What agile means and how it can make your next tech project a winner

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This article is sponsored by RMIT Online.

Technology is constantly changing. These rapid and consistent changes are allowing businesses across industries to be more efficient than ever before. However, this doesn’t mean the transition to digital adoption is always smooth. The way tech projects are implemented has to adapt and transform. To do both things effectively, your team needs a clear strategy.

The solution? Agile project management.

Simply put, agile management – as opposed to traditional ‘waterfall methodology’ – seeks to complete projects by meeting smaller goals along the way. These goals are set and delivered incrementally throughout a project’s lifecycle, rather than all in one go. By breaking down tasks into manageable pieces, this methodology is a useful way to ensure IT projects are completed to budget and on time.

Agile management can set your tech project up for success

Agile project management differs from traditional project management, borrowing from Toyota’s lean manufacturing concept developed in the 1940s. In embracing this method, agile IT projects are run with both employee and user in mind. Projects tend to be more efficient, productive, transparent and successful.

Importantly, being agile means your team is flexible. This enables them to adapt to the changing needs of any project. It also means that they won’t necessarily need to complete work chronologically. For example, you might begin testing as soon as possible to seek out customer responses early. They’ll then be able to implement feedback into the project as it develops.

There are a few common agile methodologies, but perhaps the best-known one for IT projects is Scrum. It takes its name from rugby scrummages, where players group together to try and regain the ball after an infringement. Scrum is designed to encourage teams to work together, to learn from experience and reflect on what does and doesn’t work well. This reflection and application process works to help teams develop their strengths and constantly improve outcomes.

An agile manager will mitigate common project risks

Rather than being a manager per se, agile project managers are more like caregivers. In this context, your team won’t necessarily need managing – but the processes and strategy will. Here are a few ways agile management can provide solutions to common IT project challenges.

Sticking to deadlines

Managing timelines and keeping projects on track is a key part of the agile role. They’ll be able to oversee lead times between ideation and implementation, prioritise tasks and identify if the project is running over time.

In a Forbes article, Founder and President of Formula Ink, Maria Matarelli, writes: “An agile system is a method of conservation – conserving time, money, and above all, work.” Managed effectively, your software development project is more likely to be completed on time and to budget.

Adjusting deliverables mid-project (where needed)

Often projects factor in very little planning time, making it difficult to predict outcomes. As deliverables develop mid-project, an agile manager can adapt these changes while overseeing budgeting requirements and keeping stakeholders informed. The process becomes more customer-centric because of its collaborative nature, ensuring that the deliverables meet the expectations of your client.

Avoiding a breakdown of team communication

A 2017 Project Management Institute survey suggests that 30 per cent of all project failures can be attributed to a breakdown of team communication. An agile project manager will be adept at managing and responding to conflict, making sure that needs are addressed and communication between stakeholders is restored quickly.

Managing external stakeholders effectively

A project manager is responsible for managing the expectations of external (and sometimes remote) stakeholders. They will ensure that stakeholders have visibility over the project throughout its lifecycle, making it easier for them to be a part of the larger conversation and team dynamics.

Agile project managers are in demand

On top of this, there’s an increasing need to fill a skills gap. Businesses will often look to fulfil the role of a project manager by allocating an existing team member to the task. This isn’t necessarily a poor decision, but without the right training, your elected project manager may not have the necessary skills to lead a project to completion on time or to budget.

Ready to upskill?

To take a career in IT project management to the next level, it might be time to consider further study. Upskill and become an agile project manager with an Online Graduate Diploma in Project Management, such as that offered through RMIT Online.