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Agile, a project management framework for smaller organizations

Agile project management

A project management framework can help a small business complete projects efficiently and successfully.  Agile is one such framework that is perfect for creative projects

Many, if not most of the tasks that organizations and individuals spend much of their professional lives doing are projects.  However, it is primarily larger organizations and very organized individuals who formally manage these tasks.  Most of us go about completing these tasks without any organization or structure.  Agile project management is a project management framework that works for smaller organizations.

It has been my experience that managing structured tasks using a project management framework greatly increases my productivity and improves the quality of outcomes.  You too can increase the productivity and quality of outcomes of your organized tasks with a project management framework.

What is a project?

A project is defined as a sequence of tasks that need to be completed to attain a given outcome.  It also has a well-defined beginning and end.

What is project management?

Project management is defined as the application of methods, processes, skills, knowledge, and experience to achieve specific project objectives according to the project acceptance criteria within agreed parameters.  Project management provides a framework to coordinate and complete tasks in pursuit of an outcome.

Why is project management important?

Project management is important because it brings direction and leadership to projects.  Without project management, the team can be like a boat without a rudder, moving without direction, purpose or control.

What is a project management framework?

A project management framework is a set of guidelines to plan and execute a project.  The framework provides a structure for the project and outlines the roles and responsibilities of the project manager, and other members of the project team, amongst other things.

Some examples of project management methodologies include the Waterfall, Agile, Scrum, and Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) methodologies.  Having tried many of these project management frameworks, I have found the Agile methodology as being most applicable to the project management needs of a small business.

What is agile project management?

Agile is a project management framework, or methodology that is primarily associated with the creation of software. However, in recent years, it has been increasingly applied to other types of projects such as marketing, automotive production, research and development, and more.  In fact, it has been found to be quite adaptable to many other tasks within an organization, especially those firms that need to be more creative.

Agile project management entails segmenting a project into several sprints, say once every two weeks or so, in order to receive user input more quickly.

What is a sprint?

A sprint is a short, time-boxed period when a team works to complete a set amount of work.  Sprints are at the heart of agile frameworks and getting them right will help you deliver a better project.

What are some benefits of agile project management?

The Agile project management framework offers practitioners many benefits.  While many teams using agile are smaller, it isn’t limited to large companies or software development projects.  It has been found to be quite adaptable to smaller companies and every department in larger firms.  These are some of the ways that a smaller company can benefit from using agile.

Planning:

Agile does not mean rushing through a project. Planning is an important part of any project because the team needs to understand their assigned tasks.

In addition to planning, there needs to be a clear business objective.  There needs to be a clear business objective and the team needs to understand what problems are being solved.

Education:

Agile can represent a paradigm shift for those team members who are not familiar with the framework.  It is during this time that many companies fail in transitioning to agile.  As a result, a training program is recommended to increase the likelihood of success.

A training program does not have to be extensive and can be completed in a short time.  The goal is to provide a sufficient base from which to get started.

Leadership:

Every project should have a project manager.  For agile projects, it is better that they know the agile project management framework because this person will set up the organizational structure, keep the project on track and encourage collaboration.  However, the most important role will be to help create the culture of innovation.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs):

Everyone on the team should know what they are working towards and how it is to be measured.  These metrics should measure how well the project meets its goals.

A KPI is a performance measurement that evaluates the success of the project or activity in which it engages.  There can be a single KPI, or several and they need to be realistic and easy to understand.

KPIs can be applied to not only agile projects, but organization-wide to the entire company.  Organization-wide KPIs are beneficial because they give your firm a value to compare against your current performance.  They can clearly illustrate whether the organization are meeting its goals.

Reviews and postmortems:

An agile project management framework can work perfectly for a “learning” organization, or company focused on continuous improvement.  Sometimes called continual improvement, it is the ongoing improvement of products, services, or processes through incremental and breakthrough improvement.  First devised by Edward Deming and widely implemented in Japan, continuous improvement was the “secret sauce” in the development of Japan’s world-class industrial base.

The Agile project management framework enables continuous improvement through reviews and postmortems.  After each sprint, team members meet to review progress of the project.  Since there will be a focus on user feedback, this will help to lessen the subjectivity and politics of the process.

At the conclusion of the project, team members, led by the project manager will engage in a postmortem of the project. This exercise will identify what worked with the project, and what did not, so that the next project can be better than the last.

Wrapping it all up

Many of the occupational activities that organizations and individuals engage in as part of work can be defined as a project.  A project management framework enables an organization or individual to organize and manage resources to complete the project as efficiently as possible.

Created primarily as a software development framework, agile can be applied to creative projects completed by smaller organizations.

We defined various aspects of projects and discussed how an agile project management framework can benefit smaller organizations.

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