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What is An Agile Project? A Getting Started Guide for New PMs

The term: ‘What is an agile project’ often entails complexities that are hard to understand for PMs. Here’s a quick guide to getting started.
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    As a project manager, you must have come across the question “What is an Agile Project?”. Even if you have a slight idea about it, this guide will help you understand it simplest manner.

     

    According to Jim Highsmith “Agility is the ability to adapt and respond to change … agile organizations view change as an opportunity, not a threat.”

     

    Thus, agility is the art of welcoming change as an opportunity. However, you still be wondering what exactly is an agile project or agile project management?

     

    Well, it’s time to stop wondering and start knowing. In this guide, we have explained everything you need to know about what is an agile project and what are your roles as an Agile Project Manager.

     

    So, let’s get to it! Here is a complete guide for New Project Managers!

     

    What is Agile Project Management?

     

    what-is-agile-project

     

    Ever seen a hurdle race, where the runner has to pass through small hurdles for him to win the race? Well, in Agile project management those barriers are not hurdles but smaller mini-projects and the winning point is the big project.

     

    Thus:

     

    “Agile project management is the art of completing projects in an agile manner using an iterative approach where the big project is broken down into smaller parts. The whole team is working towards the same end goal ensuring full collaboration with clients, transparency, and quick feedback. Agile project management helps to adapt to change and produces high-quality products and services as per the customer’s needs and requirements.”

     

    Even the world’s richest man at this time Elon Musk thinks that agile project management is important for success as he said that “I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.”

     

    Sounds interesting, right? Now that you know what Agile Project Management is, let’s step ahead and understand what is an Agile project.

     

     What is an Agile Project?

     

    The simplest way of describing an agile project is that:

    “An agile project consists of an agile framework which constitutes of various agile methodologies. An agile project is customer-centric. It is synced with customers’ needs or requirements to provide the best possible solutions to the client.”

     

    In a research article on “Role of a Project Manager in Managing Agile Projects”, Agile methodology was defined as “Iterative and incremental style of development that dynamically adjusts to changing requirements and enables better risk management.

     

    Thus, an agile project has a set framework and methodologies for effective execution, risk management, and adapting to change.

     

    Let’s quickly skim through 12 agile principles

     

     

    The 12 Agile Principles

     

    The 12 principles of agile project management are essential in understanding what is an agile project. An agile project should encompass all these principles. Following these principles religiously would help you achieve the end goals mentioned below.

     

    Principles Goals
    The highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software. Satisfied customers

    Continuous delivery

    To welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.

     

    Adapt to any change throughout the development process
    To deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, preferably deliver it in a shorter timescale.

     

    Quicker Delivery
    Ensure that business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.

     

    Collaboration
    To build projects around motivated individuals. Ensure to give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

     

    Trust and Motivation
    Find out the most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation Face-to-face conversations
    Remember that working software is the primary measure of progress.

     

    Have a working software
    Understand that agile processes promote sustainable development. Moreover, the sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

     

    Realistic and Manageable Goals
    To give continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility Focus on details
    To focus on simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.

     

    Simple and smooth process
    To understand that best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams Self-organized
    Lastly, remember that at regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly. Reflect and change whenever needed

     

    The 3 Main Agile Frameworks

     

    Now, that you have gone through the 12 agile methodologies, as a Project Manager you must be wondering how to inculcate those in your project. It’s simple!

     

    We know that an agile project consists of an agile framework. Thus, Agile project management has 3 main frameworks. Following the processes and phases of the chosen framework, you can inculcate the 12 principles simply.

     

    Now let’s see the 3 main Agile Frameworks.

     

    1. The Scrum Framework

     

    the-scrum-framework-in-agile-project

     

    The scrum framework is the most popular in agile project management. Now, if you are a rugby fan you must know what a scrum is. That’s actually where the inspiration for the name came from.

     

    The term scrum is used to emphasize the importance of teamwork in complex situations.

     

    In a scrum framework, the project is broken down into sprints. Sprints are like small building blocks that are short and periodic usually 1 to 4 weeks. Each piece is an entity in itself and provides a complete result.

