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Why good assurance is key to agile delivery success

Whilst two of the key statements within the agile manifesto are “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools” and “Working software over comprehensive documentation”, anybody coming to the conclusion that this removes the need for strong project discipline or governance would be misguided. As a result, effective assurance is required for agile project delivery as much as it is for more traditional methods.

Research has shown a direct link between organisational and project success and good assurance, with objective and independent oversight of activities regarded as the key success factor in delivering successful project outcomes.

This applies to agile and non-agile projects alike but will require some adaptation from professional assurers to understand the ‘high level’ basics of agile as well as the differences in approach required when conducting assurance reviews.

The release this week of the latest APM SIG guide, A Guide to Assurance of Agile Delivery, does exactly that, offering experienced reviewers the necessary support and guidance to undertake assurance of their first agile project.

Agile popularity

Agile project management is now firmly embedded within the delivery toolset available to projects, programmes and portfolios, with many organisations now seeing it as the default option to deliver software solutions.

Furthermore, agile is now being used more widely, for example, in the delivery of transformation, HR, finance and engineering related projects. The rise in popularity of adopting agile methods alongside the more traditional approaches (e.g. waterfall) does not reduce the need for project assurance as the same broad risks still exist.

The standard approach to planning and undertaking traditional assurance reviews can be adapted and adopted to ensure assurance activity of agile projects is both effective and valuable.

And, just as the increasing use of agile development methods have introduced rapid, value-driven, iterative change cycles along with new way of workings, so the role of assurance also needs to adapt as it assumes heightened importance in this fast-moving environment. This is crucial in not only evaluating individual agile projects but also looking at whether the wider organisational landscape supports the agile approach.

Any project can be managed in an agile way, regardless of whether it contains any agile development. Assurers should keep this in mind when approaching a new assurance review.

Understanding the context is all important as there is no single prescribed definition of agile project management. Therefore it is essential that the assurer understands the methodology and principles specific to the organisation and the project being assured.

We believe with this additional knowledge assurers can offer valuable insight and guidance, better supporting the organisation’s drive towards agile project delivery.

A Guide to Assurance of Agile Delivery, written by members of the APM Assurance Specific Interest Group (SIG), is available today from the APM bookshop. APM members receive a 10% discount on all APM book purchases.

APM Knowledge would like to ask the project professional community to review A Guide to Assurance of Agile Delivery. If you are interested in this opportunity please contact publishing@apm.org.uk.

Read more about what is agile project management

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  1. Richard Renshaw
    Richard Renshaw 28 October 2017, 07:17 PM

    Congrats to all members of the team engaged in the preparation and delivery of this welcome publication. Such document, in my opinion, was developed in a collaborative manner and spirit to align to APM's Mission; Inspiring communities to deliver meaningful change for societal benefit by advancing the art, science, theory, and practice of project management. A critical governance decision is to select the appropriate approach as part of the project strategy. Level of certainty versus time to market is the balance that needs to be considered when selecting suitable projects to go agile. Organisations have to be realistic: the objective is not agile but good delivery and a measured assessment of the preferred approach is essential to achieve that goal. This is defined by the project type, its objectives, and its environment. Agile is not a panacea, many practice its principles without knowing. Projects delivering end-user benefits is an agile principle which should also exist using traditional methodologies. Collaborative working will always: improve benefits; speed up delivery, improve quality, satisfy stakeholders and realise efficiencies. Thanks again for a job very well done! Kind regards Richard Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

  2. Tim Podesta
    Tim Podesta 31 October 2017, 08:22 AM

    Roy, let me add my congratulations to you and the Working Group for this new publication. It is very timely and also a great complement to the Integrated Assurance and Measures for Assurance guidance the Assurance Special Interest Group has published. All the best for the forthcoming conference.

  3. David Hart
    David Hart 16 May 2019, 01:13 PM

    Hi, The organisation I'm currently working in is seeking to use Agile and Lean methodologies in a large Transformation Programme. We have Agile practices already well embedded in the organisation for software development and historically, the PM role was a 'bridge' between this, the stakeholders and the business readiness activities to ensure the technology being delivered via the Agile teams was successfully embedded into the business. We are now keen to take this model further and implement a variotion of Agile at Scale. Within this and other scaled agile methodologies, the role of PM as an individuale role no longer exists and this activity is reduced down (to reduce waste) and spread over the empowered, cross functional team. The PMI have an interesting paper on the topic... https://www.pmi.org/learning/library/pm-role-lean-agile-world-9350 As you can see in this paper, the nearest role to the traditional PM is the 'Release Train Engineer' which has significantly different skills, knowledge, and competencies. What is the APM's view on this change that frankly, seems to be gaining traction in a lot of technology and service-based organisations? Can an RTE possess and be eligible for ChPP and APM membership with experience in this role only?