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Making the case for Agile

Tim Mendham | April 17, 2014
Agile methodology is moving out of the software development team and becoming a core part of IT and business collaboration.

According to Wilkinson, projects differ depending on the vendor/customer equation. "While working for a large systems integrator, projects were managed well in the context of what the SI project managers' focus was; namely managing the risk to the integrator balanced with the successful outcome to make margin and encourage repeat business," he says.

"But at the end customer organisation, my experiences have been patchy with regards to successful project management."

Often, end-user organisations use project management skills either in-house or available to them without considering the specialist capabilities required to best ensure success, Wilkinson continues.

This is because many believe a good project manager should be able to manage any type of ICT job.

"My observation has been that a PM has a much greater chance of success if they understand the technology area in which their project is trying to deliver, and by virtue of that understand they should engage the best resources, identify gaps and risk, to contribute to a successful project output," Wilkinson says.

Eltridge claims Agile methodology embeds a 'product owner' from the business within a project and therefore defines a clear level of accountability. "The methodology drives the business to define capability in a way that the business value is measurable in each piece of work," he says.

"They can 'see' exactly what they are getting in real-time. It requires them to work more directly and continuously with the IT delivery teams — taking more responsibility for design decisions — and this drives trust in both directions."

The step-based approach also offers underlying control over financial costs. "It is easier to detect and control over-runs, and the iterative cycles and learning loops significantly de-risk overall delivery," Eltridge adds.

Staging projects

With any project, milestones are often regarded as essential, allowing management to assess whether the project is running to schedule. How effective milestones are depends on how closely they stick to original policy. With Agile, the concept of milestones is vital, but they can float as well as be achieved much more regularly.

Wilkinson says there are variations to how milestones are applied in different industries.

"While they are a way of reporting progress from a schedule and critical path perspective, I have a strong view that in ICT projects, schedules are a management tool and are dynamic with the changing requirements, resources competition, and rapidly evolving technology landscape of today.

This differs from the construction industry, where you have repeatable components with clearly understood delivery durations/timeslices that make schedule estimation and execution more predictable.

"ICT projects can rarely be componentised in the same way. As a result, an expectation of delivery against pre-determined milestones is likely to disappoint."

 

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