A Brief Story on Agile and Project Management

The Agile movement continues to offer a popular approach to project management. It started as a hip buzzword at the turn of the 21st century and became a mainstream term, particularly in the software development world. The movement unofficially started in the 1990s to address the growing need for a flexible approach to software development and was known as Lightweight Methodologies. In February 2001, the term “Agile” was coined in the Agile Manifesto which was written and endorsed by 17 high-profile software developer practitioners. The roots of Agile principles can be loosely traced back to the late 1940s when Toyota introduced lean manufacturing which focused on meeting customer desires, eliminating waste, and providing flexibility to improve their products in an iterative and continuous manner. 

The Agile Alliance, a professional association, was created shortly after the Manifesto to encourage and curate resources for Agile adoption. The Alliance promotes Agile as an umbrella term for a set of methods and practices based on the values and principles of the Manifesto. The 10th Annual State of Agile Report by Version One has ranked Scrum as the most popular, followed by Scrum/XP, custom hybrids, Scrumban, Kanban, and Iterative Development.

It is worthwhile to note that a traditional Project Manager role does not exist in most of the Agile practices. Agile has different frameworks one of which is Scrum. In the case of Scrum, responsibility is distributed across a Product Owner (Customer), Scrum Master (Facilitator), and Development team. With the coaching from the Scrum Master, it is the team members who decide which person should be assigned a specific task to manage and complete it. The scrum master is responsible for removing obstacles for the team and make sure they are most productive while protecting the team from external interference. The scrum master is often termed a servant leader to the team.

Agile approach to project management is a different approach for project execution where the most common was waterfall for many years. This is a paradigm shift for the entire team. Agile is more about an emphasis on the right values and philosophy than using a highly structured methodology. There have been numerous debates comparing the virtues and vices of the two approaches over the years. Several practitioners, businesses, and professional associations have empirically learned that neither approach is perfect so they have mixed the two to use a hybrid methodology to suit their needs. As an example, the Project Management Institute (PMI) offers the PMI-Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) certificate which has a wide appeal and is their fastest growing certification.

Ninestone has broad expertise in effectively and efficiently delivering projects using various tailored approaches. We know that there is no “silver bullet” or right answer for all projects. Our core strength lies in the diverse project management experience of our consultants. We have PMP certified consultants which expertise and experience with different frameworks. Let us help you assess the available options then plan and implement the one that will best meet your business needs.

Tammy Chu, Senior Ninestone Consultant

February 2017