Project Management

There are more and more posts in the cyberspace voicing against the agile practices, the way they are understood and implemented by organizations. Some try to be hilarious [5]; others try to keep the scholastic seriousness [1] [2] [3] [4], and all of them make some valid points. In each remark there’re some seeds of truth, even if context-dependent.

Personally, I embrace an agile approach when possible, however I find it difficult to choose between the agile methodologies available on the market because each of them introduces some concepts that contradict what it means to be agile — to respond promptly to business needs. It doesn’t mean that one must consider each requirement, but that’s appropriate to consider those which have business justification. Moreover, organizations need to adapt the methodologies to their needs, and seldom vice-versa.

Considering the Agile Manifesto, it’s difficult to take as serious statements that lack precision, formulations like “we value something over something else” are more of a wish than principles. When people don’t understand what the agile “principles” mean, one occasionally hears statements like “we need no documentation”, “we need no project plan”, “the project plan is not important”, “Change Management doesn’t apply to agile projects” or “we need only high-level requirements because we’ll figure out where we’re going on the way”. Because of the lack of precision, a mocker can variate the lesser concept to null and keep the validity of the agile “principles”.

The agile approaches seem to lack control. If you’re letting the users in charge of the scope then you risk having a product that offers a lot though misses the essential, and thus unusable or usable to a lower degree. Agile works good for prototyping something to show to the users or when the products are small enough to easily fit within an iteration, or when the vendor wants to gain a customer’s trust. Therefore, agile works good with BI projects that combine in general all three aspects.

An abomination is the work in fix sprints or iterations of one or a few weeks, and then chopping the functionality to fit the respective time intervals. If you have the luck of having sign-offs and other activities that steal your time, then the productive time reduces up to 50% (the smaller the iterations the higher the percentage). What’s even unconceivable is that people ignore the time spent with bureaucracy. If this way of working repeats in each iteration then the project duration multiplies by a factor between 2 or 4, the time spent on Project Management increasing by the same factor. What’s not understandable is that despite bureaucracy the adherence to delivery dates, budget and quality is still required.

Sometimes one has the feeling that people think that software development and other IT projects work like building a house or like the manufacturing of a mug. You choose the colors, the materials, the dimensions and voila the product is ready. IT projects involve lot of unforeseen and one must react agilely to it. Here resides one of the most important challenges.

Communication is one important challenge in a project especially when multiple interests are involved. Face-to-face conversation is one of the nice-to-have items on the wish list however in praxis isn’t always possible. One can’t expect that all the resources are available to meet and decide. In addition, one needs to document everything from meeting minutes, to Business Cases and requirements. A certain flexibility in changing the requirements is needed though one can’t change them arbitrarily, there must be a concept behind otherwise the volume of overwork can easily make the budget for a project explode exponentially.

See also:
Agile vs. Lean Organizations
Project Agility under Eyeglasses - Part II
The Butterflies of Project Management

Resources:
[1] Harvard Business Review (2018) Why Agile Goes Awry — and How to Fix It, by Lindsay McGregor & Neel Doshi (Online) Available from: https://hbr.org/2018/10/why-agile-goes-awry-and-how-to-fix-it
[2] Forbes (2012) The Case Against Agile: Ten Perennial Management Objections, by Steve Denning (Online) Available from:
https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2012/04/17/the-case-against-agile-ten-perennial-management-objections/#6df0e6ea3a95
[3] Springer (2018) Do Agile Methods Work for Large Software Projects?, by Magne Jørgensen (Online) Available from:
https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-91602-6_12
[4] Michael O Church (2015) Why “Agile” and especially Scrum are terrible (Online) Available from:
https://michaelochurch.wordpress.com/2015/06/06/why-agile-and-especially-scrum-are-terrible/
[5] Dev.to (2019) Mockery of agile, by Artur Martsinkovskyi (Online) Available from: https://dev.to/arturmartsinkovskyi/mockery-of-agile-5bdf

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