall, which relies on linear, sequential approach. Agile focuses on the product, on flexibility, communications, and the expertise of collaborators.

Its practitioners are encouraged to constantly refer to the Agile Manifesto and the 12 Agile Principles in order to keep their projects and systems on track.

Waterfall relies heavily on in-depth planning at the start of the project to define a clear objective and send them through fixed phases or stages, whereas Agile project management providers emphasize the rapid delivery of a working model and succeeding incremental modifications through a number of iterations.

Agile is borne out the historical needs of projects to minimize impact of unforeseen changes and other project management software trends. Today, Agile practitioners particularly like the flexibility that the methodology offers: unlike Waterfall wherein it’s proven to be incredibly costly or impractical to go back and make changes, Agile allows teams to address new requirements or new market realities easily by making quick changes to the product. Modular and incremental changes are just not possible with the holistic Waterfall model without dragging the entire product contingent previously involved.

Typical Agile Steps in Software Development (source: SMU.edu.sg)

Agile encourages constant feedback from the end users in order to help the developers and the product owner define the functionalities that they would integrate in the succeeding builds. Cross-functional teams work on iterations of a product over a period of time, the work organized into a backlog that is prioritized based on client needs. The backlog serves to constantly remind each member that the goal of each iteration is to produce a working product.

Agile values teamwork, accountability, and face-to-face communication. It calls for stakeholders and developers to work together to ensure the product meets company goals.

How Agile Works: Scrum

When we talk about Agile project management, the first thing that comes to mind is Scrum, one of most commonly used implementations of Agile and one of its best definitions. Discussing Scrum, therefore, answers the question: what is agile in project management?

Iterations allow partial and regular deliveries, starting with what the client deems the most important features. Each iteration is limited by a set schedule, called sprint.

Scrum is particularly useful for projects where early results are necessary, or where requirements are constantly changing. This prevents deadlines from being exceeded for longer periods, and allows the development team to react quickly before costs go through the roof.

Scrum is defined by a set of roles, ceremonies, and tools. Roles include the product owner, the Scrum Master—essentially the coach of the team—and the Scrum team.

Meanwhile, ceremonies or meetings usually come in the form of sprint planning, daily stand-up, sprint demo, and sprint retrospective.

Typical Scrum tools include a Scrum board, user stories, and burndown chart. The Scrum board allows the whole team to visualize the sprint backlog—to do, work in progress, and done. The board usually involves index cards, Post-It notes, or a whiteboard.

On the other hand, user stories indicate a software feature from the customer’s perspective, which may include the type of user, what they want, and why they want it.

A burndown chart shows all current outstanding work, to warn the team if things are not going according to schedule.

Agile Adoption: Should You Go for It?

Despite well-known successful implementations of Agile, you would do well to realize that the opposite also happens: there are also cases where attempts at Agile adoption have not met their expected results. Agile is no magic rune, and unleashing its full power depends on some essential factors.

In general, if your product is like most of those Android applications in the Google Play market and where time to market, lean but expert teams are easily available, and direction of trends and user preferences are easier to spot, then most likely Agile would suit your team well. On the other hand, if your product is more like Windows PC operating system where long-term development and new feature sets are clearly spelled out, then Waterfall should do well to meet your development needs.

Agile Project Management Case: When It Works

Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) features a fascinating case study of how it helped Accenture successfully implement Agile to meet its global operations through what is called a scaled and distributed Agile delivery, made more impressive when you consider how Accenture operates across multiple time zones and manpower cultures.

Among other things, the following steps undertaken by SAFe® and Accenture stood out:

  1. Implementing processes that would effectively enable seamless cooperation and collaboration of different Scrum teams
  2. Enabling synchronized iterations across timelines to maintain smooth adaptation and timely deliveries
  3. Identifying scopes and features that are best met by Waterfall or Agile
  4. Developing a highly effective status tracking across global teams
  5. Having well-defined criteria in selecting local and remote component in the organization

Agile Project Management Case: When It Doesn’t Work

The costly launch failure of Healthcare.gov is generally attributed to the confusion of the process methodologies required. Moreover, the expertise of the people involved, not only in Agile principles but also software development, has been called into question.

Unlike in the case of Accenture where certain features were clearly sorted out best done through Waterfall or Agile, the US Healthcare.gov development team seemed to be under the impression that one can combine Agile and Waterfall throughout various sprints and iterations.

The project used Agile iterations during development, but was released in a one major roll-out (a Waterfall principle). Beta stages were bypassed and, instead, developers relied heavily on internal assessment that the site failed to fully grasp actual user experience by the time of the roll-out. In short, Agile practices were used to effect a Waterfall result.

It doesn’t work that way, so from this it is clear you should clearly ensure people in your teams are previously trained to be well aware of the distinction between Agile and Waterfall working principles and methodologies.

Examples of Agile Project Management Software 2017

What is agile in project management but the ability to release the product in iterations, while its features are being perfected. If you feel this methodology fits your project, there are plenty of project management apps out there. Here are some of them and their key features.

