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Agile Project Management

By Bisk
Agile Project Management Overview

Many IT students are familiar with coursework that emphasizes team collaboration, the “test-early and often” approach to projects and the industry emphasis on responsive design practices. What students may not be aware of is that this best-practice approach to software design was rather revolutionary when it was first proposed. Further, what started as a novel philosophy applicable to software design has now evolved into other areas, such as project management.

History of Agile

Responding to the rigid software development processes that abounded in the 1980’s and 1990’s, a small group of forward-thinking industry leaders coined the term “agile software development” in 2001 at a meeting in Snowbird, Utah. It was there that they created a more responsive way of looking at design standards and processes. 

A brief document was created entitled, “The Agile Manifesto,” which outlined their innovative approach to software development processes. Their work continues to influence “best practice” methods used in top-notch educational programs across the IT industry today. The manifesto underscores the belief that software development is a dynamic and responsive process that should value:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Response to change over following a plan

While valuing the more didactic tools of design practices, these innovative leaders felt the industry needed to value and underscore the importance of the more creative and collaborative nature of software development. 

In project management settings within IT environments, Agile methods are applied to create a more collaborative and iterative process throughout the entire project timeline. This is in contrast to the approach in past decades where more time was spent planning and writing restrictive requirement documentation. The following characteristics are common in an Agile project management (APM) setting: 

  • Agile team identifies and addresses the project features based on business value first
  • Components of the system are produced with stakeholder input
  • Small portions of the project are completed and tested
  • Work is reviewed and adjusted as needed
  • Teams stay in close communication throughout the entire process and make on-going modifications

Agile project management can be applied to many industry settings, however for projects where the focus is a software product, APM may also include:

  • Tight collaboration with a small in-house team
  • Core teams that usually include two code developers, the customer/end-user representative, on or more IT architects, a business analyst and the over Agile project manager
  • Work processes which are generally accomplished through a series of goals/sessions where the team completes code, tests completed modules, and makes adjustments, then repeats the process
  • Minimal documentation - while documentation cannot be eliminated, the team relies almost entirely on regular internal and face-to-face communication

Incorporating Agile management techniques into any business project can develop a more focused perspective on the overall value and benefit of the project. For business leaders looking for a more resilient and dynamic set of management skills, Agile training offers a responsive way of looking at the holistic process of leading teams through a project. 

The Benefits of Agile Management Techniques

While all the usual steps of project management such as initiating, estimating and controlling the project must be addressed, with APM a people-centered mindset frames the entire experience. In Agile project management, leaders gently apply a guiding vision to teams that collaborate openly, sharing information collectively. Further, the group continuously monitors, learns from, adapts and re-shapes the process of delivering the project to involved stakeholders engaged as co-participants in the process.

In order to orchestrate APM successfully, investing in a reputable training program is paramount. For more information about pursuing education in the area of Agile management, see Villanova's Certificate in Agile Management.

Category: Agile