Agile is a buzzword that’s been shaking up project management circles for some time now. It’s hailed as a modern, flexible way of dealing with contemporary, shifting projects, a fresh change from traditional project management practices.
But, at the end of the day, they’re both ways of getting your projects done. How does Agile actually differ from traditional project management approaches? Here are four points that will help you decide if Agile is the right practice for you and your projects.
The main difference between agile project management and traditional models is how tasks are prioritized.
Traditional project management approaches operate in a linear fashion where one phase follows another. The priority is set at the outset of the project and stays consistent throughout, making objectives clearly defined from the start. In traditional project management, the focus is on the process: consistent and reliable, everything is built around that.
Agile, on the other hand, prioritizes two things above all else: flexibility and engagement. The processes are much shorter, constantly refreshing in cycles called iterations, so objectives can be altered and improved throughout the process.
Due to the short-term nature of iterations, one of the biggest advantages of Agile is that customer satisfaction is the focus. Outputs can be quickly sent to customers for feedback, and their responses can be fed into the next iteration, making the very core of the project customer engagement.
In the case of traditional project management, inputs come at the start of the process and are necessarily countable and finite. You know what resources are going in and how you expect that to translate to your outputs.
The problem with this method arises when your project takes on more resources than expected resulting in budget overruns and extended deadlines. Sometimes this is seen as a failure of the team when in reality resource management can be unpredictable and unforeseen.
Agile overcomes these unforeseen hurdles by operating in short-term iterations, meaning resource allocation can be reassessed with each cycle. Rather than a set start-and-finish point, Agile continually restarts and learns from its previous results in a process known as Adaptive Planning. This system does, however, depend on more input from users at each stage, and is a much more involved process than classic project management.
Agile and classic models also deal differently with changing parameters. Traditional project management is focused on a stable and reliable structure, but this means it is often inflexible and unable to account for changes. As mentioned above, this is why traditional project management approaches often encounter difficulties with budgets and deadlines.
Agile, as Jenny Chill, a marketer writer at 1Day2Write and Write My X, puts it, “is all about flexibility. By constantly refreshing itself in iterations, Agile can adapt to shifting deadlines and ballooning budgets.” Agile’s in-built flexibility makes it perfect for projects in the fast-evolving world of tech.
The other side of the coin of flexibility is predictability, and this is not Agile’s strong suit. With the constantly refreshing nature of iterations and the reliance on customer feedback, it can be difficult to predict the outcomes of projects managed through Agile. While this is a great way of generating fresh ideas, it does mean Agile is unsuitable for some types of projects.
This time around, the classic approach takes home the gold. Like Beatrix Potter, a Project Manager at Britstudent and NextCoursework says: “Traditional project management practices are standard for a reason: waterfalls start and end in the same way, from inputs to projects to outcomes.”
At the end of the day, both models have their place, it just depends on the kind of project you want to run. Classic models make sense for projects in which inputs are static and outputs are predictable. It’s great for long-term projects with definitive start and end points.
Agile, on the other hand, is best suited for short to medium-term projects, those that benefit from being repeated and require flexibility. The iterative process eliminates the hours of planning before a project starts, and you won’t lose a whole project’s worth of work when unforeseen challenges arise. Agile can also work well with complex projects, breaking them up into manageable parts.
Michael Dehoyos is a content marketer and editor at PhD Kingdom and Academicbrits. He assists companies in developing their marketing strategy concepts and contributes to numerous sites and publications on project management and U.S. political news. He is also a writer at OriginWritings.
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