Agile Project Management for Dummies – Getting to the crux of Project Management, like other subject matters, isn’t one with shortcuts. If you need information, you will have to get it correct from the start, from scratch! Once your basics are polished and toned, you can head down the alleyway of agile project management brilliance and turn the tables at your organization. So, here’s your chip at a wonderful start.
Welcome to Agile Project Management for Dummies!
What does a Project mean?
Consider it to be an undertaking that’s unique to a given requirement-fulfillment action. This undertaking mostly has more than one inter-related activities that pose as tasks, and these tasks need to be fulfilled in a stipulated time frame and at an expected quality level. And, most importantly, these tasks should help the project head towards its end goal. With a planned start and end, projects are initiated and they run through stakeholders steering the business to its vision and mission.
What does agile Project Management mean?
The deployment of methods and techniques of planning, organizing, and scheduling of skilled resources, dedicated towards a project would be termed as Project Management. The process follows a systematic breakdown and follow-up of tasks that make up the steps towards the achievement of the project objective.
Agile Project Management over the years has gained a good, solid momentum, and results have been witnessed in all spheres of business. This gains our trust in a foolproof methodology applied for success of a business strategy.
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Value of agile Project Management
Agile Project Management targets Purpose, People, and Process. Value addition is initiated at every stage in the life cycle of a project. These factors get the project to its ultimate goal and prove right the strategies undertaken.
The Purpose of the entire project is the focal point within project management. All the stakeholders and resources converge towards this purpose, and agile project management gives the organization that assurance that it will be as per the requirements and needs of the business.
The People involved within the project render skill and expertise towards the project and bring it to its completion. It helps the stakeholders or team members realize their responsibilities and accountabilities towards the deliverables expected.
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The Process followed binds together the project to bring it to its expected delivery dates and timelines while maintaining the budget on the individual tasks.
5 Phases of Project Management
There are 5 widely recognized project management process groups or phases that make up the entire workflow involved. These steps are applicable widely to all projects, operations, and subject matter programs. These are:
- Monitoring and Controlling
Let’s have a look at each of these phases at a glance and head towards a successful project at your organization:
A project initiation comes from the fact that something has got to change or a new inclusion has to be made or a problem has to be resolved. These are pressing situations that need a project to be initialized in order to overcome or induct a particular problem or change.
While some companies insist on a set criteria list for a project to be termed and initiated as a “project”, while others look at changes within the department, across departments, and across the organization as projects. These often come as a fine line between the concepts of project management and change management.
Projects can be initiated mostly by the top management but are only done so with the work-force in mind. Taking into consideration the viewpoints of the workforce and executives stands as an essential plot for the start of the project. Project initiation comes from drawing or drafting out a Project Proposal that needs sanction from the top team, who grants the needed resources and budget for the project.
Project Planning is the crux of any project that has been undertaken over the ages within the realms of project management. Conducting something new or amending already existing processes or workflows can bring with it a whole new set of risks and issues. These issues or risks can be avoided or mitigated through careful utilization of the second phase of project management.
In this stage, the scope of the project determines the amount of planning required for it and the intensity of the project can determine how far the project planning will go. Planning involves at looking through each aspect of the project as per the objective set during the project initiating phase. Once the requirements and need are determined, the project planning can be easily slated and sorted for better understanding of which jigsaw piece fits where.
Once the puzzle is complete, you can get the whole picture of where the process is and where it is supposed to be at the end of the project. This way you can fill in the gaps in a step-wise manner, which drives the project to its completion.
Each project task will have an owner, a timeline, resources allotted, and a completion date. These tasks can be further broken down into subtasks and each of these will be contributing to the project objective.
With the planning phase, the following activities can be undertaken:
- Scope Definition and Planning
- Task Definition and Planning
- Task Sequencing
- Task Timeline
- Project Timeline
- Resource allotment
- Project Plan
- Quality Plan
- Communication Plan
- Staff Acquisition
To top all of these, risk management comes as a key driver in the planning phase. Risk needs to be accounted for and needs to be incorporated into every plan that goes underway. Risk would mean more overheads, which the projects don’t need at any stage in the project life cycle. Risk management would involve Identification and Quantification of risks for every stage and every task or subtask undertaken.
This phase dictates the plan and puts it into action for achieving the project goal and objective. Here’s where the project team members are employed to get the tasks, activities, and stages completed.
