Shifting to Agile Project Management

3 years ago

Tony ShortTony Short, a Digital Project Manager and owner of StudioAlt, offers an insight into how businesses, regardless of their sector, can shift from a traditional waterfall project management model to Agile, a widely acclaimed modern project management model which is used by the Sage One development teams.

The traditional waterfall model approach to projects would start by defining exactly what the project was expected to produce and creating fixed objectives.

The scope of the objectives weren’t allowed to change and the customer involvement was kept to a minimum. For every limitation with this model read Agile, an approach which expects requirements to evolve and change during the course of the project.

Agile contains a number of principles, frameworks and techniques, one being Scrum, which is an iterative, incremental framework for managing projects.

Although it was originally formalised for software development projects, it is also applicable to other sectors and types of development projects and works well for any complex, innovative project.

Scrum Techniques

1) Planning

At the beginning of the project you and the project team should step through the requirements of features and their priority according to the client to help prepare estimates of the work effort required to complete each task. This will form the product backlog which is a list of high-level tasks that will be maintained throughout the entire project.

2) Sprints

From the planning phase you should take a realistic number of deliverables from the product backlog and commit to implementing these within a Sprint. These commitments form the sprint backlog which is a list of detailed tasks you hope to deliver within a set period of time, typically lasting between one and four weeks.

There are a number of online tools to help you keep track and monitor progress of your Sprint, including paid  apps such as Basecamp and Jira, though free tools such as Trello exist that offer both web and smartphone apps.

3) Daily Scrums

Each day during the Sprint you should get the project team together for a daily scrum. The scrum is an opportunity for everybody involved in the project to talk about what progress they made since yesterday and what they are planning to do today. Your job is to ensure the project team have no impediments or blockages to achieving their plans for the day.

Daily scrums help improve communications and should remove the need for other meetings. They are key to identifying and dealing with obstacles and can also be used to involve the client to increase and accelerate feedback.

4) Review

A Sprint review is held at the end of the Sprint which allows the project team to demonstrate the deliverables and offer the client an opportunity to provide feedback.

The review should also cover what has been done and what has not been done from the Sprint backlog. For those items still outstanding you should discuss and make necessary changes to the product backlog including any new opportunities that have been identified during the review demonstration.

5) Retrospectives

Once you have completed a Sprint you should take the opportunity to assess what went well and what could be improved in the next Sprint. You should develop a plan for those areas that have been identified as improvements which should help your team work more effectively in the future.

Summary

The Scrum technique is based on a theory of experiential learning that goes through a cycle of planning, executing, reviewing and concluding. It is accepted as the most used Agile technique and can be implemented not only for Software but other complex projects with minimum impact to the project team.

If you’d like to try this in your own business, StudioAlt are advocates of Agile methodology and supply non-digital toolkits including Agile Planning Cards, Sprint Planners and Agile resource books.