Agile works. The debate may rage on over its effectiveness as a software development approach, but if you stick to the fundamentals of project management, you will see impressive results.
Some critics still state that agile is disorderly and does not require planning and documentation. The reality? Project management fundamentals are vital for the success of agile, as they are for any other programme.
Agile methodologies lie at the opposite end of the spectrum to sequential approaches, such as Waterfall. Agile values iterative development, responsiveness to changing requirements, customer engagement and satisfaction, frequent delivery of functionality
and strong communication. Sequential approaches plan the entirety of the project then progress through development stages. Agile, on the other hand, completes each stage per iteration. Even the scope of the project is subject to change.
Managing Agile projects
Detractors of agile claim that its methods are disorderly and undisciplined. But multiple releases and client feedback put greater emphasis on quality and discipline. And there’s the rub. Since requirements are subject to change, the code must be good enough
for reasonable changes to be incorporated. The idea that agile involves ‘hacking’ code is unfounded. A weak codebase may develop but this is the fault of the project management, not the agile approach.
So how do you ensure a disciplined approach? The Scrum methodology is a shining example. Here, teams plan a ‘Sprint’ phase, which defines functionality and deadlines. Time estimates and element ownership are recorded. Daily Scrum meetings have a set agenda
focusing on progress and obstacles to development. Priorities may change, especially given the agile focus on communication and customer, leading to out-of-scope functionality for a Sprint needing to be included engagement. If this is the case, the Sprint
may be abandoned and re-planned.
The key point here is that the Sprint has a clear deadline. Any incomplete tasks are re-evaluated for the next Sprint. The project team will analyse these elements and re-estimate development times.
Agile in Action
Suppose you are initiating a major programme which requires significant development using agile. During initiation, the programme’s scope is defined and stakeholders are engaged. But requirements, even when validated, may change as the programme evolves.
This requires careful planning and documentation. Good business analysis involves gathering and validating requirements, and ensuring traceability. Projects require protocols for monitoring and approving changes to scope and other plans.
Increased customer engagement and the potential for change within agile projects further underscore the importance of traceability and change management.
In short, agile provides flexibility, not frailty. Any lack of documentation and planning are the faults of the manager, not agile. Given the propensity for change and the increased stakeholder engagement, project management fundamentals are vital to success.
Change control, quality management, planning, documentation and carefully tracking progress are all invaluable to the success of an agile project.