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Practical Adoption of Agile Methodologies: APM Volunteer Research Report

APM has sponsored a review of the practical adoption of agile methodology in project management in the North West. The report was written by the APM North West branch.

Who is the intended audience?

This study is targeted towards companies and project managers, who may be considering adopting an agile project delivery methodology.

It is to be hoped that the findings from this study will give project sponsors and teams further information on which factors best influence successful adoption of the agile development approach, and so where to concentrate best practice and effort throughout the project life cycle. It is the aim of this study to start to fill the 'practical agile adoption for success' gap in the current body of professional literature, and start to explore its usage on non-IT and innovative projects.

Why is it important?

There is a good body of academic literature, training and theory about the agile project management methodologies, but the objective of this study was to understand the extent to which agile tools, techniques and roles are practically put in place in corporate project management methodologies; to determine the level of agile commitment, e.g. pilot, full use, selective based on need, as well as drivers for selection or de-selection of the methodology.

Who took part in the research?

Consistent with academic precedents, a qualitative approach was adopted: first and second semi-structured interviews of APM member, north-west based companies and project managers who use agile approaches have been held, to establish the level of adoption, then explore elements adopted and their relative success.

Over four months, interviews took place with north-west companies and project managers who use agile approaches, and some who don’t, to establish the level of adoption then explore what worked and, just as importantly, what didn’t.

This report will share what members consider to be the most useful tools and techniques, how they can be adapted, mistakes to avoid and stages on the agile journey.

What did you discover?

The key findings from the report are:

  • Drivers for adoption of agile are time and cost constraints.
  • The environment has to be right: customer access and effort, senior management support, a good team, and flexible culture. A large factor to consider before embarking on an agile project is to understand the roles and behaviours needed for project management and the level of willingness to organise around project delivery. It is best to deal with instability, such as rapid change in environment, innovations, unclear requirements.
  • It is still largely used by IT, rather than non-IT teams, as our participants from construction and engineering needed to meet the safety and regulatory criteria that indicate ‘go waterfall’.

When choosing a project for agile adoption, consider the options for co-location, the range of skills of team members and their availability, empowerment of a single product owner, use of tools and techniques to enhance communications.

Agile needs more from a project manager in way of communication for risks, issues and stakeholder management, as speed of resolution is of the essence.

What were the main challenges?

Some of the challenges we found in adopting agile were:

  • what split of waterfall/agile to use;
  • scrum or kanban?
  • how to get a great product owner;
  • how to project manage across multiple agile work streams and projects;
  • where can I read more?
Download the full report