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Using Agile Project Management

Techniques to Improve
Your Business
Keith Grinsted

Abstract: This article looks at the methodology behind


Agile project management and how it can be applied to,
and improve, your business. Many business people have
probably never considered using project ­management
techniques to help improve the way they run their
­business, but Agile brings a whole new perspective. This
­article explores some of the ways Agile can become your
best friend in business.

Keywords: Agile, Iteration, Iterative, Milestones,


Minimum viable product, MVP, Project management,
Review, Scrums, Sprints, Wash-up meeting

Using Agile Project Management Techniques


to Improve Your Business
Keith has been involved in social I first came across the Agile methodology while w ­ orking
media since first becoming a member
of the early business networking site
for a local authority in the UK. With all the expected
Ecademy in 1999. ­bureaucratic overtones, it does not, at first, sound the most
likely environment to find Agile project management in
Now with 17,000+ connections on
LinkedIn, 5,000+ followers on Twitter, play. But it was a refreshing discovery as I’ll cover later.
and 2,000+ friends on Facebook, Keith It is true to say that most public sector organiza-
also runs the largest charity-related tions (­certainly in the UK), and many private sector
group on LinkedIn—Charity UK—with ­businesses, are still heavily into the more traditional
39,000+ members.
project m­ anagement methodologies such as PRINCE2—a
Keith also has a popular blog on structured project management methodology. PRINCE2
Huffington Post UK.
(PRojects IN Controlled Environments) is a p ­ rocess-based
Keith teaches and mentors business method for ­effective project management.
people on how to make the most of
There are seven, interconnected PRINCE2 processes:
social media in business, especially
LinkedIn.
1. Starting up a project
Keith sees himself as a social impact
entrepreneur and has established
2. Initiating a project
Olderpreneur to help older people set 3. Directing a project
up business. 4. Controlling a stage
5. Managing a stage boundary
6. Managing product delivery
7. Closing a project

© Business Expert Press 978-1-94744-198-9 (2018) Expert Insights


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Using Agile Project Management Techniques to Improve Your Business

I think clearly it is a very structured 12. Regularly, the team reflects on how
process with set criteria and milestones to to become more effective, and adjusts
be achieved throughout the course of the accordingly
project. The “controlled environments”
bit in the name suggests a very set way of Source: Wikipedia—https://en.wikipedia
working. .org/wiki/Agile_software_development#cite_
Agile, on the other hand, is a much note-ManifestoPrinciples-19
speedier process. An iterative process with The process deployed in a business envi-
constant feedback loops. In my opinion,
­ ronment would go something like this:
­Agile is a much more useful methodology
in  the rapidly developing environments Brainstorm
within which most businesses operate today. Initial requirement analysis
Going back to my public sector e
­ xperience,
over a two-year period I found Agile most Design
­effective in generating solutions for many Design, document, and prototype
diverse needs. I’ll touch on some of this
later, but now we need to consider where Development
Agile originated. Iterations, demo, and feedback

Agile Quality Assurance


Agile started out as a methodology for User testing, identify defects, and resolve bugs
software development and was originally
­published as the Manifesto for Agile Software Deployment
Development. Minimum viable product and technical
It was based on 12 principles: support

1. Customer satisfaction by early and con- Deliver to Client


tinuous delivery of valuable software At this stage the project may be complete,
2. Welcome changing requirements, even or if further requirements are identified,
in late development then these would be entered back into the
3. Working software is delivered frequently cycle again.
(weeks rather than months) Notice that much of Agile is about the
4. Close, daily cooperation between busi- regular, sometimes daily, communication
ness people and developers process between the team and the client.
5. Projects are built around motivated indi- What Agile avoids, therefore, are problems
viduals, who should be trusted cropping up late in the process when it
6. Face-to-face conversation is the best form transpires a key element is running late,
of communication (co-location) well behind schedule.
7. Working software is the primary m ­ easure To illustrate this, let’s use the example of
of progress many chefs working in a busy restaurant
8. Sustainable development, able to main- or hotel kitchen. Remember the two totally
tain a constant pace opposite sayings:
9. Continuous attention to technical excel-
lence and good design ■■ Too many cooks spoil the broth!
10. Simplicity—the art of maximizing the ■■ Many hands make light work!
amount of work not done—is essential
11. Best architectures, requirements, and The key difference is communication.
­designs emerge from self-organizing We’ve all seen the results of poor communi-
teams cation in a busy kitchen on such programs

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Using Agile Project Management Techniques to Improve Your Business

as “Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares” with Chef (typically two or three weeks) as the build.
Gordon Ramsay! It is far more immediate. Issues can be
If a complex dish is being prepared identified and dealt with more quickly.
requiring input from several different
­ Because testing is done in every
chefs, with each ingredient requiring very ­iteration, developing a small piece of the
different preparation and cooking times, it overall solution, users can frequently use
is crucial they all arrive on the plate, prop- the new build to test and validate in real
erly prepared, properly cooked, and at the time. Imagine developing a website with
correct temperature. the ­expectation of it having, say, 20 pages.
If one of the key ingredients is missing, ­Instead of building all 20 pages before user
you need to know at the outset. testing, you “soft launch” each page as it
If preparation of one of the key ingredi- is produced. The users testing each page
ents is delayed, you need to know as soon can provide feedback on the process more
as it becomes apparent. quickly and their feedback can be utilized
If a key ingredient is running late, there in the development of subsequent pages.
is no point putting the others on the plate They can make better decisions about
as they’ll just get cold waiting. future elements.
It all must be there at the same time. But Having a retrospective and replanning
this will happen only if all chefs commu- session in each iteration (sometimes called
nicate and everyone knows exactly where a Scrum) helps the team continuously
they are in the process. adapt its plans so as to maximize the value
If one element is running out of kilter, it delivers and optimize the deployment of
then the head chef can deploy additional resources. This can be particularly useful if
resource to get it back on schedule. But he individuals are involved in several projects
can’t if he’s not been kept informed. or if holiday periods have to be taken into
You don’t want to find out about any of consideration.
these issues just at the time the meal is due This iterative approach supports a prod-
to be served! uct  rather than a  project  mindset. This
But that is what can happen if you don’t provides greater flexibility throughout the
have constant iterative communication. development process.
­Remember from the TV program the con- With a project mindset, requirements
stant response “Yes, Chef!” to confirm are defined and locked down from the very
the relevant chef was aware of what was beginning, making it difficult to change
­required of him. them later.
The sooner you learn of an issue, the Agile, iterative product development
sooner you can deal with it and come up ­allows the solution to evolve in response to
with an alternative solution. changes in business environment or mar-
ket requirements.
Iterative Process Because of the short iteration style of ­Agile
One of the key differences between the A ­ gile software development, it also has strong
methodology and other project management connections with the lean start-up concept.
processes is the use of an iterative rather than
a waterfall approach to quality and testing. Adapt Rather Than Predict
In the more traditional waterfall model, Agile uses adaptive  methods to focus on
each process follows on from the f­ormer. adapting quickly to changing realities.
There is always a separate testing phase ­after When the business environment changes
a build phase. or the actual needs of a project change, an
However, in the Agile methodology the adaptive approach changes as well. If you
testing is completed in the same iteration have an adaptive team, it works on the

© Business Expert Press 978-1-94744-198-9 (2018) Expert Insights


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