Seven priorities to obtain project agility

Agility is considered as one of the key success factors of development projects. Many are embracing for agility, but what do we exactly mean by it? Let´s dig deeper into anatomy of being rapid, fluent and clever at the same time. As a result, we can conclude the critical factors of managing projects in an agile manner.

1.Project methodology

Development method gives the guidelines for applying agility in the method specific way. Development approach may be the most critical decision for achieving project agility.

Scrum, DevOps, SAFe, SIAM and CJSims are examples of approaches that underline agile setting.

  • In Scrum, agility is embedded in the sprint mode. Scrum is made of solution iterations that boost project fluency. Also, the roles setting of planning team should support the project flow. 
  • With DevOps (Development + Operations), agility results from stepwise releases and continuous concept upgrade mode.
  • SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) enhances agility by creating special attention to project steering, prioritization and validation processes.
  • SIAM (Service Integration and Management) unites the roles and processes between service providers and discusses the ways to manage the portfolio of business partners.  
  • With simulations (e.g. CJSims, customer journey simulations), the project sprints are iterations between co-ideation and prototyping. This is a fast and concrete way to early and concrete results, also for quick testing – and enabler for concept upgrades and people commitment during the design phase. Accordingly, this enhances fluent deployment.

2. Commitment of project members

No method can guarantee that the project team is fully committed to the project. Commitment is primarily a management issue and needs to be paid attention to before project kick-off. Team commitment enables high project involvement, faster results and quality of the output of planning sessions. Accordingly, prominent support from project steering group is one of the prerequisites for reaching agility. 

3. Management by project dashboard

Large projects need to be managed with dashboards.  These are combinations of quantitative, and qualitative project status factors with frequent milestones. For clever project heads, dashboards are means to apply proactive steering – support in project communications – and tool for easy reporting and quick steps ahead.    

4. Handovers management

In practice, majority of project delays take place as the programs move from one phase to the next one: from design to development – or from development to coding and testing, from testing to deployment, or from deployment to market release.

Why do the delays happen at handovers? Often, because the resources for the next stage are not confirmed. Or the briefings for the new project members are not done. In theory, this should not be a major case in incremental project settings, as they are, by definition, agile methods. But in practice, handover situations are the most common pitfall of reaching project agility.

5. Early commercial planning: testing and piloting

Does the project have a predefined and fit-for-purpose testing methodology? If yes, this will speed up. If no, much time may be lost.  

The big issue may be in finding customers for testing the pilot version. Too often, testing and piloting are being planned far too late. Consider, how long will the delay be, if a ready concept or service does not have an idea about piloting customers?

6. Internal marketing

Before releasing the new concept, service or product, sales and delivery teams need to be ready for market entry: new knowledge is needed; full commitment is required. Coaching of the launch team brings agility to working with the first customers. As much as we need the new concept or service to be ready for the market, we need excitedness from own organization.

7. Rolling Go-to-Market

The design and development phases may have had excellent team, speed, enthusiasm and fluency. But the last mile often brings clumsiness – in the go-to-market phase. The brilliant product or service does not have committed internal team or proper budget – nor precise market roll out plan. Or even product owner.     

Practice has shown that the earlier project teams start to design the go-to-market phase, the better the market entry becomes. In this case, the concept was created with stronger customer orientation.   

Conclusions

All of the seven factors are key opportunities for making the project fly – but also owing high probability to get stuck. Although development approach or method may be the key factor for enabling agility, the problems most often occur in handover situations. Therefore, my thesis is:

To reach project agility, special attention needs to be paid for handovers between design, development, software / market testing, deployment and go-to-market.   

Written by Hannu Mattinen, hannu.mattinen <at> stepsahead.fi . I would be glad to get your comments for the blog.

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