Project Management - The Agile Difference

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Author Image - Elizabeth Hair

By Elizabeth Hair

Elizabeth is an experienced Project Manager, manageing project across numerous digital and traditional sectors.

Coming from working environments where traditional methods of project management were used, I was intrigued when I came across the term ‘Agile’ prior to joining Leighton. It sounded exciting and creative, taking a different approach to processes I took as being the norm, and I wanted a part of it.

So, what is Agile?

Agile project management is an iterative and incremental management process, applied to all areas of project development.  This approach allows projects to be developed and implemented in a highly flexible environment, allowing interaction and input from all involved parties to refine the deliverables.

Agile promotes a continuous process, incorporating feedback, planning, testing and integration. The main difference between Agile and other methodologies, such as waterfall, is its adaptable nature, allowing changes to be made throughout the process, as opposed to working to a strict, fixed scope.

Leighton use Agile methodologies when delivering all projects. We understand that scope can change over the course of the project, and by using Agile, we can adapt and respond to changes quickly, minimising impact on project development and timescales.

Although now utilised across a variety of different projects, Agile originated in software development, with the following core principles:

  • Rapid delivery of useful software
  • Flexibility to change requirements, even late in development
  • Frequent delivery of usable software
  • Close communication between project teams
  • Focus on motivated individuals
  • Face-to-face communication in project teams, sharing the same location
  • Functional software is the main measure of progress
  • Sustainable, continuous development
  • Attention to technical and design excellence
  • Simplicity
  • Self-organisation
  • Responsive to changing circumstances

The main thing that still stands out to me about Agile is teamwork, and how well communication is regarded and maintained internally.  With strong, frequent communication and updates, allowing transparency in all areas of the project, this open communication promotes a collaborative approach, and ensures the end product is one of high quality that meets all requirements, exceeding expectations.

As a Project Manager, communication is always something you hold with high regard when dealing with clients, but it is often something that’s missed internally. This is certainly not the case with Agile.

For example, at Leighton, daily stand ups ensure open communication between all members of the project team, within a supportive environment.  Via such meetings, we can all be clear about what the progress of the project is, where any developments need to be made and where assistance is required.

What does Agile mean for clients?

The main advantage of Agile to clients is frequent product deliveries, giving visibility and allowing feedback, with the flexibility to make changes in upcoming sprints.  This approach allows a working piece of software, for example, to go live and be used whilst further development iterations of additional features are taking place.

What’s more, it ensures confidence in a variety of ways, from knowing something is continually evolving and developing, through to having the ability to make changes - even at the last minute - of the current iteration should business decisions and requirements dictate.

Having been involved in project management for a number of years, my primary years were spent implementing more traditional approaches. Without doubt working to a certain extent, it wasn’t until I discovered the Agile approach that I began to realise how much more effective and efficient it can be to work and deliver projects with a different focus.

Needless to say, I’ve not only fully embraced Agile, but never looked back.