“The Agile Project Management principles and framework encourage learning and adapting as an integral part of delivering value to customers.” ― Jim Highsmith, Agile Project Management
Although Agile methodology traces its roots back to the 1620s, its application to project management comes from the lean manufacturing framework developed by Toyota in 1940. In this framework, while designing the project scope and execution strategy, project managers provide enough room for iteration and customer feedback loops.
The aim of Agile project management is to deliver a working product that addresses customers' pain points with every iteration.
These product iterations (aka Sprints) are governed by four foundational Agile Manifesto values:
In Agile, team members’ skills and experience are what define the project’s success. A team dynamic is more important than any set of processes, plans, or tools. This does not mean that Agile disregards processes; instead, it recognizes that processes and tools are ineffective without people who can pivot and respond to change.
Documenting processes such as technical requirements and specifications can be time-consuming, especially when the project scope is not yet fully defined.
Instead, Agile prioritizes execution and focuses on delivering a working product as specified in a user story. In the context of software products, a working product means a deliverable that has been developed, tested, and documented.
Rather than eliminating documentation, Agile streamlines it, allowing developers to focus on what they do best.
Standard project management methods typically involve customers at the beginning of the project for contract negotiations and at the end for product delivery.
Agile lets project managers collaborate with customers at every step of the product development process, increasing customer satisfaction.
Responding to change over following a plan
Project teams that use a traditional project management approach tend to follow a predefined plan. While managing scope creep is necessary, Agile teams assess changes as they occur, and each iteration begins with a replanned scope that contains new information.
The Agile Manifesto also includes 12 principles that serve as best practices for Agile teams.
As part of Agile project management, sprints are fixed periods of short iterations in which the teams work towards a common goal. Organizing your project into sprints can help to visualize its progress.
“A sprint would only be a failure if the team didn’t deliver anything and didn’t learn from it,” Scrum Alliance co-founder Mike Cohn says. Cohn explains that the main objective of a sprint is to reach a set goal and learn enough to proceed to the next sprint.
As part of sprint planning, a team determines what is achievable within the scope of the sprint.
Product backlogs contain a list of all the goals set by the development team for the entire project. The backlog is what the teams use to choose tasks for the sprint scope.
Since Agile projects are feedback-driven, every sprint involves:
To collect feedback from different parties, project managers can leverage tools like Spreadsheet.com’s Product Feedback with Form template:
Backlog selection consists of the following elements:
Strong communication channels are essential for the success of Agile sprint planning. Using tools like Spreadsheet.com’s Project Roadmap with Sprints template allows for tracking tasks and important project components like files, status, workload, dates, and more:
An epic is a high-level body of work consisting of a series of smaller tasks. These smaller tasks are known as user stories.
As part of the Agile philosophy of partnering with customers, user stories describe software features from the users' perspective.
To achieve broader goals, multiple teams can work on user stories at the same time. For example, company ‘A’ wants to launch virtual reality glasses by 2025. To accomplish this, here’s how two different teams within the company would define their epics and user stories within them:
Software testing team | Epic: Launch Virtual Reality Glasses by 2025
UI/UX team | Epic: Launch Virtual Reality Glasses by 2025
“In a scrum team, no one is boss but a partner, for the success of a project.”― CA Vikram Verma, Agile Able: Project Management Simplified
Collaborative teamwork is essential to Agile teams’ success. These teams usually consist of the following roles:
The product owner acts as a link between the customer, business stakeholders, and the development team. In addition to having in-depth knowledge of the product, they need to understand customers' needs and priorities. They maintain a balance between team members, customers, and the organizational goals as they translate product vision into tasks. To assist them with this complicated task, product owners can use tools like Project Roadmap with Sprints template from Spreadsheet.com:
The development team can include engineers, writers, designers, data scientists, and other team members with skill sets relevant to building a product. Their responsibilities include completing assigned tasks and maintaining transparency by documenting and communicating their progress. They can do so by using a tool like Spreadsheet.com’s Team Task List:
In addition to supporting the development team, scrum masters are responsible for clearing organizational roadblocks and maintaining consistency throughout the Agile process. To help anticipate potential risk, scrum masters can use tools like the Project Management Risk Log template from Spreadsheet.com:
The Kanban framework is a popular tool for implementing Agile software development.The goal of Kanban is to visualize work and maximize efficiency while minimizing the amount of work in progress. By using Kanban, teams strive to reduce the time it takes to complete user stories. They can accomplish this through ongoing workflow improvements and leveraging tools like Agile Sprint with Kanban Board template from Spreadsheet.com.
Agile project management can be achieved with both Scrum and Kanban strategies. Understanding their differences can help you decide when you use them for your workflows:
Both methods have their applications, and you can use elements of them together as needed. For example, you can present your Agile tasks on a Kanban board to better visualize your sprint.
The survey respondents in The State of Scrum report that 94% of them use Scrum, and 78% of that group use Scrum combined with additional frameworks. Others exclusively use Scrum.
Such a high level of adoption can be attributed to the advantages that come with Agile project management, like:
All its benefits aside, Agile may not be the best methodology for all teams or projects. Some of the disadvantages include:
If you decide to adopt Agile project management, weigh the pros and cons carefully to ensure it’s the right choice for your organization.
Ready to give Agile a shot? Explore Spreadsheet.com’s Project Management Templates to get you started.