5 Keys to a Successful Agile Project

75% of IT executives believe that their projects are doomed to failure from the very beginning. That’s a pretty daunting number, isn’t it?

Granted, not all of these projects use an agile methodology, but it’s safe to say that most of them do. After all, Agile is the norm now.

However acclaimed this methodology is, experience (along with multiple surveys and daunting statistics like the one above) has showed us that simply using an agile approach doesn’t guarantee the success of your project.

But using it properly can increase your chances of success exponentially. Here’s how to do this in 5 simple steps:

1. Get Management and Stakeholders Involved

The sponsorship of stakeholders and top management is crucial for the success of your project. More importantly, you need to secure it from the very beginning.

Managers and stakeholders may frown upon some of the key characteristics of agile projects: the lightweight documentation and the increased commitments of time are just two of these things. This is why you need everyone on board from the very beginning, especially if the managers and stakeholders aren’t very familiar with the technologies you’re working with. They need to understand your methods and get behind them 100%.

And, despite what you may believe, there’s an easy way to keep everyone connected and in the loop without maximizing costs. The right project management software can offer you affordable licenses not just for team members, but also for every exec and stakeholder.

2. Never Stop Planning

In any non-waterfall methodology, planning should be a constant. You may think that once you’ve got your roadmap and task assignments figured out, you’re good to go. But that is not the case.

Work overlap, constant changes in demands, as well as unpredictable changes in your team account for the need of constant planning in any agile project. When priorities or requirements change, you should start modifying the current sprint and think about planning your next one. No, there is no break from planning, not even when everything seems to run incredibly smoothly.

3. Protect Your Team

Yes, getting managers and stakeholders involved is crucial. But so is keeping them away from the project in certain cases.

Let me explain this better: some managers or stakeholders may feel the need to micro-manage your team. This will disrupt the entire process and lead to delays in your project and even to poor quality work.

So this is where you need to step in: establish clear boundaries for everyone. If your developers need access to stakeholders, make sure that the communication between them doesn’t take longer than necessary.

Also, never allow stakeholders to plan your team’s schedule or change priorities without letting you know first. That’s why you are the project manager. The moment you lose control of your project is the moment the project is doomed.

4. Always Say the Truth, Even When It’s Unpleasant

Who likes to hear that the project delivery has been delayed yet again? Or that the team needs more members or more financial resources to stay on track?

Nobody, of course!

But if you keep unpleasant truths from managers, stakeholders and even your team, you will eventually have to tell them the harshest truth of them all: the project is bound to fail. Speaking your mind every time and letting people know about the real situation (no matter how dire) is the only way to fix small glitches in your project and get back on track really quickly.

5. Focus on Removing Blockers

Aside from planning, your primary focus should be removing blockers for your team. No matter how connected they are to stakeholders and managers, they will still need you to run interference in most cases. And you should be ready to do so.

A good way to start is to have stakeholders and managers attend your stand-up meetings. Even if they see little value in them (since they won’t be actively participating), it’s a good idea to let them hear about blockers and the general evolution of the project firsthand.

This is the surest way to make sure that blockers are removed before they become critical. Granted, the mere fact that everyone concerned with the project hears about the blockers in scrum meetings doesn’t guarantee their removal.

What it guarantees, though, is the fact that the time needed to sort things out will be considerately shorter. When you no longer need to connect the pieces of the puzzle for everyone, the problem is almost taken care of and everyone’s life becomes much easier.

Making life easier for project managers, top management, stakeholders and team members has also been the cornerstone of October Software. Before writing the actual software, we analyzed the pain points of project managers who use Oracle Primavera and MS Project and realized that faulty communication is the number one reason why everyone is falling behind schedule.

Of course, there are plenty of solutions that ensure flawless communication between any number of interested parties in a project. But most of them are incredibly expensive, so very few companies afford to buy licenses for everyone.

Since we strongly believe that communication is the most important thing for the success of any project (agile or not), we have set to offer the first affordable project management software. No hidden taxes or fees, no extraordinary commitment needed: just a simple and affordable way to share your work and improve your communication with team members, stakeholders and managers. You can try it out for free for 30 days and see how it can change your project for the better.