Is Your IT Project Suitable for Agile Project Management?

For many organizations, the jury is still out on whether or not the Agile approach to projects really works.  If you are considering starting a new project then you may be wondering if you can really benefit from this approach.

There are many factors that determine the answer to this question? But as usual, the answer is “IT depends”. In fact it’s more than likely that Agile, as practiced in its purist form, is not appropriate for any but a very small number of organizations.

As experienced IT Project Management consultants, we tend to use combinations of methodologies. For example in some circumstances we might blend techniques from Agile and Lean, with more traditional waterfall approaches. We might use elements of Agile in the software development phase, but the overall project that incorporates business analysis, QA, and deployment phases may more closely resemble a waterfall type project – known as euphemistically as “Scrumfall”.

In choosing a methodology it is important to remember that the methodologies exist to serve the project, not the other way around. Sometimes we see project teams rigidly following a methodology instead of adapting it to their needs.

Really good IT project managers will adapt approaches to suit the needs of a project.

Feedback and Complexity

Agile project management is often implemented with small to medium sized projects where the project can be rolled out relatively quickly and iterative improvements made based on user feedback.

It is also suitable for projects where the scope and parameters of the project are unclear or not easy to define. This may be a project that is too complex for the end user to clearly understand without having used a prototype.

In other words Agile is best suited to projects which have a significant element of discovery. We need to discover the requirements, we need to figure out which technologies will work, and we need to evaluate different user interface options.

In these circumstances because we are in discovery mode, we have to accept that not everything we assumed at the start will actually turn out to be true. For example, not all the requirements we assumed up front will need to be delivered.

On the other hand Agile is not the best methodology to use when requirements are already well understood. For example, if requirements are driven by legislation or compliance regulations, then there is no room to de-scope as all of the requirements must be implemented. You may be able to use elements of Agile to develop prototypes to discover the best way to deliver a requirement, but Agile will not be the most suitable methodology to deliver the full project.

Solutions in Stages

By working on a project in stages an agile project management team can piece together the parts of a project’s puzzle as they go. Technologies and solutions can be implemented and tested on the fly. This helps to sustain the momentum of the project.

Continuously passing feedback between the client and significant shareholders ensures all needs are met as they arise and occur. Each stage is completed and approved before moving onto the next stage.

A word of caution, though. Getting feedback from users and other stakeholders requires that they invest more time in the project than they may have expected at the beginning. If your users are used to waterfall approach, then they might not be prepared for this level of effort. Also when users are had to get to, pure Agile may not work very well and a good project manager will need to adapt agile to suit the organization.

Continuous Collaboration

By developing the plan as the project moves along rather than laying it out from the beginning project managers leave open a space for ongoing collaboration between teams and team members to develop and adapt more focused goals and objectives.

If your project is likely to benefit more from self-organisation and task assignment than from micromanagement and imposed structure then Agile project management might be the appropriate solution.

But in highly regulated environments where there is a large burden on the project to produce documentation, record all decisions, and follow rigid processes then you should think twice about using Agile. Also in situations where your Agile project is part of a larger programme of work and where Agile is not being used universally, then Agile may not be the most appropriate methodology.

To discuss the optimal project management approach for your upcoming IT project call Daysha IT Consultants on (01) 537 8476 or send an email to info@dayshaconsulting.com.

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