Category Archives: Agile Project Management

Doing Agile Project Management With Scrum

“What does the game of rugby and modern management techniques have in common?” one may ask! If you are into ‘Agile Project Management’ and use ‘Scrum,’ you already know the answer. It is interesting to see, how rugby has inspired one of the most time-effective and cost-efficient management techniques of the day. Agile Project Management, is a specialized area of project management. Here, the resources and budgets are fixed variables; however, it is a more open ended approach compared to regular project management. It enables managers to optimally utilize resources and create products and services, which meet customer requirements, more satisfactorily and profitably.

A Brief History

First conceptualized in 1986, by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka, Agile Project Management, is based on the approach rugby players’ use. Just like rugby players constantly assess and reassess situations, altering their strategies and responses at different points of time during a game, to score against the opponent team; likewise, managers through this highly collaborative method – use repetitive deliveries and customer feedback at different stages of a project, to reassess and rework on ‘a product or service being developed.’ The process is repeated until the product is improved, refined and becomes completely market ready.

‘Scrum,’ a software development framework, is used in Agile Project Management, to manage projects where software related products or applications are being designed. It allows the formation of self-organizing teams by enabling co-location of all team members, and promotes verbal communication across team members and disciplines in a project. The term ‘Scrum’ again owes its origin to the game of rugby, in which, it is the shorter version of the word –‘scrummage;’ and refers to the manner of restarting play in rugby football. It is popular especially in the IT industry, where the nature of projects or ‘products being developed’ – is comparatively newer, more innovative and highly complex. Since these are too difficult to comprehend before being tested out, they are allowed to evolve gradually.

Scrum Terminologies

There exists in Agile Project Management, an interdependence of a sequence of activities, where one set of activities is affected by the other. The final product is the outcome of a series of repetitive deliveries with short deadlines. Delivery cycles are referred to in ‘Scrum’ lingo, as ‘sprints’ and each ‘sprint’ varies from a week to a month, though usually a fortnight is its normal duration. “…reviewing each sprint before moving to the next means that testing is conducted throughout the process, which allows teams to change the scope or direction of the project at any point,” states Daria Kelly Uhlig, emphasizing on the advantage of using this technique.

Peculiar as it sounds, the different levels of project stakeholders in Agile Project Management using Scrum, are referred to as –‘pigs’ and ‘chickens!’ Here ‘pigs’ represent the ‘Scrum team’ who perform core functions like producing the product. The Scrum team generally has a Product Owner, a Development team and a Scrum Master. On the other hand ‘chickens’ represent the ‘Supplementary team,’ whose roles are not that important but are never the less, necessary.

The usage of both these terms is derived from ‘The Chicken and the Pig’ fable, in which different levels of commitment are shown, through the examples of a pig and a chicken. “When producing a dish made of ham and eggs, the pig provides the ham which requires his sacrifice and the chicken provides the eggs which are not difficult to produce. Thus the pig is really committed in that dish while the chicken is only involved, yet both are needed to produce the dish,” the Wikipedia page on the story, notes.

Agile Project Management with Scrum, is a more flexible approach to project management. It uses open, instant and regular communication and focuses on greater team involvement and client participation. Here, having a knack for problem solving, negotiation and communication is necessary and precedence is given to common sense over written policy. “Scrum is designed to optimize team satisfaction and productivity, product quality, responsiveness to customers, and transparency for stakeholders. The key practices that enable these benefits include de-emphasizing work on non-deliverable items, implementing and finishing each Story in a Sprint Backlog in rank order, working in short Sprints of 2-4 weeks, and making past, present, and future project information available to all stakeholders,” concludes Kevin Thompson on  

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This article was written by Hugh Swift a management expert and corporate trainer, who conducts workshops on Agile Project Management.

Agile Project Management for Government – book review for APM Project Magazine

In Agile Project Management for Government, Brian Wernham refers to three main agile approaches, providing examples of how combining these produces a rounded guidance to how governments should work. He claims this is the first book of its kind and, by demonstrating successes, hopes to change the minds of those leading Government projects to a proven approach. By working closely with global project management leaders and sponsors, Wernham has successfully managed to convince me that an approach which delivers the earliest benefit, receiving honest feedback on what actually works and changing as you go along – rather than sticking to rigid process – can yield a much more realistic benefit to large and complex pieces of work. Another key element is not being afraid to close down projects which simply will not be delivered or have become – or by the time they are delivered will become – obsolete.
Agile Project Management for GovernmentThe book is broken down into three parts: Stories of Agile Success in Government; The 9 Agile Leadership Behaviours; The 6 barriers to Agile Success.
There are 23 chapters containing real case studies and various aspects of approach such as change, leadership, organisation and contracts.
For those new to Agile, this book gives a good overview and easy to understand description of what Agile is and why it can play a key role in successful delivery.

I particularly liked the chapter on `work face-to-face’, which broke down the different elements of communicating in a physical sense and concluded with some leadership exercises which could be utilised in the government environment but, practically, these could be used in any organisation.
It is more than a book about Agile, it’s an essential piece of learning kit. I think the writing style is easy for anyone to get to grips with, which makes the content easier to embrace also. The author has really taken the time to consider elements of projects and explain how they were a success, without moving away from the fact that – regardless of any approach – leadership is the basis of any triumphant release. Everyone working within the IT project management domain will benefit from reading this book, especially those who have had little or no exposure to Agile.

Agile Project Management for Government is a must-have for IT project management professionals – a book which you can keep close to hand as a reference when starting up new projects (and indeed identifying projects which need closing down). It’s definitely worth picking up to read and returning to over time.

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This review has been publish in the Jan 2013 edition of APM Project Magazine.