Standing up for Agile

If you want to generate an animated conversation among project managers, start talking about Agile development versus the traditional waterfall method development.

The first topic in each conversation starts with: “Why and when do we need Agile development?”

The answer is easy. We should use Agile when we must generate business value as soon as possible.

Instead of waiting for many months using the waterfall method, we generate business value with each iteration.

Each iteration consists of a number of sprints, while each sprint has a duration between one and 4 weeks.

Also, because the team is flexible when the number of projects implemented are successful and has been increased to 42 per cent in comparison with 14 per cent when using the traditional project approaches.

To be successful at performing projects using the Agile approach, it is important that we have:

  • A flexible business organisation that doesn’t stick to the existing project procedures and regulations.
  • Full cooperation of the business and a dedicated product owner with enough authority is needed. The product owner decides how the product will be developed, which functional will be included in each sprint, makes the budget available for each sprint, participates in daily stand-up meetings and accepts the deliverables.
  • A scrum master who does anything possible to help the team perform at their highest level. This involves removing any impediments to progress, facilitating meetings and doing things like working with the product owner to make sure the product backlog is in good shape and ready for the next sprint.
  • A technical architect to develop, together with the team, the technical aspects of the solution.
  • A dedicated development team which consists of developers and testers.

Project managers

So what exactly is the role of a project manager in an Agile project?

Traditional project management provides a robust, time-tested toolkit of metrics and reporting techniques, that grant immediate visibility into time-lined progress of a project.

Agile project management emphasis is more focused on achievement of the mission by empowering team members to fulfil responsibilities through collaboration and self-direction.

The role of a project manager in an Agile development team has been taken over by the scrum master. If we have in a project more than one Agile development team, we need a project manager for:

  • Facilitating communication between disparate teams / groups of people who are involved in the same project.
  • Coordinating resource needs cross-team and cross-project
  • Removing obstacles that happen at a meta-project or meta-team level

Because sprints are short, it is important to have a toolkit available that consists of tools for creating Web User Interfaces, automated testing and modern communication tools.

Close collaboration

Communication is key within an Agile project, therefore it is advisable that the team sits together in one room.

Within the room, there should be enough space on the walls to show the product/user story backlog and the progress per sprint and project.

When you start implementing Agile, remember the following to avoid failure:

  • New product owner role requires new skills and engagement.
  • Break down predefined silos and build cross-functional teams.
  • Getting a team to “done” within each iteration can be very hard when starting.
  • There must be management support in order to succeed.
  • Learning to change command and control leadership style needs time.
  • Inexperienced Scrum Masters could lead to reverting back to form. You need an experienced agile coach.
  • Be open to changing existing ways and dealing with what Agile and SCRUM expose.