Agile project management: 10 reasons to use it

Change hurts. But making the shift to agile project management delivers compelling benefits, say leaders who’ve reached the other side
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Agile project management represents a significant shift from the way software development has traditionally been managed. And as all IT leaders know, change can be painful.

[ Want an agile project management primer? Read Agile project management, explained. ]

On the road to change, you’ll encounter fear and loathing. People will undoubtedly cling to old ways of working. Successfully making it to the other side will require commitment, passionate change agents, and unwavering leadership. You might wonder – is it really worth it?

Leaders who have made the switch to agile project management say that it has delivered benefits both large and small to their organizations, from the rituals that bring their team together – like daily stand-ups – to the results that make their business stronger – like better end products and happier customers.

Why should you use agile project management?

Whether agile project management is a brand-new approach for your team or you need a reminder of why to stay the course on the journey from waterfall to agile, consider what you stand to gain. Here are 10 compelling benefits, suggested by IT leaders and experts.

Read also: Agile vs. DevOps: What’s the difference? ]

1. The ability to be wrong

“I now have the ability to rapidly course-correct.”
Bill Mayo, CIO, Broad Institute: “I’m no longer making a one-off bet or decision that I’m going to have to live with forever. Consider how things worked before agile project management. The management team might have spent six months in the back room working out a ‘perfect’ re-org plan. Then you’d have an all-hands meeting where they announce the re-org, and you’d go through six months of chaos getting it in place. More likely than not, you’d gloss over any problems that were baked into the plan just so that you wouldn’t have to talk endlessly about the re-org.

"With agile project management, organizations gain the ability to be wrong. I can come up with my best answer right now, get a sprint’s worth, or a month’s worth of experience under my belt, and then fine-tune that decision or completely scrap it and come at it differently. I now have the ability to rapidly course-correct.” 

2. “Baked-in” quality

Ben Wald, co-founder and VP of Solutions Implementation, Very: “Agile methodologies and continuous delivery are particularly well-suited for dealing with the demands of the connected device. With agile, testing becomes an essential component of each phase of the development process, with quality being ‘baked in’ at every stage. This is especially crucial for IoT development projects because real-world conditions are unpredictable. Continuous testing saves time, money, and frustration.”

3. Reduced guesswork

Holly Knoll, business coach, The Consultant Code: “Agile benefits include speed to market, well-defined roles and responsibilities, and the ability to quickly pivot and change direction based upon user feedback. Estimating project scope is kept as objective as possible following the Fibonacci scale. Teams use a points system to gauge the amount of effort it will take to complete a specific amount of work. The numbers correlate to the size and complexity of the work. The higher the number a piece of work is assigned, the more complex and longer it will take to complete it. This system helps teams reduce estimates based upon emotion or pressure to deliver.”

[ What tools can help? Read also: Top 7 open source project management tools for agile teams. ]

4. Faster releases = happier customers and employees

“We went from projects that averaged over four months to a little more than a month.”
Alan Zucker, founding principal, Project Management Essentials: “I think the most compelling benefit that we recognized was the reduction in the amount of time to put new releases into production. Over a two-year period, we cut the average release duration by two-thirds. We went from projects that averaged over four months to a little more than a month.

“That means we were able to respond to changes much more quickly. Our customers were much happier because they did not have to wait months before projects were even worked. This improved velocity had great secondary effects, such as greater employee engagement and happiness.”

5. Clear priorities

Shayne Sherman, CEO, TechLoris: “Moving from our previous management approach to agile project management honestly kept me from changing careers. I wouldn’t even call what we did waterfall. It was more like dropping a bucket of water off of a cliff. Before we adopted agile, we didn’t have a real sense of priority in place. Stakeholders would bicker amongst themselves and managers were given multiple projects with vague priorities. There was no way to satisfy everyone, and everyone believed that shelving their project in favor of another was a personal affront.

“Moreover, we had no system to track work. Projects were broken down by task and those tasks were kept in a spreadsheet. Switching to agile has breathed new life into our project management. The greatest thing is that we always know what we’re working on next. Priorities are clearly defined, and if they change we can simply shift in the next iteration. When you take small bites out of projects, you don’t have to chew for a long time before taking a bite of a different one.”

Carla Rudder is a community manager and program manager for The Enterprisers Project. She enjoys bringing new authors into the community and helping them craft articles that showcase their voice and deliver novel, actionable insights for readers.  


Six not to:
1. It's somebody's idea what software development ought to be like.
2. It has no scientific foundations whatsoever.
3. It may be well suited for GUI development. For other types of development, chances are it will not be.
4. The standard answer (if it doesn't work for you you are not doing it right) reveals it to be more like a religion than a pragmatic methodology.
5. It seems to assume that developers are interchangeable - which they may be, when developing GUIs.
6. It's a fad.