The benefits of Agile techniques for project and programme delivery are well documented. A more flexible, adaptable approach leads to faster delivery, more engaged and efficient teams, and results more closely aligned with requirements. Agile techniques can also be used to help save a failing project, with a much greater chance of success than traditional project methods.
The Benefits of Agility
Agile techniques, and the implementation framework that usually goes with them, have many proven benefits in project delivery. These can be used to help a struggling project in much the same way as a newly started project. Obviously, consideration must be given to the project’s current state and the team’s likely lack of experience with Agile techniques.
If approached right, the potential is huge. Research from Standish Group shows that agile projects have a 60% greater chance of success than traditional projects, as frequently occurring problems are avoided.
Re-Prioritizing the Programme
One of the strengths of Agile is its different approach to project prioritization. Taking the popular Scrum framework (the leading implementation framework for Agile techniques) as an example, all tasks that need to be completed are clearly identified, and the effort required to complete is estimated. Tasks are then prioritized and approached in order by project teams depending on their capacity.
This can help re-focus a stalled programme. Incorrect prioritization and work effort is often a contributor to problems.
As part of planning for each Scrum iteration, or scrum Sprint, a high-level goal is defined. This will likewise help focus and motivate teams and work towards the priority goal. This can change as the project progresses, but it delivers fast results in line with immediate priorities.
Improving Communication and Teamwork
There is plenty of evidence that good communication is a factor in project and programme success. As just one example, consider research in the Journal of Product Innovation Management. Looking across many programmes, this showed that cross-functional cooperation was a strong predictor of project outcomes.
Agile introduces stronger and more effective communication. Again, looking at the Scrum framework, there is a big focus on team organization. The Scrum team is to a large extent self-managing, rather than following a traditional management structure. This gives teams more input in defining the work they will complete and in their day-to-day work.
In addition, there are clearly defined methods of communication and regular meetings involving the key people. This is designed to get projects moving faster, with issues raised and dealt with on a daily basis. A programme suffering from requirements confusion or other hold-ups is likely to benefit from this approach.
Scrum also introduces the dedicated role of Project Owner. This allocated person is responsible for communication with project stakeholders. With a leading role too in defining the work to be completed, this is a very different approach to traditional project and stakeholder interaction. This again can help solve communication problems within projects.
Resistance to Change
One major obstacle often encountered in agile project recovery is persuading teams, and management, to change the approach. This is hard enough when they know and are experienced in agile techniques, but very difficult when this is new to them. A common way to start using agile techniques is through a small-scale or pilot project. This is not possible when dealing with recovery.
Agile Consultants can help here, as well as in understanding and deployment of agile techniques. With the experience of previous Agile projects and recoveries, they can advise both the team and project and business stakeholders in the possibilities. Building the confidence to try something different is essential.