Agile Project Management — A Myth?
PMI defines Projects as a temporary effort to create value through a unique product, service, or result. All projects have a beginning & an end. They have a team, a budget, a schedule, & a set of expectations the team needs to meet.
So, a software development project means delivering a specific scope described in a business case or a contract within an approved budget & timeline.
Software development executed as a project needs a sequential approach of all requirements stated upfront, followed by its designing, then its development, testing, & finally releasing the finished work for estimating time & cost.
Projects fund one or more temporary teams staffed from resource pools of specialized skills to build or enhance the system within the specified scope & time. The teams then adjourn, & resources return to their respective pools or the next project.
This approach is popular because it helps organizations accomplish software development under OpEx (operational expenses) without having to incur significant long-term expenses of building & sustaining product teams.
Yes, OpEx is more flexible & often less expensive to incur in the short term.
Yes, the project approach comes with its challenges, especially when the success of software projects is measured based on delivering the agreed-upon scope on time & within budget.
A project requires the collaboration of multiple cost centers for assigning people, budgets, & schedules.
The current technology initiatives are complex & have too many unknowns in the beginning to develop accurate, detailed plans & designs up-front.
Yet, document-based phased milestones become the only measure of progress when following a sequential process of discovery, requirements, design, development, test, & release.
These milestones instill a false sense of tangible progress and an ability to resolve or mitigate risks when we are only delaying the discovery of the problem to a later stage.
Most software projects run over, necessitating another slow, long-drawn budget approval, blame game & resource scramble because people must move on to other planned projects.
The outcome is an excessive focus on utilization-based planning & execution, leading to low-value throughput.
Rigorous phase gates aren’t the solution.
This problem can be solved, in part, by shifting focus from disparate start-stop phases to an agile approach to build iterative value to be validated by the customer.
An agile approach to project management can create better visibility & help convert uncertainty to knowledge continuously, resulting in improved risk mitigation & better progress measure.
Replacing phased gates with closed-loop feedback systems helps discover risks & delays faster, resulting in early detection of slippages & data-driven negotiations when projects run over.