If you are serious about Project Management, you may be pretty much up-to-date in your professional best practices and market trends. So you must have realized that the word “Agile” has been receiving a lot of attention lately. As well as expressions such as Agile Project Management, Agile methodology, Agile mindset… Also Disciplined Agile.
Being an experienced project manager, having accumulated successful stories of projects delivered on time and within budget, you now realize that there is a new set of words and concepts in the industry that you want to be familiar with. A trend. Agile is definitely something that people are talking more and more about.
So you conclude that Agile is here to replace the traditional (or predictive, waterfall) project management practices. Agile is then better than the old school practices that you’ve studied some (long) time ago and have been applying to your projects.
Agile approaches are more fluid than predictive approaches; they seem to have the ability to deliver value to the customer faster and to adapt to changes more quickly too and there are indeed very appealing attributes that catch people’s attention.
Agile practices suit well certain types of projects — but not all. Projects that deal with research, technology to be created, developed or discovered, software development, innovation and projects delivering knowledge-based, intangible or “invisible” products can greatly benefit from the agile mindset.
On the other hand, projects that need to count on proven architecture, that have a firm scope and need to be very well controlled for various reasons (budgets, contractual obligations, timesheets…) will be better served with predictive approaches.
Applying an agile approach to a project that deals with known technology may ruin it, add unnecessary costly processes and undermine relationships. Think about a bridge (the typical example of a predictive project): at the end of the day, you want people to be able to get from one side of the river to the other with a certain level of standards that are non-negotiable. Applying agile methodologies to this type of project may not be the ideal. At least, organizations (public and private ones) as we know are not yet ready for that.
Agile practices are better than predictive ones when we are dealing with projects with lots of uncertainty and when changes can be welcome and embraced. These projects will see a huge improvement when shifting from Gantt to Kanban charts.
On the other hand, Agile project management practices can be worse than predictive practices when you try to apply them to projects that have a well-defined scope upfront and where the work environment is not aligned with the agile mindset.
Do you want to get the best of both worlds? Think hybrid. This is the real trend you should be looking at. Knowing when to apply which technique is the skill of the future in the project management world. Don’t worry about frameworks, there are dozens of them out there. The key is to choose wisely which one works for you and tailor your process to your specific needs.