Volume 4 Issue 1 - December 2008 Print

PMP Passport - Project Management Institute - Making project management indispensable for business results
Knowledge Zone
Agile Software Development Projects Enable Adaptability and Success
Agile may be the cure for overdue, high-cost software development projects.

In the past few years, the number of software development projects delivered on time and within budget and requirements have been on the rise, according to The 2006 Chaos Research, a biennial review of software project results by The Standish Group, a research and IT project analysis firm in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

The Standish Group attributes this to Agile project management approaches. Although it is not a total departure from A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), Agile, which is a consortium of different methodologies, embraces change and establishes such practices as short iterations, light-weight documentation, a focus on testing and continuous client interaction to accommodate change proactively.

A positive side is that the team and project stay flexible to iterative changes. The negative side is that scope can get out of control, says Bill Martiner, PgMP, principal, VenturePM, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

“Because you are operating under the idea that scope is to be defined on an ongoing basis, it becomes more difficult to make any long-range plans in larger projects,” Mr. Martiner says.

Unlike a traditional methodology, Agile requires project managers to take a different approach in scope management and project planning.

“Careful planning has a significant impact to the success of the project. It minimizes the risk during execution and helps keep the projects on track,” says Panini Deshpande, PMP, corporate manager, global delivery operations, Aztecsoft Ltd., Pune, Maharashtra, India.

Anthony Akins, PMP, director of software development, BRS Labs Inc., Houston, Texas, USA, practices an Agile methodology. His team monitors project progress on a daily basis and after monthly sprints as follows:

Daily: The team holds 15-minute stand-up meetings to report on what each person did the previous day, what he or she will do today and to address roadblocks to progress.

Monthly: In two, two-hour meetings, the team plans the next iteration of the project. During the first meeting, the project team pulls the highest-priority items from the backlog and works them into the month’s plan. During the second meeting, the team breaks down the items already identified for the month, works on estimates, discusses the projects and comes to conclusions about specific work for the month.

Aside from the flexibility that comes with iterative deliverables, project managers should be sure Agile processes are suited for their organization or client, and their project team.

Agile is not necessarily effective for organizations with formal, regimented or controlled environments, Mr. Martiner says. Further, senior-level developers or project managers with previous experience in Agile processes would fare best implementing them.

Whatever the culture in which you attempt to implement Agile processes, the results seem the same—successful projects.

“We're pretty well convinced that Agile can tackle just about any problem domain, as long as the business culture is ready to work with it. Traditional software development methodologies were built for a world where software development was expensive and time consuming… As the development tools became more agile, it makes sense to use an Agile methodology,” says Darryle Poore, PMP, management consultant, PSC Group LLC, Schaumburg, Illinois, USA.

Ready to Be Agile?

Here are five suggestions for those thinking about using Agile methodologies:

  1. Ensure a match between methodology and organizational culture.
  2. If the entire organization is not ready for a complete switch to Agile approaches, start implementing them in a single department or with a single project.
  3. Understand your stakeholder involvement from the start.
  4. Remember needs and requirements change and remain flexible.
  5. Focus on delivering features that provide value to the organization.