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Agile Project Management vs Traditional Project Management

What Is Scrum? An Overview of the Agile Framework for Effective Team Collaboration

Agile Project Management focuses on frequent value delivery and fast feedback to quickly adapt to emerging change. As a result of the flexibility of the approach and its effectiveness, the Agile way of managing work has become increasingly popular.

MetaPM provides a perspective on both agile and traditional project management within this article. Identifying and clarifying the delivery context in these terms can lead to more effective delivery and better outcomes. Let's take a look at the Agile way of thinking first. 


What is Agile Project Management?

Agile Project Management is a methodology that emphasises flexibility, collaboration, and customer satisfaction. It is an iterative approach to project management, where projects are broken down into smaller, more manageable pieces delivered in short sprints. 

This approach allows changes to be made quickly and easily, making Agile Project Management more fluid and responsive to change than traditional project management, which focuses on creating a detailed project plan upfront and then executing that plan. Agile teams prioritise continuous improvement and value delivery over following a fixed agenda.

In his book Agile Project Management, Jim Highsmith identifies "a need for a new approach to project management that comes from the accelerating pace of business and market change, and the trend towards large and distributed agile projects involving many teams. Agile Project Management answers a transformational need for project management to move faster, be more flexible, and be more responsive to customers changing needs. It brings together a set of principles, practices and performance measures that fit this context."

Highsmith proposes that "building innovative products, processes and business models requires a new approach to project management with the following objectives:

  1. Continuous innovation; to deliver on current customer needs (problem-solving)
  2. Product adaptability; to deliver on future customer needs and requirements
  3. Improved time-to-market; to meet market windows and organisational timeframes and improve return on investment
  4. People and process adaptability; rapidly responding to product and business change
  5. Reliable results; to support business growth and profitability.”


Key Differences Between Agile and Traditional Project Management

The table below is MetaPM’s high-level summary of key differences between Agile Project Management and traditional Project Management:


Agile Project Management

Traditional Project Management

Organisational Need

  • Organisation needs to be responsive to changing customer and market needs. 
  • Effective outcomes will require innovative approaches to solve problems.
  • More certainty exists on requirements and solutions.
  • A more stable scope.

Delivery Context 

  • Multiple agile teams. 
  • Leadership that is supportive of the transition to agile. 
  • Organisation is not ready to transition to agility in any meaningful way.

Project Manager characteristics 

  • Experience and high competence in agile delivery. 
  • May be competent in traditional project management, but passionate about agility, and this is where their desired career pathway lies. 
  • Experience and high competence in traditional project management disciplines. 
  • Some understanding of agility may be required, but they shine in more traditional environments.


Benefits of Agile Project Management

Improved Product Quality: As a crucial component of Agile Project Management, testing is vital to running a project from start to finish, resulting in an end product of higher quality.

Enhanced Customer Satisfaction: Unlike traditional frameworks, an Agile framework includes the customer in the decision-making process, leading to increased customer satisfaction and retention.

Increased Project Control: An Agile methodology provides transparency, integrates regular feedback, and utilises quality-control features, allowing managers to exercise better control over the project.

Reduced Risks: Agile's focus on continuous delivery in small sprints ensures that “failures” happen early and can be leveraged for learning. Breaking a project into sprints allows for early detection of possible issues and creates the opportunity for salvageable parts to be used in the future.


Agile Project Management in a Hybrid Environment

What is a Hybrid Environment? 

A hybrid environment will likely have the following characteristics:

  • The organisation is transitional. Historically, projects were delivered using Waterfall methods, which the organisation is more comfortable with. However, the desire is to apply more agility to the work (continuous improvement, not radical transformation).
  • There are agile ways of working at varying maturity levels at the team level. However, the delivery method is more traditional outside of the team (e.g. approach to governance).

A Project Manager in this environment would benefit from having:

  • A strong delivery focus; is comfortable working in a hybrid environment because they are driven by delivering outstanding outcomes within the client context.
  • They have Project Management experience in both Agile and Waterfall environments.
  • They take a mature and all-encompassing collaborative project management approach to risks, change, adaptive planning, and stakeholder and people engagement.

Agile Project Management in a High-Maturity Agile Environment

What is a High-Maturity Agile Environment? 

A high-maturity agile environment will likely have the following characteristics:

  • The organisation is reasonably mature in agile working methods. They have managed to scale agility across multiple teams and departments and have supportive and understanding leadership.

The Agile PM will be:

  • Working across multiple teams, helping to improve the effectiveness of those teams in solving customer problems
  • Involved in governance and interfacing into portfolio level and using this greater sphere of influence to resolve impediments
  • Supporting leadership in identifying and implementing system-level improvements

A Project Manager in this environment would benefit from having:

  • A servant-leader mindset; wants teams and organisations to be successful (not driven by ego).
  • Ability to coach at team and manager levels. However, understand that this role requires a strong delivery focus.
  • A deep-down desire to continuously learn and adapt.

Is Agile Project Management the Right Choice?

Agile Project Management is a popular approach organisations use to deliver projects quickly and efficiently. But is it the right fit for your organisation? Below are some factors to consider.

Factors to Consider

The Complexity of Projects: Agile Project Management is best suited to complex projects with high uncertainty. Consider if your organisation frequently works on projects involving technology, rapidly changing requirements, or a high degree of customer involvement.

Organisational Culture: Agile Project Management requires a culture open to change, collaboration, and continuous improvement. Implementing Agile may be problematic if your organisation has a hierarchical structure, siloed teams, or resistance to change.

Client Engagement: Agile Project Management emphasises continuous client involvement and feedback throughout the project lifecycle. Your organisation may benefit from Agile if you value client input and feedback.


Final Thoughts

In summary, the key to effective Agile Project Management is understanding the context in which the Agile Project Manager must operate. Agile Project Management can be a practical approach for organisations looking to deliver projects quickly, efficiently, and with high customer satisfaction. Get in touch to learn more about Agile Project Management and how MetaPM can help your organisation implement this approach effectively.

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