Introduction to Agile Project Management
Agile Project Management or Agile Management is a variation of Iterative and Incremental development where deliverables in a project are submitted in stages. The main differentiation between Agile and Iterative development lies in the delivery time which is of duration weeks in Agile, whereas the latter is in months.
This is based on Agile Software Development. Agile software development is with reference to software development methodologies that are fundamentally based on iterative development. Here the requirements and solutions materialize through association between cross-functional teams that are self organized. This term was framed based on the formulation of Agile Manifesto which consists of the statements that give emphasis on agile software development.
It was drafted in the year 2001 when representatives of various methodologies met to discuss the requirement of lighter alternatives to the traditional methodologies referred to as Heavy Weight. It was a culmination of their new theories and concepts and set forth the underlying principles of agile management.
The manifesto for Agile Software Development states “We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value: Individuals and interactions over processes and tools; Working software over comprehensive documentation; Customer collaboration over contract negotiation; Responding to change over following a plan; That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.”
The Agile methods generally endorse a disciplined project management approach that support recurrent inspection , a leadership philosophy that emphasizes on teamwork, self organization , a set of best practices that facilitate rapid delivery of software and alignment of development with customer requirements and company goals. They stress on iterations, team collaboration and process adaptableness.
The Agile methods break tasks into small increments with minimal planning and short time frames. Each one of the iterations helps minimize risk by implementation of full software development cycle. Several iterations may be necessary to release a product or enhancement.
Agile methods emphasize face to face verbal interactions over written documentations in its communications forum especially when a team is working in the same location. When a team is split in different locations, communication will be through the usual methods like videoconferencing, email etc. Team size is usually small to make communication and collaboration simpler.
Each agile team contains a customer representative who is consistently available to answer queries related to domain. Communication on a daily basis with customer representative or any stakeholder helps detection of problems and update status. The principal measure of progress is on working software.
Project Management metrics are to be developed on software accepted by users.
This gives stake holder’s reliable data to make decisions. Agile methods are based on research demonstrating that the incremental, iterative, prototype based methods propose real benefits in the long run.
On an agile project the roles of a Project Manager, Business Analyst, Quality Assurance Resource, Designer, Developer, Tester mingle to form a single team as per the key values outlined in the manifesto for Agile Software Development. It is on how everyone can contribute and work together to translate customer needs into working software.
The team is jointly held responsible to manage the project instead of the project manager alone. The characteristics of a good agile project manager lie on his leadership and motivation skills. He should be a fair listener and a strict follower of discipline. Ability to learn continuously and facilitate early feedback, expert in communication and collaboration, courage to take decisive and effective actions is the marks of a Agile Project manager.
His role is not to command and control but rather to act as a facilitator of service. He should help the team convert requirements or customer specifications into working functionality, Enact Agile values and practices, get rid of impediments, give backing to team communications, help to improve the practices and tools, and mentor and motivate team. The Agile Project Manager should not manage or direct team, should not assign tasks for the team, should not overrule team members or direct strategy or prove as a decision maker.
In short, the values that Agile Project management stresses on are Constant Communication, Simplicity, Constant feedback and Courage in making decisions. Applying these values practically lays the foundation for managing projects in an agile manner.
The recommendations to Practitioners of Agile Project Management to enable agility are to make incremental changes in the requirements, project plan and other artifacts, always to strive for rapid feedback in order to ensure that project meets expectations of stakeholders, make working software as the primary goal of the project and always to maintain minimum of documents so that the efforts needed to maintain them, balance with their value.
There are several software tools that aid in the practice of Agile Project management. IBM/Rational Rose, VersionOne, JIRA, ExtremePlanner etc are popular tools that are highly flexible and used for a combination of project management, issue tracking and bug tracking.
When implemented properly the agile model of software development can give an end result of a team accelerating developmental and production efforts and working with more focus and cohesiveness.
Applying minimalist approaches to traditional heavy weight project management activities is the key tenet of Agile Project Management.
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