Agile Project Management: It’s okay to drink the Kool-Aid!
I was recently on a business trip with a colleague, and we found ourselves at a Chinese and sushi restaurant in New Jersey. At the end of the night, I opened up one of the best fortune cookies of my life. Ever. “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” These are definitely words to live by, especially in the world of project management. What is difficult for some, though, is identifying HOW to plan. Waterfall or Agile?
The waterfall approach to project management has been around for such a long time that it can sometimes be hard to wrap your mind around the Agile approach. This is especially true if you’ve only managed with a waterfall approach or if you’ve never been exposed to Agile. Some of us have never even had the opportunity to be exposed to Agile. It’s life changing though – trust me. This is sometimes ArcherPoint’s challenge – getting our clients on board with what we’ve found to be the best way to manage software implementations. In fact, one of the more exciting parts of my job is taking a customer who’s never used Agile through an implementation, and then talking to them about the approach at the project close. Without fail, everybody ends up loving the flavor of the Kool-Aid.
A common misconception is that, with Agile, you’re simply flying by the seat of your pants, jumping around, dodging bullets, and constantly moving without a target in your sights. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Just because you don’t spend months creating a project plan like you do with a waterfall approach—linking dependencies, identifying constraints, estimating each task, assigning resources, plotting the critical path, etc., doesn’t mean you don’t plan with Agile. With Agile, you’re simply planning in iterations, or 2-4 week timeframes. Here at ArcherPoint, we manage in 3-week cycles. You’re still identifying risks, constraints, resources and so forth. You’re simply doing that in short, ‘sprint cycles’ so that when your plans or objectives change, which will surely happen, you didn’t spend months planning like you do in waterfall and waste that time. With Agile, it’s usually a couple hours of planning at the start of the sprint.
But you don’t just jump into your project because you are going Agile. You still need requirements to frame the work effort, and this is where our project preparation engagements come into play. I’ve written about them in a previous ArcherPoint blog post as well. Our goal is to identify the requirements well enough to convert them to user stories and move rest of the project life cycle forward successfully.
Move forward – isn’t that what we all want to do? Waterfall has been around since the 70’s – we can do better than that. We’ve done better than that. We’ve adapted. We are Agile and we can help you become Agile too.