Six Perils of Adopting Agile Project Management

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The author spent the first part of her career working in IT and IT Project Management in the oil industry and investment banking on complex global projects involving the management of outsourced project teams. She now runs a digital marketing company with particular expertise in technical SEO and Content Marketing.

Making the transition from waterfall to agile project management is a tough enough break for anyone. With the prospect of letting teams have more creative control over their direction and potentially drifting off course entirely, any project manager who is planning to implement agile will probably already be feeling somewhat nervous about how things will pan out. Fear not, because we have uncovered the seven biggest risks when implementing agile in your project team, so you’ll know what to look out for.

1.      It seems simple

From the outside looking in, the agile methodology of project management seems too simple to be true. And it is. If it were really that easy, project managers wouldn’t need to be certified in PRINCE2 or PMP to effectively handle the process and surely wouldn’t everyone already be doing it? Be cautious if you think it will be a walk in the park, because it won’t.

2.      It can often happen from the bottom up

With agile a big focus in the IT sector, it can often happen from the bottom up. Nobody really wants their IT department running the show, so ensure you stay in control of the deployment of agile and that you choose if and when everyone starts working in this way.

3.      It can meet with resistance in overly structured companies

Agile doesn’t sit too well with heavily structured organisations and firms that have been built on corporate governance, so expect some resistance if your organisation is heavily managed from the top down. Agile is not anti-management, but it is nimble, and if your company is not also nimble then there may be some problems getting the two to mesh successfully.

4.      People at the top of the tree won’t understand

As with any type of project management approach, if you don’t have complete buy in from senior stakeholders and managers, you are going to find making these changes very difficult. Make sure any education campaign you run with your team about the ‘new way’ of doing things is extended to cover the stakeholders too if you want to engender support in the long run.

5.      Can teams really self-manage?

Agile is designed to let teams manage themselves and their deliverables in isolation, giving them more creative freedom to explore the brief in new ways. However, at the end of it all, the teams still need a worthy project manager to pull together all the different strands and ensure everything works in a cohesive manner.

6.      Don’t let the tools drive the transition

The transition needs to be led by needs, processes and requirements, not by the tools themselves. It can be all too easy to find an ‘agile project management tool’ on the internet or in a textbook and then let this dictate the way the approach works for you, but in fact this is quashing all the creative freedom that agile intends to allow. Instead, work out your processes first and then find the right tools to support those actions.

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Project management has developed into a fully-fledged chartered profession since the granting of the Royal Charter in the UK to The Association for Project Management (APM) in 2017. Training courses for project managers were already available and highly popular to help people gain professional project management accreditation, but with this wider recognition of the profession it is now seen as a desirable career path for many. Whilst the APM has the coveted Royal Charter and continues to develop its APM PMQ (formerly the APMP) programmes, there are also other internationally recognised qualifications that continue to be highly regarded such as PMP and PRINCE2.

Organisations have become increasingly project-focused in this era of rapidly emerging new technologies and they value the expertise that comes with experienced and fully qualified project teams and managers. By investing in their project management capability businesses can be confident of delivering their new projects in time and on budget more often and more successfully. Many major corporation are now training their people to have the right project management qualifications as well as relevant experience, through internal Learning & Development (L&D) programmes; or by using external project management training providers.

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