What Is Agile Project Management Methodology? Basic Process Explained

Thursday, June 30, 2022
Michael Scheiner
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Are you looking for a project management framework that puts people over things and flexible software over comprehensive documentation? One that favors customer collaboration instead of contract negotiation?

You might want to try agile. But what is agile project management methodology in practice?

Here we’ll provide a substantial intro to agile project management. We’ll go over the definition of agile PM, as well as types of agile methodologies, the agile project management principles, the agile PM lifecycle stages, and ways to use agile project management. We’ll also explore examples and benefits.

 

What is agile project management methodology? Our definition

What does agile mean in project management?

Agile software project management is a project framework which applies to several project management methodologies that stress flexibility and a workflow that has regular iterations, reviews and modifications. A common agile project management definition includes iterative approaches and regular phases of planning. 

We may want to get more meta and ask what is project management itself? A rough-and-ready definition is that it deals with how project teams are formed, with all the project team members involved given a series of tasks as part of a larger project plan.

When thinking about program management vs project management, one can say that “program” implies multiple projects and is bigger picture, while “project” is a contained set of tasks with a distinct output or end goal. 

When is the agile PM methodology appropriate?

Agile PM is appropriate when a traditional project management approach won’t work with its rigidity and constraints. A traditional project management method like the waterfall method is too dependent on stages where everyone involved must follow at the same time. 

The development process of agile frameworks allows individuals and teams to work independently of everyone else on the project and to complete tasks on their own time in their own way. The waterfall approach, on the other hand, requires all tasks per stage to be completed before new stages begin.

Agile PM is appropriate to tuning up processes and realizing individual projects, which makes it distinct from lean project management, which it is sometimes confused with. Lean PM relates to improving overall efficiencies in business processes and is geared towards the long-term.

How & when was the agile approach to project management created?

The basics of agile project management were formulated back in 2001, when The Manifesto for Agile Software Development was published. The manifesto was signed by 17 software developers who dedicated themselves to streamlining project management and avoiding waste. In this sense they were reacting against 20th century PM methodologies they deemed top-heavy and inflexible.

Of course, these days lots of software trades on this lineage. You can read our Agile CRM review to see how one platform integrates with this PM approach. 

 

Agile project management methodologies list

You could call “agile” more of a project management framework than a methodology. That is, there are several agile project management methods, each with its own characteristics. Some of the common methodologies that can be used for agile project management are:

  • Kanban

  • Scrum

  • Scrumban

  • Extreme project management

Kanban boards

What is Kanban? Kanban represents the classic agile approach. You put tasks on cards, freely allow each team member to take a card, and you move the cards through stages of a Kanban board. A simple application of the Kanban methodology would be to have columns for: to-be done, in-progress, review, complete.

Scrum

What is Scrum? The main agile framework for development teams is often Scrum. Applying agile principles of speed and iteration, Scrum methodology requires sprint planning, which are 2 to 4 week sets of work. After each, there are sprint reviews, and sprint retrospectives after several rounds.

These are to measure progress against what was laid out in the sprint backlog. Scrums have a Scrum master overseeing a Scrum team, and they will have short daily meetings called daily Scrums. 

Scrumban

What is Scrumban? It's a combination of Scrum and Kanban. This form of project planning combines a Kanban board’s flexibility for tasks with Scrum’s planning and sprints. The Scrumban methodology is popular with agile software development.

Extreme project management

The idea behind extreme project management, or XPM, is a form of product development that has no clear goals or idea of what kind of product is best for their purpose. Extreme programming is the software development form of XPM. Extreme PM is also good for R&D.

 

What are the 12 agile project management principles?

It’s important to run over the principles of agile project management before beginning to have your team members really apply an agile methodology. When everyone is on board with these principles in mind, there will be far less friction in your workflows. The 12 principles of agile project management are:

  1. Customer satisfaction

  2. Change management

  3. Regular deliverables

  4. Interdepartmental collaboration

  5. Team motivation

  6. Regular face-to-face conversations

  7. The right tools

  8. Sustainable development

  9. Technical design

  10. Simplicity

  11. Self-organizing teams

  12. Reflection

1. Customer satisfaction

It’s important to always keep your customer and other stakeholders in mind throughout the project lifecycle. Indeed this is one of the key characteristics of agile project management. Remember the deliverables at each iteration and the promised functions laid out in the product backlog.

2. Change management

A key agile principle is planning your workflows so that you anticipate changes, and that you are nimble enough to find new solutions. This could be to fix unforeseen issues or if new developments are discovered. 

