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Why do you need agile in project management?

Agile is a philosophy that concentrates on empowered people and their interactions and early and constant delivery of value into an enterprise. Agile has enduring appeal and ‘proved’ itself in software development. However, although the arguments are compelling, evidence that it is more beneficial than alternative approaches remains largely anecdotal.

What are the benefits of agile working?

Agile could be a project delivery ‘placebo’; working because those involved want it to. Agile empowers people; builds accountability, encourages diversity of ideas, allows the early release of benefits, and promotes continuous improvement. It allows decisions to be tested and rejected early with feedback loops providing benefits that are not as evident in waterfall. 

In addition, it helps deliver change when requirements are uncertain, helps build client and user engagement by focuses on what is most beneficial, changes are incremental improvements which can help support cultural change.  Agile can help with decision making as feedback loops help save money, re-invest and realise quick wins. 

However...

Agile focuses on small incremental changes and the challenge is that the bigger picture can become lost and create uncertainty amongst stakeholders. Building consensus takes time and challenges many norms and expectations. Resource cost can be higher; co-locating teams or invest in infrastructure for them to work together remotely. The onus can be perceived to shift from the empowered end-user to the empowered project team with a risk that benefits are lost because the project team is focussed on the wrong things.

When to adopt an agile approach

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.

Learn more

Difference between agile and waterfall approaches to project management

Agile and waterfall approaches to project management exist on a continuum of techniques that should be adopted as appropriate to the goals of the project and the organisational culture of the delivery environment. Read more about the pros and cons of the two approaches. Read more

What are the principles of agile working?

These four principles highlight the difference between agile and waterfall (or more traditional) approaches... Read more.

Agile methods

Agile project management focuses on delivering maximum value against business priorities in the time and budget allowed, especially when the drive to deliver is greater than the risk. Read more about the methods and principles of agile...

Agile project management glossary

Do you know your Scrum from your Sprint? Read our handy glossary of popular agile terminology to find out what they mean

Agile glossary

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