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Adopting An Agile Project Management Approach – Step By Step

A couple of months ago the Portfolio Manager for mid-sized professional services firm (turnover £50 million) approached me with the following dilemma:

  • Our IT developers want to run our projects using agile but we have a waterfall based methodology.
  • Our senior management team want us to be a more agile organisation but I don’t think they mean the same agile as our IT developers.
  • We have spent time and money training people in our project management methodology and are now at the point where sponsors know the steps and what each of the documents mean.

Should we adopt agile project management?

As with any difficult situation, the solution is often found from looking at what the different perspectives have in common. In this case:

  1. Both groups have a desire to speed things up
  • Senior managers want to see a faster rate of new initiatives to improve customer acquisition and customer retention and hence profitability.
  • The IT developers want to get deliverables to users more quickly so that they can start realising the project benefits.
  1. Both groups want to respond to change
  • IT developers want to evolve the solution in response to the changing needs of their users.
  • Senior managers want to respond to emerging customer demands.

Take an agile approach and evolve the move towards agile project management over time:

Step 1 – encourage everyone involved in sponsoring, managing and delivering projects to apply incremental delivery:

  • Don’t waste time planning huge programmes of change which are out of date even before they have started to deliver anything.
  • Encourage feedback from each new delivery so that up to date needs are included in the next delivery.

Step 2 – ensure that everyone focuses on the business need:

  • Move away from users providing detailed lists of requirements and project teams planning how to deliver them.
  • Move towards identification of what benefits or improvements need to be achieved and an exploration of innovative ways of achieving this.

Step 3 – incorporate agile principles into the existing methodology:

  • Don’t rename documents that people have become familiar with but facilitate workshops that re-design some of the content so that it incorporates agile principles.
  • Don’t re-design existing governance structures, but start to encourage more collaborative working between project teams and their users and greater self-management by members of the project teams.

If this dilemma is familiar to you, join me at the Showcase on 3rd July where I will be hosting a masterclass ‘Aligning PRINCE2® and AgilePM® to share my experiences of aligning waterfall and agile approaches.

This post is by our guest blogger Melanie Franklin, Director at Agile Change Management Limited and you can follow her on Twitter @AgileMelanie


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