Before discussing the core concepts of agile project management, it is important to answer two questions:
What does the term “agile” stand for in the context of this management methodology?
Where did this methodology originate from?
The term agile here stands for “having the capacity to embrace change” and agile project management came into existence when conventional software development models were ditched in favor of the far more flexible and forgiving agile development method.
Traditional software development models have had a large number of problems associated with them. They have produced inconsistent results largely because of the hard, unyielding approach affected towards the development process. It is almost impossible to define all the targets for a new software solution to hit. There are always bugs to be fixed and market trends to be accounted for.
As a result delays become a non-negotiable part of the development process. And these delays affect each and every subsequent activity, resulting in poorly put together code and dissatisfied clients.
The agile model however is fluid and is geared to deliver high quality specific product features over short development cycles of one to four weeks called sprints.
This is the reason why a whole new branch of project management is holding the market in its sway – the agile project management model. One of the best examples is the SCRUM methodology. Because of the flexibility as well as the ability to innovate on the go, agile models are being implemented in industries which have nothing to do with software development.
What are the biggest differences between an agile project management and conventional models?
Two words: accountability and iterations.
In an agile environment, there is no specified overburdened project manager who is in charge of the whole development process and singly accountable to the management for the success or the failure of the project. Instead the duties of balancing project scope, cost, personnel, quality, risk, adapting as requirements change and reporting of daily activities are shared by different members of the team. This is supposed to cultivate a sense of belonging to the project and elicits innovative suggestions and inputs from the entire development team instead of relegating all that creative potential to rote jobs.
Secondly since the process is iterative in nature, agile project management results in a product that is continuously evolving. Because of better communication between the management and the development team, for a defined portion of the software (or deliverable), the output of the sprint is free of glitches and bugs and the next milestone is set only after the existing one is given the nod of approval by the client
Thus iterative planning sessions are always under-way in the background accommodating changing client requests.
The modified targets are communicated to the development team at the daily meetings and the feedback/testing process is also intermittent ensuring that at the end of the sprint the milestone deliverable is not vastly out of alignment with what the clients’ need of the software solution.
Agile project management is definitely the dominant trend of the future and it is slowly putting traditional methodologies like the Waterfall Model out of commission.
Learn about other project management concepts in the Project Management Glossary.