What is Agile Project Management (APM)? Its Principles, Tools, Methods, Benefits, and Drawbacks (PDF)

Agile project management, also known as APM, is an iterative process that focuses on frequent delivery of value and continuous incremental release of products by incorporating customer feedback with every iteration. Agile Project Management methodology breaks down the large projects into smaller, manageable tasks, which are executed and completed throughout the project cycle in short iterations of usually 2 weeks. Teams that implement the Agile approach can adapt to changing project requirements, optimize the workflow and ultimately successfully complete their work faster.

In Agile, teams can release segments or part of their work such as deliverables as they are completed. This helps teams to demonstrate that these work segments or deliverables are value addition and, if any change is required, there is an opportunity to incorporate the changes or fix the flaws quickly. Since this is part of continuous improvement and implemented throughout the project lifecycle, it is believed that this helps to avoid large-scale failures in the project.

Brief History of Agile Project Management

Agile has its roots in Toyota’s lean manufacturing concept developed in the 1940s. However, in the 21st century, a rapid growth was seen in the use of the Agile Project Management methodology, particularly in software development. Looking at the successful implementation and beneficial outcomes of Agile in the software industry, many other industries including Oil and Gas have started adopting the same.

Back at end of the 20th century, when projects were set up to cater to a business need, there was a substantial lag time of usually more than three years between business need and the actual project delivery. By the time the project was delivered, the technology or the business need, or the customer requirements had radically changed. This led to many unsuccessful projects and substantial monetary losses.

Agility Attributes

Agility means “mobility, quickness”. Agility signifies the ability to quickly move forward and at the same time be able to easily change the direction.

It has five important attributes that form the pillars of the Agile way:

  1. Transparency
  2. Customer focus
  3. Adaptability
  4. Sense of Ownership (Accountability)
  5. Continuous Improvement

Transparency is observed in the way teams work and communicate with each other. Team members are encouraged to openly share their thoughts and challenges. This in turn creates an atmosphere of unity where teams collectively own the mistakes and work toward the resolution.

Customer Focus is achieved through constant customer collaboration by creating frequent feedback loops. Here, the focus is on delivering what customers really need and not just what they asked for.

Adaptability enables one to better respond to changes. This is achieved through frequent value delivery and feedback from customers on delivered work.

Accountability refers to the state of ‘being responsible’. Team members are equally accountable for the work they deliver and also hold each other accountable to the team working agreement.

Continuous Improvement is where teams are frequently involved in learning cycles alongside when the project is in motion as opposed to one big “lessons learned” session at the end of the project.

What are the four core values of Agile?

Agile project management is based on the following four core values:

  1. Interactions among individuals take precedence over processes and tools: Agile promotes the importance of individual team members and the interaction between each one of them rather than what processes and tools are being used.
  2. Working product/project has more value over comprehensive documentation: Though documentation is important, a working product/project is more valuable.
  3. Customer collaboration carries more importance than contract negotiation: Involving the customers, whether internal or external, throughout the process can ensure that the delivered work meets their needs successfully.
  4. Instead of following a plan, respond to a change: In earlier days, change was looked at as an outlay, and efforts were made to avoid one. Agile lets the changes continuously occur throughout the life of the project where each iteration is an opportunity for evaluation and decide the next course of action.

What are the twelve principles of Agile?

Agile project management philosophy has 12 key principles. They are

  1. The topmost priority is to satisfy the customer through early engagement and continuous delivery of valuable work item.
  2. Changes are welcomed, even though in later stage of the project because Agile processes leverage the change for the customer’s advantage.
  3. Value is delivered frequently
  4. People taking the business decisions and the technical team work together throughout the project.
  5. By creating supportive and trust environment, execute the projects around motivated individuals.
  6. Face-to-face conversation is the most efficient and effective method of communication and conveying information.
  7. Progress is measured by delivered value.
  8. Sustainable development is encouraged.
  9. Continuous attention is provided to achieve technical excellence and agility.
  10. Prioritize the remaining work to simplify the process.
  11. Self-organized teams deliver the best architectures, requirements, and designs.
  12. Frequently reflect on how to become more effective, then adjust accordingly.

Agile Project Management Benefits

Some of the important benefits of Agile project management are

  • It provides more freedom and lets the designers work to decide the approach that utilizes their strengths. This creates efficient use of resources, which enables faster development.
  • It provides greater flexibility and adaptability to changing needs.
  • It allows quick discovery of difficulties, which ensures quicker fixes.
  • Provides increased collaboration with customers which leads to customer satisfaction.