3. Regular deliverables

Plan to have regular deliverables, generally every two to four weeks, depending on the project. These could be increments of deliverables that are parts of the total product, or if you take an iterative approach, deliverables can be working versions of a final product. 

4. Interdepartmental collaboration

A project will likely require the collaboration of people with different roles and from different departments. This agile principle is very important to software development projects, where you must keep software developers on the same page with the business types.

5. Team motivation

When choosing an agile project team, make sure all involved are skilled at their tasks, and more importantly, motivated to meet goals and expand their skill set on the job. Trusting your team and giving independence is a great way to achieve motivated teamwork.

6. Regular face-to-face conversations

Project managers and product owners should not only have their regular daily Scrum meetings but make sure to spend at least 15 minutes each week or two one on one with each team member.

7. The right tools

Make sure you and your team members have all agreed to utilize the right business SaaS and other project management tools. This goes for extensions and add-ons too. Having a solid data syncing system among everyone is important.

8. Sustainable development

Agile projects are best to continuously produce and make progress without going long periods with no results. Everyone on board, from the developers to the stakeholders to the end users should be expected to be consistent in their workflows.

9. Technical design

An agile team should always be asking questions about the optimal ways to design the product and its interfaces for optimal functionality and intuitive ease of use. The flexibility of being agile makes it easy to incorporate new ideas and improvements to design at many stages. 

10. Simplicity

At every stage of a project lifecycle, the team should consider if anything is overcomplicated or superfluous and address those issues before the problem gets too embedded.

11. Self-organizing teams

Allowing agile teams to figure out for themselves the best way to organize a project’s requirements and source all the tools they’ll need is a core agile project management principle.

12. Reflection

Understanding agile project management means understanding your idiosyncratic processes. You and your team should look back at your workflows after regular timelines to see what worked and what could have been done better, and apply this toward continuous improvement.

 

What are the agile project management lifecycle stages?

The agile project management cycle can be broken down into stages that are not to be confused with phases of a project. The agile project lifecycle generally has 5 stages. Those agile project management stages are: 

  1. Requirements

  2. Planning

  3. Development 

  4. Testing

  5. Delivery

1. Requirements

This is where the team envisions the project scope, creates a product backlog which specifies all the product’s intended functions, and figures out other things like which methodology to use like Kanban or Scrum, and which project management software or PM apps.

2. Planning

The next agile PM stage is project planning. Here there will be a more detailed planning meeting which will allocate tasks and assignments based on the amount of work each individual or team needs to do, plan user stories, and decide which metrics you’ll use for testing later on. If you are doing Scrum, you’ll do your sprint planning here.

3. Development

The development stage of agile project management is where you do the actual work. There will likely be several development cycles, which mean the team is not working on the finished product, but on an iteration which will be reviewed in the next stage.

4. Testing

At the end of an amount of work, you should have an iteration or an increment of the final product that can be tested and reviewed according to stated metrics, or even shared with the stakeholder or client. After this stage you normally go back to planning again, and do this in cycles until you are ready to complete the project.

5. Delivery

The agile delivery model follows this iterative approach . After several development cycles between planning, working and testing, the idea is to eventually have a complete product, at which point you turn over the results to the stakeholders or clients. Agile delivery methodology is customer-centric, and further iterations of deliverables are shaped by client feedback.

 

Ways to use the agile project management process

There are some different ways to use agile project management processes. That’s because agile process management is quite clear in its principles and values that can be applied to different kinds of work depending on your business needs.

Research and development

You can use agile PM methods in the creative part of discovering new products or solutions and in general research and development teams.

Problem solving

Agile methods like the Kanban are great for trial and error style problem-solving projects, especially with no time constraints.

Product launching

Agile methods are useful for several kinds of new product launches that require development, distribution, marketing and support feedback.

Agile project management examples

Here are some agile project examples as seen in the real world of familiar industries.

Software application development

As mentioned several times, the agile system is very common among software development teams. Agile execution of projects, when done right, gives developers the right amount of freedom to be creative. It also provides just enough structure to keep project milestones and goals in mind, ensuring regular deliverables.

Event planning

While some elements of event planning might call for a traditional project management approach, being agile can also add many advantages. It allows for quick adaptability to changes, which is very crucial for event planning.

Marketing campaigns

The agile methodology can be employed in several ways for marketing departments. It’s great for producing new content on a regular basis, running campaigns with trials as in with A/B testing, and lets marketing teams easily adapt to feedback and engagement.