     

    According to Megan Cook, Group Product Manager for Jira Software at Atlassian.

     

    With scrum, a product is built in a series of iterations called sprints that break down big, complex projects into bite-sized pieces,”

     

    Thus, the sprints in a scrum help toDeliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.” (Principle 3)

     

    The four main stages of a scrum framework lifecycle are:

    • Daily Scrum
    • Sprint Planning
    • Sprint Retro
    • Sprint review

     

    For a detailed understanding of these stages, you can check out our blog on Newbies’ Guide to Scrum Project Management 101.

     

    Moreover, in Scrum methodology, everyone has a defined role and responsibility for the execution of each sprint. Check out the table for a deeper understanding:

     

    Roles Responsibilities
    Product owner
    • Coordinates with external stakeholders
    • Make sure that the set requirements and priorities of the customer are achieved
    • Complete authority over the final product
    Scrum Master
    • Coordinated with the internal stakeholders
    • Responsible for arranging tasks, meetings, and team collaboration
    • Usually, a PMs is also a scrum master
    Development Team
    • The technical team on the scrum project
    • To design, produce, test, and execute the final project

     

    So, this is all that scrum methodology is about.  Most mid-sized and multi-national companies use scrum for their project management. Moreover, there are different scrum tools you could use as well for effective scrum project management.

     

    2. The Kanban Framework

     

    nTask Board

    Kanban Boards in nTask

     

    Kanban framework is more of a visual representation of the project on Kanban boards. In Kanban, the tasks are also broken down into smaller tasks.

     

    Both scrum and Kanban are similar in many ways, However, in the Kanban framework, there are no sprints.

     

    The visual representation in the Kanban Framework helps you to see the progress of your project and a schedule for the upcoming projects.

     

    Similar to scrum, Kanban helps in collaboration and timely execution of the project. However, unlike scrum, there are no defined roles in Kanban. The whole team works together in complete sync till the execution of the project.

     

    3. The Extreme Programming (XP) Framework

     

    Similar to Scrum, XP also uses sprints or small tasks for continuous delivery and having working software. However, XP has its own set of values and principles that allows software development companies to achieve extreme results by producing high-quality software.

     

    Like the previous frameworks, the XP team is also adapted to changing requirements and needs throughout the development process.

     

    The core values of the XP framework are:

    1. Communication
    2. Simplicity
    3. Feedback
    4. Courage
    5. Respect

     

    The core principles of the XP framework are:

    1. Rapid feedback
    2. Assumed simplicity
    3. Incremental changes
    4. Embracing change
    5. Quality work

     

    These values and principles are pivotal for an effective Extreme programming framework.

     

    There are other agile frameworks as well, however, in this guide, we will just stick to the main frameworks to avoid any confusion.

     

    What is an Agile Project Manager Role and Responsibility?

     

    Now that you understood that an agile project has a set framework, that helps to inculcate the 12 agile principles. Knowing that you as a project manager should also know your core role and responsibilities.

     

    “Being a Project Manager is like being an artist, you have the different colored process streams combining into a work of art”  said Greg Cimmarrusti.

     

    There are some simple practices that you could observe for you to be a successful agile project manager.

    1. Be able to keep your team motivated and coordinated in unpredictable and rapid changes.
    2. A focused and clear understanding of the end goal.
    3. Motivate the team to keep up with the timeline of each small task.
    4. Get constant feedback on the completed stages.
    5. Resolve any issues that might occur immediately.
    6. Constant communication with the stakeholders.
    7. Communicate the plan and changes frequently to the whole team.
    8. Identify any risks and develop effective risk management plans.
    9. Know your budget and get the best possible resources.
    10. Hold face-to-face meetings for effective communication.

     

    Keeping in mind these 10 points, you can be at top of the game as an agile project manager and handle complex projects effectively.

     

    Conclusion

     

    In a nutshell, an agile project is all about the lesser burden, collaboration, feedback, and timely execution. Agility is the way how companies prefer to manage their projects now. Thus, project management with agility is the perfect combo.

     

    We hope that this guide has helped you understand a bit better what is an agile project. You can give us your feedback on what you think of this methodology as compared to the traditional methodologies.

     

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