The actions are taken as per the plan and any formidable risks are dealt with as per the risk mitigation plan initiated during the planning stage. Unknown and unforeseen risks are dealt with on an ad-hoc basis and given priority so that work is not halted. Core tasks are performed to the design and the following things need to be taken care of:
- Quality assurance
- Minimum deviation from the original plan
- Eyes fixed on objective
- Timelines adherence
- Continuous follow-up
- Performance measurement
- Regular progress checks
- Risk management
- Problem solving
- Team development
- Communication plan
Monitoring and Controlling
This stage is an essential phase that ensures and measures the success of the project at all intended timeframes. It checks for the project’s longevity and is normally done through a control mechanism put in place after the implementation or execution phase.
Performance reporting and change management comes into play at this stage and the project’s control mechanisms checks the expected results from each task and activity, comparing them with the actuals. This way, variances can be calculated and necessary actions can be deployed in an effort to curb further levels of variation from the intended plan of action.
The sole purpose of this stage is to determine whether the project is on track or not. Getting the project back on track can showcase the skills of a project manager and can put their line of work on the forefront. It’s at times of deviation that the skills rendered by not only the project manager, but also the executives that surface and are used to solve issues and problems.
The follows aspects need to be closely monitored and controlled:
- Risk Response
The purpose of this phase is to generate and gather all the data and information pertaining to the project and disseminating them. This closure involves steps such as reporting the success metrics and the graph of how the project has fared. It involves all the damages and improvements, all the resources utilized and the cost bearings.
At this stage, the initial project proposal and contract is reviewed to check if all the deliverables have been cited and handed over as the project output. Finalization and resolution of outstanding discrepancies are carried on at this stage.
Project Life Cycle
All the phases together make the project life cycle, and this life cycle is essentially the beginning and the end of the project. The approaches followed by project life cycles are normally either the waterfall or the agile models. There are other various approaches to choose from depending on your business requirements and feasibility.
The waterfall model presents a cascading scenario where the output of a stage within the phases is the input for the next phase. This approach follows a set sequence to the tasks and activities undertaken, and it has its set of pros and cons.
The agile model on the other hand can be iterative and works in blocks and pieces. These phases can be reversed and reiterated before moving on to the next stage, should there be a need and demand from the project’s proceedings. It revolves around the concept of modeling and documentations for the development of the project and its implementation. Here best practices are documented for use.
10 Knowledge Areas of Project Management
The 5 phases are in turn supported by the 10 knowledge areas that form together the processes typical of each project undertaken. These form the integral parts in bringing about cohesion within the projects undertaken in the organization, all centered on the business strategy and goal. They are as follows:
- Project Communication Management
- Project Cost Management
- Project Human Resource Management
- Project Integration Management
- Project Procurement Management
- Project Quality Management
- Project Risk Management
- Project Scope Management
- Project Stakeholder Management
- Project Time Management
All these together form vital components when it comes to handling your projects as project managers, but the explanation of these are advanced and won’t be discussed within this article.
Team & Communication
Each project requires a team to function and head towards the project objectives. A team would typically comprise of:
- Project Manager – This member manages the entire functioning of the team and directs it towards the project objective.
- Project Lead – This member supports the work carried out by the project manager and is second-in-command. Usually caters to the technical aspects of the project and provides expertise. A Project Lead role is normally needed for big projects.
- Project Sponsor – This member provides authoritative signatures and legalizes the expenditure on the project. They are keenly interested in the outcome of the project and need it to be as per the vision and objective. They look at it from a perspective of how it contributes to the company goal.
- Project Team Members – These members are vital resources to fuel the project and make things actually work.
While you have many subteams and subtasks within major tasks, the adhesive that binds all of these factors and skilled hands together is communication. Without communication, it’s difficult to maneuver around and keep the project integrated. With updates taking place every single day, it’s important to get knowledge of all the happenings of the project to all stakeholders and support teams.
Collaboration is the keyword for this project to be what it is envisioned to be. With information being relayed to the correct personnel at all times, the use of efficient and effective tools and systems plays a vital role. Some of the best project management tools and systems that your team can use are as follows:
- KANBAN Tool
- Zoho Projects
Project Management Triangle
One of the key factors within project management is this project management triangle, or even referred to as the “triple constraints”. Used as a standard reference model for all project managers, it is denoted as follows:
The project management triangle forms the basis of project management and how projects are dealt with and strategized. The triangle is made up of:
Aimed at the quality of the project, each factor highly influences the other and can determine the way you go ahead with your project.
If scope is increased, it will increase the cost incurred and the time taken for completion. If the budget is tight, the cost relaxes while the scope can’t be increased. And, if the time is tight, the scope is limited and the cost inflates.
These are all the things you need to know to get started. So, what’s on your mind regarding this article? Jot them down in the comments section below and let’s share some more ideas and learning on this topic.