Construction

The traditional construction project method was “Fordist,” meaning large teams, huge fixed capital costs, and strict scheduling where teams were ready for anything “just in case.” The agile method is the “Toyota” method whether everything is “just in time” and companies are not locked into costs or schedules too tightly.

 

Advantages and disadvantages of the agile project management framework

The agile framework can provide some great benefits in terms of speed, flexibility, and innovation, but it’s also good to be aware of how its virtues can potentially become problematic. Below we’ll go over the main advantages and disadvantages of the framework.

Agile project management benefits

Here are some advantages to the agile project approach:

It’s fast. Because of short sprints and regular iterations, you can begin seeing results quite quickly with agile PM. 

Problem fixing is streamlined. Agile methods let teams spot problems regularly and in real time and therefore stop them before they become too much of an obstacle.

It’s efficient. Just as in the Toyota approach, agile frameworks let teams be their most productive with minimal wasted resources. 

It offers flexibility. You never know when something unexpected might happen to your workflow or team, and an agile approach makes it easy to rearrange your team and task priorities.

There’s more oversight. Project managers have more control with an agile PM system despite the independence individuals and teams enjoy here. This is due to regular checkups and sprints, as well as daily Scrum meetings and regular face to face conversations.

You’ll have a more motivated team. Agile teams are known to be more motivated and satisfied with their jobs because of the freedom to complete tasks in their own manner and to have regular opportunities to contribute ideas to the projects’ progress. 

Customer satisfaction goes up. In the end, it’s all about the customer or client. If agile is able to deliver faster results, and to always exceed expectations because of its iterative approach of constant improvements, that means happier customers and end users.

Agile project management drawbacks

Here are some disadvantages to the agile project approach:

Agile can lead to lack of big picture information. The emphasis on iteration and speed can cause project documentation to slip by the wayside. When a project gets to a certain scale, it can be difficult to pull back and understand the work that has taken place.

On that point, tracking KPIs is tricky. With agile, you start largely in the dark. And as the project develops across delivery cycles, it’s necessary to improvise a system for tracking progress.

The lack of a fixed project endpoint can lead to bloat. Agile‘s emphasis on flexibility and spontaneous innovation can lead to great outcomes, but it can also lead to endless iteration and lack of deliverables.

Work comes in sprints, which can lead to stop-start output. Uneven, staccato workflows can lower productivity as individual teams approach tasks independently of the bigger picture.

How agile project managers benefit from the agile management style

If you are considering becoming one of many amazing agile project managers, then you should know about some of the benefits of agile for project managers. 

So, what does agile project management mean for managers?

Agile project managers learn how to trust their team, and in turn, earn their team’s confidence, making for overall better teamwork. Another advantage is that agile product owners can always improve their methods due to regular intervals of work and feedback. 

Project managers and Scrum masters benefit from an agile style by also being very dependable to stakeholders, company owners and clients since the agile framework is so effective at delivering results.

 

Our final points on the agile project management model

By now, we hope you’ve learned everything you need to know about the agile PM methodology. The key takeaways from this agile project management overview are that it‘s an iterative approach that uses bursts of work for regular testing and feedback, it allows for a lot of independent workflows, and it‘s very common as an agile software development process. 

With that said, although Agile project management techniques spread first in the software development industry, they are now implemented across a wide range of businesses. Construction, IT, and operations are a few examples of this enlarged scope of use.

Remember, there is project management software you can use to streamline your projects. Many great project management tools and project management CRM do things like Kanban boards, time tracking, and team communication. Many also have Gantt charts for building an agile project management diagram and mapping tasks and dependencies.

It’s never been easier to manage agile projects, especially for distributed and remote teams.

 

FAQs on agile in project management

What describes the relationship between agile teams and project requirements?

The relationship between agile teams and project requirements is defined by one of constant adaptability as the project progresses, and as the requirements may change. Though agile teams lay out requirements in the first phase of a project lifecycle, they should be ready for new developments to alter the plans.

What are some methodologies that can be used for agile project management?

The agile project management framework works well with several project management methodologies. These include the Kanban board system, Scrum, extreme programming, Scrumban and other lean methodologies. In some cases, traditional project management process methods like the waterfall method can overlap with some agile principles, like regular reviews.

When did agile project management start?

The agile project management method began around 2000. In 2001, the official Agile Manifesto was released by software developers, outlining the basic agile project management characteristics seen today. Before the agile method became popular, the waterfall method was one of the most common project management systems.

 
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