When you see a reference to “agile,” you may think of the dictionary definition that describes this concept as the ability to move quickly and easily. When the concept is “Agile Project Management,” it’s describing the process of taking a traditional approach to delivery and modifying it to include techniques that produce some immediate results in a shorter period of time.
In Agile Project Management you don’t want to wait until a long period has passed to deliver something to the customer, client or sponsor. Your goal is to deliver something as soon as you can so you get immediate feedback and modify the approach as needed.
A way to think about Agile Project Management is to consider a haircut. Assume you’re the barber or stylist and the client is the recipient of the haircut. You could take one of two approaches to this haircut. In the waterfall approach you gather all of the customer’s requirements and deliver the final haircut for approval once you’re done with it. In the agile approach, you continually solicit feedback as you make incremental changes throughout the haircut. The customer has the option to modify a straight cut to a layered cut or to modify the length of any part of the hair as the process goes on.
When to Use Agile PM
The Agile Project Management approach doesn’t work well when the client is unwilling to participate in on-going discussions about the project, won’t prioritize his or her requests or doesn’t support flexibility in the evolution of the solution. Those customers might be better suited for a traditional waterfall project management approach.
Clients who support a flexible delivery date, who are anxious to jump in, who provide feedback and answer questions very quickly are well suited for the agile project management approach.
The Agile Project Management approach works well when team members who are subject matter experts are able to take a concept and figure out the best approach to work through that concept, when team members are willing to adjust to new customer requirements and changing information about a project and when team members support each other during challenging periods. Team members who need detailed directions or are not able to develop solutions themselves may be better suited for a traditional waterfall project, where tasks are assigned to them directly.
In my opinion, the Agile Project Management approach is about managing the known information you have available at a point in time and regularly evolving the solution as you gain knowledge. There are always unknown factors in a project; but with Agile, you regularly meet to address those factors and plan a way to move forward.
How to Apply Agile to Projects
There are a number of ways to apply Agile methods to your project:
- Scrum is a methodology that was originally designed to manage software development projects. Some organizations have adopted this approach.
- Kanban board is another popular agile technique where work is grouped into columns or categories such as “Unstarted,” “In Progress,” and “Done.” The Kanban approach typically provides a very visual way to illustrate the progress.
To view live examples of Agile Project Management approaches that use user stories, story points, mapping information into quadrants, and interpreting burndown examples, watch my hour-long presentation, “Key Agile Concepts Illustrated,” delivered during the MPUG-hosted Microsoft Project 2016 Virtual Conference.
Agile PM Certification
As a follow up to a question that was brought up in my “Key Agile Concepts” session, I decided to research Agile certification options. Honestly I was shocked at the number of organizations and types of Agile certifications. If your organization doesn’t have a specific methodology or standard in Agile, I would strongly recommend you spend time researching the options out there. This is a summary of what I found.
The PMI-ACP credential is the “fastest growing” credential from the Project Management Institute, a not-for-profit organization that provides membership and certification for project management professionals. The certificate covers multiple approaches to agile, including Scrum, Kanban, Lean, extreme programming (XP) and test-driven development (TDD.)
You need to complete 1500 hours working on agile project teams or with agile methodologies — in addition to 2000 hours of general project experience. You also need 21 “contact hours” of training in agile practices. To maintain the credential, you need to earn 30 professional development units in agile topics every three years.
This is just one of many Agile-related credentials available from the Agile Certification Institute. The website also references these “accredited” credentials:
- Scrum Master
- Product Owner
- Scaled Agile Practitioner
- Kanban Practitioner
- Lean Software Development Practitioner
The AAP, as an example, requires passing an exam of 75 questions in 90 minutes. The questions are based on “Master Standards” approved by a council, which apparently advises the institute. You also have to develop a “thesis” of between 600 and 900 words on a topic you choose and get recommendations from three peers or managers with “valid corporate email” addresses. The certification is valid for four years.
Stater certification includes:
- Certified Agile Associate
- Certified Scrum Associate
This is one of several credentials from the Scrum Alliance, which also offers these certifications:
- Scrum Product Owner
- Scrum Developer
- Scrum Professional
- Certified Team Coach
- Certified Enterprise Coach
- Certified Scrum Trainer
The ScrumMaster, as an example, requires taking a two-day course from a “Scrum Alliance Authorized Trainer” and demonstrating proficiency through an online test. To get a passing score, you have to answer 24 of 35 questions correctly.
This credential is one of many offered by the International Consortium for Agile. Other certifications include:
- Agile Development
- Agile Management
- Agile Coaching
- Agile Testing
- Enterprise Agile Coaching
- Agile Leadership
Gaining a credential requires attending a class taught by the company’s training partners. The fundamentals, for example, takes three days of training.
The sponsor of this credential, UK-based APMG International, accredits individuals in a number of fields. In the area of agile and project management, other certifications from APMG include:
- Agile Programme Management Certification
- AgileBA Certification (for business analysts)
- PRINCE2 Agile
They all involve participating in paid training, most available online.
- Creating an Agile Schedule with MS Project
- Delivering Agile Projects using Microsoft Project/Project Online
- When Deterministic Scheduling Meets Kanban
- Webinar: Unified PPM & Agile Management Solution
- Webinar: Key Agile Concepts Illustrated
- Webinar: Managing Agile Projects using Microsoft Project Online
- Webinar: Who Says You Can’t Do Agile? Agile Project Management Using Microsoft Project
- Webinar: Agile Projects with Project, Again
- Webinar: Integrating Agile Projects into Microsoft Project/Project Server
- Webinar: Shared Understanding Among Project Stakeholders: A New Methodology for Agile Project Management
- Webinar: Agile IS Risk Management
- Webinar: Lean for Project Agility
- Webinar: Effective use of Project with Scrum
- Webinar: Report Basics – Build an Agile Kanban Board in Microsoft Project