Agile Project Management 'Essential'

Article date: Thu, 23 Jan 2014 15:00 GMT

Agile Project ManagementBusinesses must evolve to use flexible practices such as agile project management, to prevent significantly slowing down the productivity of their business and risking their profits. Old fashioned firms must encourage the ownership and innovation needed to create a happier, more modern workplace or face the consequences of being left behind by companies that do. That's the view of six project management experts who gathered at a roundtable event to discuss whether old management techniques have become nothing more than a hindrance to businesses and whether traditional practices still have a role in the workplace. Lawrence Jones, CEO of hosting and colocation firm UKFast, believes a fun work environment, bolstered by flexible and collaborative project management techniques, results in happier people within the company. Jones said: "I believe an enjoyable workplace is often a productive workplace. A fun and friendly work ethic is the route to economic recovery and adopting agile project management techniques comes hand in hand with this. "Having a culture in place that encourages collaboration not only motivates the team, it also means that clients receive a better, faster service that isn't weighed down by traditional box-ticking procedures." Agile project management focuses on the continuous improvement, team input and delivery of essential quality products. By breaking up a project into "sprints" - worked on by different team members simultaneously - agile encourages collaboration and integration unlike other, traditional methods that are often rigidly sequential. Ninety per cent of respondents in the 7th Annual State Agile Development survey cited that agile improved their ability to manage changing priorities compared to waterfall, while the top two other benefits listed were increased productivity (85 per cent) and improved project visibility (84 per cent). Ian Carroll, Principal Consultant at ThoughtWorks agrees said: "It is about doing a good job. Nobody comes into work to do a bad job. Agile project management requires cross-functional teams, which result in happier people coming together to make for a much happier work place." Clare Walsh, Digital Delivery Director from Redweb believes that teamwork created by agile project is vital for a company's success. Walsh said: "It's about creating that sense of involvement. When somebody really feels involved, they can own it. That's the whole point of agile, that the team feel some kind of ownership about what they are creating. It's about empowerment and people feeling like they have the ability to make decisions." Beccy Weeks, IS Manager at Saint Gobain Building Distribution has seen agile bring big benefits to her company, including improvements to the integration of new staff members. She said: "Agile prevents isolation. We've found that it's easier to bring new people into the team as they get on straight away. They are immediately communicating; they feel part of the team and can join in with the banter. They are integrated much quicker using the agile approach, rather than the waterfall management." James Cannings, Chief Technical Officer at MMT Digital believes the culture within his workplace has positively transformed due to the change to agile management. He said: "Agile has completely transformed the culture of my agency over the last two years. We were proud of the culture we had, but I now feel bad in the sense of how we treated the developers who just worked from one project to the next. It was quite a sort of hierarchal structure. Agile now creates a fun environment, which brings the whole team together." Mark Kelly, Digital and Social Media Marketing Consultant regrets the management approach he previously undertook. He said: "The developers and designers were treated like mushrooms in the waterfall approach, not knowing what the guys next to them were doing. The agile approach therefore most certainly provides visibility for everyone on the team." The experts gathered at hosting and colocation firm UKFast's Manchester office to debate the topic of project management and how businesses can implement new techniques to the best effect. Here are their top tips:
  1. Don't forget, agile is a means to an end rather than an end point itself
  2. How you visualise the world dominates how we perceive the world so having a card wall or something to illustrate tasks can really help teams
  3. Agile isn't the best for building a skyscraper but great for a fast-paced software development - it could just be about design and development rather than the whole project
  4. It's about creating a culture of fun as well as ensuring a fast time to market.

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