Agile project management is an iterative approach to managing projects and teams that focuses on incremental changes to a project throughout its life cycle. Rather than a pre-planned course of action, Agile project management outlines adaptable tasks that are flexible based on the needs of the project and evolving circumstances.
Continuous adjustments throughout the project lifecycle help Agile projects deliver ongoing value to stakeholders while keeping them in the ideation process.
Within the Agile project management methodology, there are numerous Agile frameworks, such as kanban, scrum, and lean. Because of its highly flexible design, Agile project management is popular with software development teams, video game developers, and other technical teams.
How Does Agile Project Management Work?
Agile project management is rooted in teamwork, continuous ideation, and adjustability. Instead of a sole project manager leading project efforts, teams share the responsibility, holding each other accountable through frequent check-ins throughout the project lifecycle. Adaptability is the name of the game for Agile teams, as plans are frequently reevaluated, ideas are constantly tested, and adjustments are routinely made, as needed.
Outside feedback and collaboration are essential, especially from key stakeholders, and multiple iterations are encouraged. Throughout the project lifecycle, teams will frequently reflect upon what’s going well, what areas have been a challenge, and how better solutions can be rolled into place as the project continues.
Which Frameworks are a Part of the Agile Methodology?
The Agile methodology is just that – a set of ideas and methods for managing and completing projects. Within that methodology exists frameworks, which serve as guidelines for enacting those ideas in practice. Traditional agile project management can be divided into two frameworks: scrum and kanban.
The scrum framework divides a total backlog of work objectives into a project timeline that is then further broken down into smaller, predetermined fragments of time called sprints. Within each project sprint, team members devote time to four types of meetings that keep the project (and team) on track. These designated meetings, also called Agile ceremonies, vary in type, length, and topic, based on their intended purpose. The four types of meetings fall into four distinct categories: sprint planning meetings, daily standup meetings, sprint review meetings, and sprint retrospective meetings.
Types of Agile Ceremonies in the Scrum Methodology
|Name of Ceremony||When||Duration||Purpose|
|Sprint Planning||At the beginning of a sprint||Roughly one hour per week||•Prepares team members for what’s ahead|
•Allows team members to connect and get acquainted
•Briefs everyone on what to expect throughout the sprint
|Daily Stand-Up||Daily, typically before lunch||No more than 15 – 20 minutes||•Keeps team members in the loop concerning day-to-day operations|
•Provides clarity about what each team member is working on
•Allows room for team members to address any blockages or setbacks in real time as they come up
|Sprint Review||End of the sprint||45 – 90 minutes||•Gives team members a space to highlight their work |
•Designates a time to celebrate team accomplishments
•Allows team members to get feedback instantly
|Sprint Retrospective||End of the sprint||45- 90 minutes||•Keeps team members in the loop concerning day-to-day operations|
•Provides clarity about what each team member is working on
•Allows room for team members to address any blockages or setbacks in real-time as they come up
The kanban method aims to help teams complete work even faster than the scrum method by allowing them to complete tasks at their own pace. Before the project begins, the team determines Work In Progress Limits (WIP) to determine how much work is proportional to the team’s capacity. Instead of compiling work tasks in a backlog, assignments are divided into a to-do list so teams can respond faster.
Both of these frameworks rely on visual organization systems to streamline and optimize how teams view tasks and project progress, often referred to as scrum boards or kanban boards.
Read More: 5 Best Kanban Software 2023
While scrum and kanban are two essential frameworks under the Agile methodology, they aren’t the only Agile frameworks. While all Agile frameworks follow the key principles and values of Agile project management, various frameworks have developed over time to help teams with diverse needs. Other methodologies include extreme programming (XP), crystal, and lean.
Key Principles & Values of Agile Project Management
The Agile Manifesto was created by the 17 original creators of the Agile methodology as a set of principles and guidelines to guide potential adaptors of the Agile methodology down the line. The idea was to create a structure of values that would allow various types of teams to solve diverse problems indefinitely, guided by a cohesive set of rules.
Pros & Cons of Agile Project Management
|•Overall flexibility: The Agile methodology is deeply rooted in team adaptability and is designed to allow change throughout the project lifecycle. |
•Faster results for stakeholders: Delivering a successful product quickly is a core component of Agile project management, so stakeholders have a complete product to work with, even if further revisions are needed.
•Freedom of creativity: Because Agile projects follow a more flexible structure than other project management methodologies, team members have more creative freedom to take risks and innovate along the way.
•Simultaneous feedback and implementation phases: Agile projects can instantly pivot once feedback is given, eliminating the gap between feedback and implementation.
|•Collaboration struggles: Team collaboration is a must in the Agile methodology, which can be challenging for larger teams, remote teams, or teams that are less established.|
•Less clarity about the project budget and timeline. Flexible project outlines can mean less predictability around deadlines and costs/budget.
•Increased ambiguity. Overall, the project plan itself is less clear as it’s an adaptable process.
•Team reliability. Agile projects rely on the team unit as the core of project success, so the team has to be incredibly reliable without any weak links.
How Software Can Help in Agile Project Management?
Project management software is a tremendous tool in helping teams successfully organize and manage Agile projects. While vendor-specific features and functionality may vary, project management software allows teams to facilitate all project-essential activities in one place, including setting and assigning deadlines, planning out project goals, collaborating with team members, storing documents, taking notes, and more. Project management software also makes it easy for teams to visualize to-dos and project progress through numerous task views, from kanban boards, scrum boards, calendar views, Gantt charts, and more.
Example of a kanban board in project management software.
Origins of Agile Project Management
While early Agile methodologies have been recorded as far back as 1620, in Francis Bacon’s interpretation of the scientific method, modern Agile project management was conceived in response to the technology boom of the 1990s.
Agile project management (the approach to running projects that’s built upon the Agile Manifesto’s Twelve Principles of Agile Software) was born out of a need for more adaptable work methods within the technology and software industries. In the 1990s, new companies were emerging with innovative new ideas for technology and software, but many of those ideas were abandoned prematurely due to struggles in the development process. Without any framework in place to adapt to a project’s changing needs, many companies realized a need for a more dynamic project management methodology.
There were three main problems that needed to be solved:
- Businesses had no processes in place to handle the unexpected or adjust mid-project to changing needs and requirements.
- Teams were taking too long to adapt to feedback and new ideas.
- Technical team members, business team members, and other stakeholders weren’t communicating and working together as efficiently as possible.
In 2000, seventeen self-described “organizational anarchists” met in Snowbird, Utah, to share ideas on a better way forward, eventually settling on what is now known as the modern Agile methodology. Out of that meeting arose The Agile Manifesto which puts into words the principles this new approach would embody.