I was asked recently to answer 5 questions about agile project management
for a feature on PM Boulevard. I thought you might appreciate seeing them here too...
1. How has the Agile practice evolved over the last two years?
don’t personally think that agile practices have particularly changed
in the last two years, however there is clearly a stronger emphasis on
some elements more than others now.
Scrum certainly seems to have
crossed into the mainstream since I started my blog. Even though it was
less than 3 years ago, Scrum still felt quite new and innovative in the
UK at that time. I work in the web development sector and now every
company I meet seems to be doing Scrum.
Another change is the
interest in agile from the project management community. This seems
significant as people start to think more about how best to apply agile
on larger projects. Looking at Google Trends, which shows search
volumes over time, the graph below shows that search demand for ‘agile
project management’ started relatively late in terms of agile adoption,
and interest is still growing strongly now.
The other thing that seems to be a clear trend during 2009 is a much
stronger emphasis on Lean software development from the agile
community. It seems to have really gathered pace in the last year or so.
2. What would you tell someone who thinks Agile is just another fad?
don’t think agile can be called a fad now! Admittedly it may not be for
everyone, but it’s certainly not a small minority any more. Again using
Google Trends to gauge search demand and therefore people’s interest in
a topic, 'agile software development' has been in high demand on Google
as far back as 2005 (although it’s obviously been around a lot longer
than that), and has remained high ever since. I don’t think something
can be called a fad when the buzz has been going for over 5 years
already and is continuing to grow strongly. For anyone that hates the
idea of agile and is secretly hoping it might just go away, you’d
better get used to it because I think it’s here to stay!
3. What are some tools that you use?
know this might sound like it isn’t much help to others, but we don’t
actually use any project management tools or any specific agile tools.
Those who read my blog will know I’m a big fan of Excel and the
whiteboard, although clearly agile project management tools would be a
useful addition in some circumstances, particularly where teams or
stakeholders are distributed across multiple locations or projects are
In my experience, I’ve had several
development teams practicing agile web development using Scrum, and
they have been able to operate Scrum on a team-by-team basis without
the need for any specialist tools to help manage. Instead we have
placed a much stronger emphasis on face-to-face communication and
collaboration, using Excel to manage product backlogs, user stories to
convey requirements, and whiteboards to provide visibility.
4. Do you think that Agile and the PMBOK can coexist?
definitely think agile and PMBOK can coexist, although some elements of
PMBOK would be irrelevant to apply on an agile project. However there
are plenty of elements of PMBOK that are not addressed at all within
agile methodologies, for instance project initiation, cost management,
risk management and various other aspects too.
I think the
problem here is that a project manager must know PMBOK-style project
management methods like PRINCE2 and agile methods such as Scrum very
well to be able to choose the right techniques for the right situation.
This obviously demands a lot of skill and experience from the project
manager and is potentially very difficult for anyone new to either
method. This is where experienced project managers that have
successfully transitioned to agile have a really strong advantage over
others who have only really managed projects with one approach or the
other. It gives them the ability to blend the methods based on the
unique characteristics of their particular situation, which along with
leadership skills might be the thing that differentiates a good project
manager from a great one.
I have blogged about this topic before here: Agile Project Management Is Not Enough!
Can you recommend a book, blog, podcast, Web site, or other information
source to our readers that you find interesting or intriguing right
First and foremost, I would obviously recommend you read each and every page of my blog! :) (Agile Software Development Made Easy!
As if that’s not enough, I can also recommend various others, which
you’ll find in my blogroll in the sidebar. My personal favourites at
the moment are Leading Agile
by Mike Cottmeyer, Succeeding with Agile
by Mike Cohn, and Agile Techniques
on InfoQ. In terms of books, you’ll also find some books I can
recommend on my blog; they’re on an Amazon affiliate widget in the
middle of each page. Agile Project Management with Scrum
by Ken Schwaber and Agile Estimating and Planning
by Mike Cohn are particularly recommended.
Kelly.Photo by Marco Bellucci