Agile Approaches on Large Projects in Large Organizations

Agile Approaches on Large Projects in Large Organizations

Agile methods have taken software development by storm, but have been primarily applied to projects in what is referred to as the “agile sweet spot”, which consists of small collocated teams working on small, non-critical, green field, in-house software projects with stable architectures and simple governance rules. The use of agile methods on large projects in large organizations is a relatively new phenomenon for which clear guidance is not available. There are conflicts between agile methods and principles and traditional software development in large bureaucratic organizations.

Organizations are experimenting, as shown by the extreme variability of the responses to most of the survey questions. On average, large organizations have been using agile methods on large projects for three years. With an average project duration of one and a half years, a large number of organizations have completed only a small number of large agile projects. Many large organizations are therefore still at a stage of experimental implementation.

Because many large organizations are currently experimenting with agile methods the results are somewhat paradoxical in that some features are common to almost all observations, while others show extreme variability. The common features include use of scrum methodology and agile coaches, as well as, the non-respect of the agile principle of emergent architecture.

One of the most important emergent phenomena from a project management perspective is the modifications being made to the role of the project manager. One element that is relatively clear is that self-organizing scrum development teams have a major role in the detailed planning and monitoring of project execution and that project managers are, therefore, devoting less effort to this type of activity. Project managers typically have a role in the coordination of multiple development teams. However, some contexts report the project managers are putting more effort into this activity, while others report that they are putting less. It is not clear under what conditions each of these tendencies is prevalent. In many organizations, the project manager role has become more strategic and more centered on stakeholder management. In a minority of cases, the project manager role has been abolished.

As this is an emergent phenomenon, it is too early to know what the long-term effects on the project manager role will be. As the situation is evolving quickly, more research will be required.