Agile Project Management Drawbacks

However, there are some drawbacks of agile project management like

  • A project can derail since there are less predetermined courses of action.
  • Agile Project Management depends on quick decision making, so if the organization is taking long time to analyze and make decisions, it is not suitable for such organizations.
  • If there are challenges and difficulties in communication, it could impact the end result because Agile relies on collaboration between teams or end users that happens continually.
  • Documentation is given less priority.

Agile Project Management vs. Conventional Project Management (Waterfall)

Agile Project Management and the waterfall methodology remain counter to each other. The waterfall methodology is structured around a strict sequential approach of project execution, where it starts with the gathering of all requirements before the work commences. The subsequent steps are scope identification, resources planning, establishing the budgets and schedules, and then performing the actual work, testing & inspecting, and delivering the project as a whole.

Whereas, in Agile, the project is delivered in small increments at the end of each iteration.  

What are the Agile Project Management Methods?

The most widely used Agile Project Management frameworks or methods are Scrum and Kanban. The main features of Scrum and Kanban are tabulated below:

ScrumKanban
Scrum is a framework to implement agile project management. It is an iterative approach that uses fixed-length intervals to split the project timeline, these are called sprints.To match the work with the team’s capacity, the Kanban framework is used. Kanban is focused on getting work done as fast as possible, and at the same time, it provides the team an ability to react to change even faster than scrum.
Four events that are structured into each sprint:
• Sprint Planning
• Daily Scrum
• Sprint Review
• Sprint Retrospective
The four components of Kanban
• List of work
• Columns
• Work in Progress Limits (WIP)
• Continuous Releases
Unique roles defined in Scrum:
• A Scrum Master
• A Product Owner
• The Development Team
Kanban has six key practices:
• Visualizing the workflow
• Limiting the WIP (work in progress)
• Managing the flow
• Making explicit the process policies
• Implementing the feedback loops
• Improving collaboratively
Scrum vs Kanban

Agile Project Management Tools

Agile project management tools help team members to complete projects on the scheduled time without hindering the quality. There are many agile project management tools that are used by organizations. Some of the best agile project management tools are listed below:

  • ProofHub
  • Wrike
  • Smartsheet
  • Active Collab
  • Asana
  • Agilean
  • Version one
  • Binfire
  • Leankit Kanban
  • JIRA
  • Daily Scrum
  • Axosoft
  • Pivotal Tracker
  • Meister task
  • Taiga
  • Kantree
  • Notion
  • Hitask
  • Basecamp

Difference between PMP and Agile Project Management

PMP is the abbreviation of Project Management Professional. It is a certification offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI) which is recognized worldwide in the Project Management community. It is mainly based on the principles of Waterfall or conventional project management framework that depends on a structured path. It provides information, knowledge, skills, and processes required to become an effective project manager.

Agile is one of the project management methodologies that emphasize breaking down a project into several smaller and manageable pieces of work. The values and principles which are outlined in the Agile Manifesto written in 2001, are the foundation of Agile methodology. Scrum and Kanban are the most popular frameworks of Agile. Similar to PMP certification, one can also get certified in Agile Project Management by taking courses offered by Project Management Institute or Scrum.org.

Agile Project Management Certification

Having the Agile project management certification is recognized as confirmation of an individual’s skills and abilities to implement Agile frameworks and successfully deliver the projects. Following are the top Agile Project Management certifications that are recognized in the industry:

  • PMI-ACP offered by Project Management Institute
  • PRINCE2 Agile Foundation and PRINCE2 Agile Practitioner offered by AXELOS Ltd
  • Certified Scrum Master (CSM) offered by The Scrum Alliance
  • SAFe Agilist offered by Scaled Agile
  • Professional Scrum Master Level I/II/III (PSM-I / PSM-II / PSM-III) offered by Scrum.org
  • Certified Agile Project Manager offered by International Association of Project Managers
  • ICAgile Certified Professional – Agile Certified Coaching (ICP-ACC) offered by The International Consortium of Agile

Conclusion

Agile project management was born to simplify the execution and delivery of large-scale complex projects. Agile does not dictate procedures, it only provides safety guide rails. By virtue of its flexibility aspect, it can be adopted by any organization or team who are willing to reduce waste and keep what is really necessary.

Agile Project Management Certification Training Courses

So, are you planning to get APM certified and looking for an online certificate course for yourself? Then, simply look below: We have listed two of the best-rated and cheapest Agile Project Management online courses.

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Anup Kumar Dey

I am a Mechanical Engineer turned into a Piping Engineer. Currently, I work in a reputed MNC as a Senior Piping Stress Engineer. I am very much passionate about blogging and always tried to do unique things. This website is my first venture into the world of blogging with the aim of connecting with other piping engineers around the world.

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