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Agile Aspirations: How Attainable Is Agile Project Management, Really?

The agile methodology has been a hot topic in project management circles for some time now. But how attainable – or sustainable – is it for project managers?

This post explores agile project management—what it is, how it works, and if it’s the right approach (or a realistic one) for your company.

Breaking down agile project management

The Association for Project Management (APM) defines agile project management as follows:

“An approach based on delivering requirements iteratively and incrementally through the project life cycle. At the core of agile is the requirement to exhibit central values and behaviors of trust, flexibility, empowerment, and collaboration.”

The first half of this definition is what most project managers will be aware of when they think of agile. But it’s worth noting that agile project management is an adaptation of the agile methodology, and a far cry from the traditional approach to project management.

The traditional approach
The traditional approach to project management usually involved creating long, fixed, and highly detailed project plans before projects kicked off. These plans were then followed as closely as possible along the course of the project. 

Agile flips the script. Agile methodologies—the two most well-recognized being Scrum and Lean—allow projects to start with more of a ‘rough idea’ of what is required. The idea being that, as the process is producing and delivering work in short, incremental bursts, the requirements are clarified as the project progresses.

The agile methodology therefore encourages frequent reviewing and amending of current plans based on information that the team is continually gathering. In other words, the agile methodology lets a product team be highly flexible: adjusting priorities and plans whenever it makes strategic sense to do so.

Whether approaching projects traditionally or in an agile manner, the end-goal is the same: costs and schedules are to be kept to a minimum, so projects can be completed as efficiently as possible. The difference is that agile does not place as much emphasis on detailed documentation, particularly at the planning stages of a project.

This has its inherent risks, of course. APM recognizes that agile project management can make identification of risks and the management of resources more difficult. That’s why, if you want to make a success out of agile project management, resource management is vital.

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The importance of resource management in Agile

Resource management is key to implementing the agile methodology to project management. While project portfolio management (PPM) typically focuses on the ‘bigger picture’—setting objectives and keeping the project on budget and on time—resource management drills down into the specifics around your resources, the most important being your people.

Just like PPM tools make the broader management of your projects easier, so too can resource management software help you get right into the details. With more visibility over your resources—particularly their allocation and utilization—you are better placed to make more informed decisions (thus making it more likely you make the right ones). How does resource management improve project visibility, exactly?

  • Affirming flexibility

A large factor to flexibility in project management is being able to manage remote teams, often in dispersed locations. Managing remote teams needn’t be any different to managing a traditional, on-site team, but it will require a greater emphasis on technology ensuring everything is running according to plan.

Key to this is resource allocation, which can provide improved visibility over your resources. Resource management solutions make it easy to see which of your resources have too much or too little work to do. By moving tasks around where needed, you can ensure everyone is working to their ideal capacity.

Resource management software creates a visual representation of resource allocation, providing hot/cool maps to make it much easier to spot staff that might be over or under-worked, so you can solve the problem quicker.

Alongside resource allocation is resource utilization: so not only are people giving the right amount of work, but the right kind of work. Resource utilization helps project managers assign tasks to the people most equipped for the job, mitigating the risk of under or overutilizing staff.

  • Minimizing risk

Advanced resource modeling capabilities allow project managers to harness their project data to create ‘resource scenarios’. You can create hypotheses and discover alternative resource allocations, visualizing how changes will impact your costs and the over- or under- allocation of your resources in a risk-free environment.

Resource modeling lets you see the effects of adding more people or subtracting workers from a project task, moving a project deadline forward or back, and much more. This is a real boon for project managers looking to capitalize on the fast-paced, incremental nature of agile project management.

Resource management never felt so agile

To instill agility in your projects, you need to dedicate appropriate focus on the people that are responsible for completing them. Resource management puts you in the position and gives you the tools to do just that. You get better visibility into the allocation and utilization of your resources and the ability to experiment to discover the best approach to your projects in real-time.

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