Agile project management for modern workflows

An agile project manager showing colleagues work on a whiteboard

The key to any successful project is effective management, and typically, this means applying the proper framework or principles of project management. Agile Project Management is a common principle employed by teams, focusing on adaptation and collaboration and working in increments to achieve a goal.

This article explores Agile Project Management and its benefits and drawbacks. With a better understanding of the Agile methodology, we can discover the projects and teams to which this universal principle is best suited.

What is the Agile methodology?

As the name suggests, Agile Project Management is a flexible and adaptive approach to managing a project. It is an offshoot of Agile operations — which uses Agile principles and methodologies such as team collaboration, iterative work cycles, continuous improvement and a focus on customers, in the operational process. An Agile team can pivot and adapt to change quickly, applying these same features to project management.

At its core, the Agile Project Management overview is an approach that works in increments. The team completes sprints of work (or tasks), then assesses and adapts before the next one begins. The project follows this lifecycle until it reaches its goal.

Agile Project Management differs from traditional project management frameworks, such as waterfall project management that follows a sequential approach where tasks flow downwards — like a waterfall. Before moving on to the next phase, the previous task must be completed.

The Agile methodology works best by allowing teams to be responsive by addressing challenges or requirements as necessary and then implementing refinements to allow the project to evolve.

The benefits of using Agile project management

Although traditionally designed for software development, the Agile project management principle is also used extensively by project teams across a range of industries. Moreover, it offers many benefits to project management teams, including:

  • Versatility across projects. Projects with frequent changes, multiple interconnected tasks, high levels of client feedback requirements and a high degree of risk all work well with the Agile methodology.
  • Increased efficiency and productivity. Tasks are completed in sprints before moving on to the next part, making for a more efficient process.
  • Customer satisfaction and enhanced stakeholder engagement. As the goal of most projects, ensuring customers and stakeholders are happy with the progress is made simpler with the Agile approach. In addition, satisfaction is more likely as customers and clients provide feedback and make changes after each completed sprint.
  • Continuous improvement. Because of its flexibility, teams using Agile Project Management can improve processes as they go.

Setbacks of Agile Project Management

Even with the most thorough planning, it’s possible to encounter challenges when implementing Agile Project Management. These are some common setbacks of the Agile principle to be aware of.

  • Less predictability. The flexibility of Agile project management also means it’s not as predictable. Nobody can be sure how long it will take and what the definitive result of a project should even be. Even the deliverables are fragmented, so the project has less cohesion overall.
  • Not ideal for longer projects. In a larger-scale project with a fixed deliverable — such as building a house — the changing nature of Agile would not be suitable. Its traditional place as Agile software project management makes it ideal for shorter deliverables, like those familiar with software development.
  • Potential for scope creep. Agile Project Management sometimes leads to scope creep, making it hard to know what should be prioritised and using more resources than planned. This constant change occurs as new tasks are added, customers’ needs transform and requirements are adjusted. Using dedicated project management tools can help prevent this.

Implementing Agile Project Management principles

After assessing whether the Agile methodology fits your project and stakeholders, you can implement it. These are the typical steps teams will take during the Agile process.

  1. Bring in all stakeholders. All individuals on board — including team members, customers and stakeholders — are vital for the collaborative, Agile process.
  2. Start small. Focus on a tiny project element first, assessing feedback and making necessary changes. Agile works in increments only and is a repetitive process for each component of the broader project.
  3. Open communication and empowerment. The key to a successful Agile methodology is having everyone openly communicating, contributing and collaborating. Encourage this among the project team and stakeholders throughout its development.
  4. Find a framework. The Agile principle is used with another project management methodology or framework. For example, teams should consider whether Scrum, Kanban, waterfall or another approach is best.
  5. Adjust as needed. After each sprint of the project, meet with your team to discuss what worked and what didn’t. The Agile methodology allows for flexibility and change, so be open to it.

Develop your skills in Agile Project Management

To ensure the effective implementation of any principle or methodology, professionals working in project management can improve their capabilities with ongoing education. Gaining a qualification in project management or an Agile Project Management course is a great way to upskill.

Qualifications like these allow leaders to determine the methodologies and principles that best suit their upcoming projects, including the Agile methodology. RMIT Online’s Graduate Diploma in Project Management can equip you with the skills to manage large-scale, complex projects and be an effective project manager in the ever-changing world of business.

Apply for an Agile Project Management course

Agile Project Management is about moving swiftly, being open to change and working in short sprints. Its benefits are numerous for project teams and stakeholders, including flexibility, risk management and customer satisfaction.

Hoping to master the Agile methodology and become a leader in project management? RMIT Online’s Graduate Diploma in Project Management is the pathway to success. Speak with a course advisor today on 1300 701 171 for the next steps.