Traditional-Project-Management-182x182Scrum does not address the very basic questions of “what, when and how much” that the business demands and needs nor does it cater for such items as risk management or requirements management.  It is such basic issues that make seasoned Project Managers and seasoned executives very nervous of Agile techniques such as Scrum.  In other more basic words, how can they plan, at a high corporate level?

This is supported in a White Paper by the APMG-Internation on Agile Project Management (Download Here):

“Scrum provides an excellent team based approach to allow work to be prioritised and delivered, using the concept of a constantly evolving “backlog” to provide the team’s workload. The strength of Scrum is its simplicity, and since it is so easy to describe and to start to use, this has driven its popularity to date.

However in Scrum, there is no concept of a project, simply a Product Backlog of work to be done. For those wishing to scale Scrum to work as a corporate-wide Agile approach, or to use it for management of projects and releases, there is usually significant extra work needed to overlay the project/release concept onto the basic Scrum process. Scrum does offer a very simple version of corporate-wide Scrum (referred to as “Scrum of Scrums”), but in the complex corporate world, there is little confidence in the successful practical application of this.”

Then again, we cannot ignore the fact that Agile techniques are being adopted more and more by Software delivery teams.  It is thus a fact that the Agile movement cannot be ignored.  In fact Scum, is extremely popular and used in many organisations, yet those very organisations need to fill the ‘gap’ left over when traditional project management was replaced.

This has led to the need to apply an umbrella over the Agile teams to provide a professional level of rigour.  This has recently led to two movements:

  1. the PMI acknowledge that Agile techniques need to be understood by its project managers.
  2. the APMG (founders of PRINCE2) have merged PRINCE2 with DSDM Atern to form the Agile Project Management method and qualification.
Specific details about the PMI and APMG’s moves can be found at the end of this article, however to justify why we are where we are, we need to look at the position of software development in terms of its pre-deterministic qualities and how that relates to true traditional engineering and research.

Software is Neither Traditional Engineering nor Research

Project Management disciplines have of course been in existence for many years. IT Project Management training back in the 1990′s was often disguised as “Technical” Project Management and given by engineering project managers that had, for example, led the projects behind the building of submarines.  As a true engineering task, such projects are pre-deterministic in the sense that the due-date, the critical path etc could be easily managed.  It was also easy to perform network analysis, examine the Gantt chart, crash tasks etc.  Failure in such cases were usually attributed to be human (e.g. communication and trade unions) or natural (earthquakes or extreme weather such as flooding).

ResearchThe opposite of such pre-deterministic projects is of course pure research.  One has to have a budget, a will and a vision and to then explore how the vision could be realised.  Learning is constant and one may never reach the goal, yet along the way new discoveries may be made (famous examples include 3M’s Post-It Notes and Viagra).

Software however, is neither true traditional engineering nor research, it sits in the middle.

Technology and the choice for how something gets done becomes more complicated and sophisticated, almost daily.  And herein lies the problem:  How can we manage a Project, in the traditional sense, yet allow for unknowns and surprises, whilst engaging the latest and greatest technology?

Agile Help, to a Degree

During the last 10 years, those in the software delivery world have started to adopt Agile methodologies that improve those on-time, in-budget, in-quality and in-scope issues.  Not always with great success but Agile approaches are certainly perceived to be a better way of delivering software.

Software delivery is of course, only one aspect of a business.  The software itself is simply the enabler allowing business to reach clients easier, quicker, consistently and reliably. Amazon for example, is in business to make money from selling goods, originally books, yet it is the software that makes this possible. The software is the enabler and Agile techniques help to create better software.

Going back to the point of view of the business:  The business still needs to know from I.T. when it will get what and how much will it cost.  Young software specialists, the primary drivers of Agile, on the whole, do not appreciate this.


The Business Needs to Know “What, When and How Much?”

Just because Agile has been adopted it does not give the Software development group the right to ignore the needs of the other departments in the business. Almost all areas of a business needs to be in-line with the delivery rhythm of the software deliveries.  This is what we call ‘Maximising Agile Alignment‘.  Specifically:

  • Marketing & Sales need to know what is on the roadmap so that they can start to ‘market’ that functionality and approach clients to see if they are interested in paying (even partially) for features.  This will of course influence the priority of the features.
  • Clients of Software Products (such as core-banking solutions) need to know what they are going to get and when so that they too can schedule projects to upgrade and have their own sales people approach their own clients.
  • Professional Services need to know so that when they are on site, they are informed in advance, so that they can promote or answer client requests without having to come back to the home-office and interrupt those back in the office.
  • Support need to know as they may get asked questions by existing clients likewise Account Managers.
  • Finally, senior management need to know as they still need to budget and watch cash flows.  Not only that they may be preparing investment plan or calculating ROI on new products.

Thus, it is still necessary to be able to deliver outline plans to the rest of the business so that they are pro-actively informed about what is coming and when. Management will also need to know what the risks are and how much it will cost.

Agile Project management

To be both Agile and address the needs of the Business, we need to merge Agile techniques and traditional project management disciplines.  This is possible and the two most popular Project Management organisations are encouraging the use of Agile techniques.

In October 2010, the founders of PRINCE2 launched their Agile Project Management qualification.  This is based on merging PRINCE2 and DSDM Atern™ (10%  / 90%).  Certifications now available via our Academy pages. The UK Government is also looking at adopting the APMG’s Agile Project Methodology guidelines as a basis for all Agile Projects.

They are currently working on an Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) Pilot Programcertificate providing PMUs.  The pilot program started in May 2011 with the first examinations taking place in September 2011.  The first PMI-ACP certifications will be awarded to successful pilot candidates in Q4 2011.

They also have an “Agile Community of Practice” and at the time of writing, the PMI are working on gathering white papers on the topic of risk management for Agile projects.

In Summary

Agile does improve software delivery.  Agile alone, especially Scrum, does not however address the needs of the rest of the business especially those departments that directly interact with the software delivery teams.

In recognition of this, there is a need to have some project management discipline and rigour applied to projects.  This is where traditional project management techniques need to be applied.

DSDM Atern is already an Agile Methodology that covers the entire life-cycle and has as such been chosen as the basis of the APMG’s Agile Project Management methodology.

The PMI have also started to provide Agile qualifications to show that Project Managers understand the concepts of Agile techniques.