SWWE branch Agile Project Management Seminar 27 September 2017

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Posted by Colin Baker on 16th Oct 2017

The SWWE Branch was very pleased to have worked with the APM’s Planning Monitoring and Control SIG and its Agile Working Group and APM’s Governance SIG in planning this engaging one day seminar exploring agile project management, what it is, and what it is not. The objectives were to dispel some of the myths and misconceptions around agile project management and to explore where and how it can be best used.

The day was introduced by SWWE Branch Chairman, Martin Gosden, who outlined the objectives and agenda for the day.

Our first speaker, Adrian Pyne, (Agile WG), provided at introduction to agile project management, and clarified some of the potential confusion about what it is and is not. Agile project management is often confused with agile development, which it is not!  Agile development uses techniques such as ‘scrum’ or short bursts of work to develop solutions in an iterative manner. Scrum is not designed for project management: it does not address funding, mobilisation, deployment, change or stakeholders. The core principles of agile PM are based on the agile manifesto, of which ‘satisfy the customer’ is top of the list.  Adrian highlighted a number of key aspects for agile project management, including the organisational culture, leadership, and delegation and empowerment.  Key to success is having the right mind set, and only using just enough project management for planning, monitoring, governance and control.  Senior leadership have to ‘get’ agile, to be able to create the necessary culture through investing in a resourced change programme.  Adrian's presentation in PDF format can be found on the APM SlideShare page

Our second speaker, Geof Ellingham, (Chair of Agile Business Consortium), discussed some of the history and latest thinking behind agile. The Agile Business Consortium is a not for profile organisation that promotes business agility. Agile started around 1995 with the Dynamic System Development Method, DSDM, a year before Prince 2. This was aimed at software development. The Agile Manifesto was published in 2001 and agile project management was published in 2010. The consortium is helping business understand how to apply agile though guides and training for agile project, and programme management, business analysis. There are plans to develop new guides and training courses for agile portfolio management, culture and leadership, governance and digital services.  A copy of Geof's presentation can be found on the APM SlideShare page

Our third speaker, Martin Samphire, (Chair of APM’s Governance SIG), discussed the challenges of providing governance for agile projects. Good governance is identified as one of the key success factors for delivering successful projects. It demonstrates that there is appropriate control of projects and assures external stakeholders such as regulators, shareholders and tax payers that funds are being invested responsibly.  Martin outlined the 16 principles in APM’s directing change guide, which are equally applicable to agile projects. Governance of agile P3M is a ‘state of mind’.  Many senior staff have grown up with the traditional, ‘waterfall’ approach, and find it challenging to understand the agile approach to P3M.  Martin looked at when to use waterfall and went to use agile. Agile is typically appropriate when the objectives are unclear and there is a tight time frame.  Waterfall takes a top down, controlling approach, whereas agile takes a bottom up flexible approach.  The key to implementing agile successfully is senior leadership driving the necessary culture and behaviours.  The APM’s Directing Agile Change guide is a helpful resource to understand the issues.  Martin has place a copy of his presentation on the APM SlideShare page

Our fourth speaker, Jenny Touhy, (PWC), looked at the challenges of procurement and contracting for agile. Jenny emphasised that agile was not appropriate for all organisations before discussing procurement and contacting approaches and the factors to be considered, in particular the maturity of the contracting organisation and how clear the objectives are. The pros and cons of two contacting approaches were compared: Time and materials, and fixed fee.  Time and materials is more appropriate for an agile approach. It is more flexible for scope changes, can take advantage of opportunities and has the potential to secure best value for money. But it requires excellent control and a mature customer, and there is a risk of cost overruns, but this is usually driven by scope changes and taking advantage of opportunities.  Fixed fee contracts are used to transfer risk to the supplier, but in practice this never actually happens.  Several examples were used to illustrate the appropriate approach to use.  In conclusion, the appropriate contracting approach depends on the circumstances, but Time and Materials is generally better suited to an agile approach. Jenny's presentation is available on the Slideshare page of the APM website.

Our fifth speaker, Steve Messenger, (Herald Associates Ltd), looked at a case study for business change in the pharmaceutical industry to restructure an organisation. He looked at the complexity involved and the required agile mindset with the need for collaboration and communication across multifunctional teams. An agile programme approach was used with clear roles and programme tranches. Small teams were used around a central business model. These teams evolved and developed over the course of the programme. In summary; agile worked well on large, complex programme, with small teams around a central business model / architecture; iterating to best solution; good communication; good Leadership, and a well-defined vision. But be aware of legal issues and plan early to deal with them.  The presentation given by Steve can be found on the APM SlideShare page.

Our final speaker, Rob Saddler, (Hd of Solutions Development and Architecture at Swansea Uni), looked at case study around the challenges of a software development team adopting an agile mindset and the scrum approach. Rob emphasised that you cannot juts introduce a process like scrum to an organisation that has never done it before. You cannot just become agile, is not a process, it is a mind-set which requires cultural and behavioural change to introduce a constant state of transformation.  The scrum process sounds quite simple, but it is very challenging to adopt it. The case study example involved a software development team who were in fact siloed individuals responsible for their own specific software cradle to grave. Ron described how he used ‘organisational patterns’ theory to break down the silo mentality to help the team work effectively and efficiently together using a scrum approach.  The process of change took about 18 months for the team to be scrum ready. Rob used many different organisational patterns as interventions to address challenges and barriers with the team and to help them adapt and adopt the required mind set. In summary, think of agile as an ongoing approach to address the specific challenges faced by your organisation. Pattern language helps by making conversations about the challenges easier by providing a point of reference and vocabulary to explore options and solutions. Don’t just try and do scum blindly, understand the philosophy and the why first. Rob's presentation is available here.


Over all the seminar provided a real insight into what agile project management is, what it is not, dispelled some myths, and looked at the challenges of adopting the approach, both culturally, but also practically from a governance and contracting perspective. Two case studies highlighted challenges and lessons.

This proved to be a very popular event, with 114 very energised attendees, who really enjoyed the discussion and debates after each speaker.

The presentation slides are available on the APM SlideShare page. 

 

Martin Gosden
SWWE branch Chair

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