  1. Wrike. An SaaS-based project management and collaboration application, Wrike is designed around a minimalist multi-pane user interface. Its project management feature enables capabilities to track dates and dependencies associated with projects, manage assignments and resources, and track time. It includes an interactive Gantt chart, a workload view, and a sortable table that can be customized to store project data.
    Its collaboration feature aids conversations, asset creation, and decision-making by teams. These include Wrike’s Live co-editor, discussion threads on tasks, and tools for attaching documents, editing them, and tracking their changes. Wrike uses an “inbox” feature and browser notifications to alert users of updates from their colleagues and dashboards for quick overviews of pending tasks.
    Wrike is available as native Android and iOS apps, both available offline and sync when connection is restored.You can sign up for Wrike free trial here.
  2. Monday. (formerly DaPulse). Focusing on its core strengths in social communication and internal information-sharing, Monday has consistently placed among the top choices in the Agile-based project management software tight crowd. A friendly and responsive customer service staff ensures that it stays there. Collaboration starts with a board showing who is working on what under specific level of completion. From there, teams could then quickly add rows to comment on teammate’s work or simply drag and drop required files. Team members get notifications in real time through mobile or desktop application. Monday is reasonably priced for basic and enterprise plans.
  3. Asana. In 2008, former Facebook co-founders Dustin  Moskovitz and Justin Rosenstein started Asana to provide a web-based software-as-a-service designed to improve team collaboration. It focuses on allowing users to manage projects and tasks online without the use of email. Asana allows teams to share, plan, organize, and track the progress of the tasks that each member is working on in simple, easy-to-use interface. It is free for up to 30 users in a team.
  4. Zoho Sprints. Zoho Sprints bundles such features as scrum board, agile reports, backlog, timesheets, meetings and dashboard in one attractive package. Its intuitive logging for billable and non-billable hours offers clients a good picture of the time involved in order to estimate the next sprint better.
    Additionally, it includes velocity charts, burn-down reports, and cumulative flow diagrams to turn raw data into actionable insights.
  5. Taiga. Taiga is an open source Agile project management platform intended for smaller (fewer than 50) teams of developers, designers, project managers, and other Agile methodology practitioners. It allows project collaboration, bug tracking (i.e., tracking tickets), reporting, time tracking, and task management. Taiga also includes customizable Agile functionality, such as Kanban boards and backlogs, as well as the ability to track user stories and sprints.
    It offers on-premise and Web-based deployments compatible with most operating systems, including iOS. The system is available as a free, self-hosted version in which projects are public, or paid plans in which projects remain private. Paid subscriptions are billed in monthly installments for up to 50 users. Pricing for more than 50 users will vary.
  6. Agilean. Agilean is an AI- and NLP-based SaaS enterprise automated workflow management tool for small and medium IT companies. It comes with 50 built-in templates for use with Kanban workflow process. Agilean features project planning, execution, monitoring, control and continuous learning for variety of projects.
  7. Smartsheet. Smartsheet is a SaaS-based application for collaboration and work management developed and marketed by Smartsheet.com, Inc. It features a spreadsheet-like interface to assign tasks, track project progress, manage calendars, share documents and manage other works. Each row in a smartsheet may have files attached to it, emails stored within it, and a discussion board associated with it. When a new smartsheet is created, notifications are pushed out to staff to populate its rows and columns. As information is updated, other smartsheets tracking the same task, project or data-point are updated automatically. The service also has alerts for when a task deadline is coming up, and keeps track of document versions.
  8. Planbox. Planbox allows members of multiple business functions to plan, collaborate and deliver projects, as well as to bring software development and other functions of an organization into the Agile life cycle. It supports Scrum methodology featuring release management, iterations, stories, backlog, prioritization, Scrum roles, sprints, estimated hours and story points. Planbox is built as a four-level platform—initiatives, projects, items, tasks. It allows for drag and drop prioritization, time tracking, to-do lists, file-sharing, reporting, messaging, feedback and bug tracking.
  9. Pivotal Tracker. Pivotal Tracker helps you to visualize your projects in the form of stories or virtual cards, break down projects into manageable chunks, while having conversations with clients about deliverables and scope. Dividing stories into future iterations from learning a team’s natural pace of work, Pivotal Tracker tries to accurately predict estimates and project completion. It ensures a transparent team view of priorities to help each member’s objectives.
  10. Trello. Trello is a web-based project management application, one of the well-known brands out there. A free account gives anyone a great chance to use most of the common functions, while the premium account showcases the program’s more advanced features. Trello’s design is based on the Kanban methodology. Projects are visualized as boards containing lists. Every list has progressive cards easily allowing drag-and-drop functionality.
    Trello has a variety of work and personal uses including real estate management, software project management, school bulletin boards, lesson planning, and law office case management. A rich API as well as email capability enables integration with enterprise systems, or with cloud-based integration services like IFTTT and Zapier.
  11. AssemblaAssembla is a leading specialist in Apache Subversion and the world’s only provider of Enterprise Cloud Version Control (ECVC). Founded in 2005 and acquired by San Antonio Venture Equity firm Scaleworks in 2016, Assembla is focused on providing scalable, secure and flexible options for enterprise version control. Assembla covers all aspects of a project, from conceptualization to production, and allows upload of large media files, management of code reviews and comprehensive Agile document management. Assembla allows you to easily integrate applications like Github and Slack.
  12. Drutas. An agile project development and project management solution designed to enable organizations and enterprises to boost their productivity from individual to collective levels, collaborate efficiently and effectively, devise and implement smart project plans and strategies, and deliver projects in accordance to client specifications and requirements.
Category: B2B News

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