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Agile project management - for whom and why?

 

Agile project management is more than just a fad. The first agile methods in the field of software development were already developed in the mid-1990s. They are based on empirical models which are used when the final result is not yet or only with difficulty predictable at the beginning of the project. Accordingly, with agile project management you can change or adapt the requirements during the course of the project. Among agile approaches Scrum is the best known and most widespread method.

 

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What exactly is Scrum?

In 2001, agile project management with Scrum is established in the book "Agile Software Development with Scrum", but only for software development. In 2003 the spectrum is extended to the entire project management with Scrum ("Agile Project Management with Scrum") and thus to the entire company.

Definition Scrum:

In rugby, the word Scrum itself refers to the crowd of players throwing in the ball. The analogy is intended to underline the work in small, self-organized units, which are given only one direction (goal) from the outside, but which determine the tactics of how they want to achieve the common goal.

 

Agile project management: The three roles in Scrum project management

In the Scrum world you have three roles. There are:

  • the Product Owner,
  • the Development Team and
  • the Scrum Master

 

The Product Owner is your customer or represents your customer. He makes sure that the customer's interests are implemented in the project.

The Development Team works independently and autonomously on the implementation of the customer's wishes.

The Scrum Master acts as a coach, who ensures that the team can work as smoothly as possible.

 

Agile project management: Scrum project management is based on four principles

For agile project management, you can base the cooperation in Scrum project management on four principles:

  • Individuals and interactions are more important than processes and
               project management tools
  • A functioning end result (e.g. software) is more important than detailed
              documentation
  • The active cooperation with the customer is more important than
               contractual fixations
  • Meaningful changes to the project objective are more important than
               stubbornly following the original plan


What other agile methods for agile project management exist?

Scrum is currently the most popular method for agile project management.

But there are many more agile techniques like Kanban, Extreme Programming, MVP, Feature Driven Development, Test Driven Development or Crystal Clear, with which you can manage agile projects.

The term "agile project management" is becoming more and more a generic term for the approach, which differs significantly from the classic waterfall method.

 

Kanban

Developed in the 1950s, Kanban (Japanese for "signal card") originally comes from the production control system of Toyota.

The aim is to efficiently control each manufacturing or production stage and to optimize the material flow. When transferred to IT, Kanban elements from Lean Production, Lean Development and the Theory of Constraints were added. The result is a separate agile project management system in which the number of parallel tasks is limited, thus achieving shorter throughput times.
This enables you to avoid bottlenecks for agile project management, as they become quickly visible.

The following principles help you to control your projects for agile project management with IT-Kanban:

  • Visualisation of all stations of the workflow on a Kanban board
               The individual tasks, for example noted on a file card, can be moved
               quickly and easily from left to right through the  individual stages of the
               value chain.
  • Limitation of work (Work in Progress)
               For agile project management, you can define a maximum number of
               tasks that can be processed simultaneously per station.
  • Control and analysis of the workflow
               You can easily improve your work process by analyzing measurements s
               such as queue length or through put time  (from station to station or
               total throughput time).
  • Formulation of rules for the process
               You can define for agile project management what is meant by the term
               "ready" or in which order, i.e. according to which priority, the task cards
                should be taken.
  • Continuous improvement and promotion of leadership
               You can encourage your employees to submit concrete suggestions for
               improvement. The suggestions will then be seriously discussed at all
               organizational levels and, if appropriate, implemented.

 

Design Thinking

Design Thinking is a user-oriented method for solving problems and developing new ideas. The team usually consists of members from different disciplines. They take the user's perspective and focus on the user's wishes and requirements.

You can divide the process of Design Thinking into six steps for agile project management:

  • Understanding: The client explains the task to your team.
  • Observe: Your team members write down the task.
  • Synthesis: Your team collects its notes and comes to a common
                understanding of the task.
  • Finding ideas: The team collects possible solutions for the tasks and
               then selects the best one.
  • Prototyping: Your team will then implement the best solution as a
               prototype.
  • Test of the created prototype: You can then run tests and, if necessary,
               further optimize the product.

 

DevOps

The DevOps model is characterized by high IT and software relevance. DevOps is an artificial word made up of the terms development and (IT) operations.

The purpose of the model is to achieve more effective and efficient cooperation between the areas of development (Dev), IT operations (Ops) and quality assurance (QA). DevOps thus refers to the cross-departmental, company-wide cooperation of managers, developers, testers and administrators with the involvement of the customer. All those involved pull together and have the common goal in mind: the provision of high-quality software.

With DevOps you can develop software for agile project management faster and with better quality. It also improves the collaboration of your teams.

From now on, every project will be a successful project!

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Advantages and disadvantages of agile approaches

Regardless of which model you choose, agile project management brings you advantages:
You profit through:

  • high flexibility,
  • rapid implementation,
  • low planning effort,
  • easy management and administration,
  • strong adaptability,
  • high level of personal responsibility

 

These advantages give you a significant competitive edge.

In agile project management, however, you should pay attention to company-wide project and resource management, because the agile approach requires:

  • A high communication effort
               Agile methods work very well when only one department is involved
               and there is little or no dependence on the outcome. However, agile
               development projects are often part of larger customer projects. In this
               case, it is very important that you attach great importance to internal
               communication and complete coordination between the departments.
  • Good capacity planning
               Agile approaches do not make the work less. That's why you always
               have to plan your capacities in the project precisely.
  • Tools for agile project management
               Agile project management is usually implemented in our own special
               software solutions. If these are not integrated into the company-wide

               project management software, considerable information deficits can
               arise in these enterprise solutions, which can have a negative impact
               especially when simulating future scenarios in the project portfolio.
               Therefore you should always pay attention to the selection of suitable
               project management tools.
     
  • A high degree of personal responsibility
               Employees must be able to act independently in agile teams. For you,
               this means that when selecting the right team members, you should not
               only focus on professional competence. You should also be prepared to
               act on your own responsibility.
  • Low predictability of the final project outcome
               The quick adaptability of the goals and the approach also means that
                the entire project can be redefined at any time.
  • No or little documentation on the solution found
               Since solutions are often found through brainstorming, it is very difficult
               to document them properly.
  • No resilient multi-project management
               Since agility does not allow for comprehensive multi-project
               management
     hardly feasible.

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Tips for introducing agile methods for agile project management

The introduction of agile project management is a challenge, but not witchcraft. It is important that you start small and as simple as possible:

  • Choose a team that wants to work agile.
  • Choose a small project that is as clearly defined as possible.
  • Make sure you define your goals precisely.
  • Decide which agile project management method you want to use.
  • Make sure that your team understands the method.
  • Find out whether team members need to be trained.

If it is your first agile project, it would be important to record all successes and failures after completion in order to learn from them. Be sure to document what worked well, where you still have room for improvement or where you should use hybrid project management

Then optimize your agile project management and start your next project!

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