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A Beginner's Guide to Agile Project Management
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A Beginner's Guide to Agile Project Management

Agile projects have three times the success rate of traditional projects, making Agile Project Management the leading model in project management today. If you're still starting your project management career or want to land a job in the industry, this guide is for you.

We'll walk you through agile project management, its benefits, core principles and some examples. You'll also learn the most commonly used terms in agile and the essential agile certifications, like the APMG Agile PM Foundation course, that you can get. 

What is Agile in Project Management?

What is Agile in Project Management?

Agile project management is a flexible and iterative approach to managing and delivering projects. Agile was formulated in the early 2000s when software developers recognised the limitations of the traditional software development process.

In 2001, they formulated the Agile Manifesto, outlining principles prioritising flexibility, collaboration, and customer satisfaction over rigid processes. This marked a departure from traditional project management methodologies that often relied on extensive upfront planning and sequential development phases.

Commonly Used Terms in Agile Methodology

In Agile, projects are divided into small increments, commonly known as iterations or sprints. It focuses on continuous feedback and adjustment to ensure customer satisfaction. Some vital technical terms associated with Agile include: 

  • Scrum:A popular Agile framework that divides projects into time-boxed iterations called sprints, with specific roles, ceremonies, and artefacts.

  • Kanban:A visual management method that optimises workflow and limits work in progress, promoting continuous delivery.

  • User Story:A brief description of a feature from an end user's perspective which serves as a unit of work in Agile development.

  • Sprint:A time-boxed iteration in Scrum, typically 2-4 weeks, during which a specific set of backlog items is addressed

  • Backlog:A prioritised list of features, enhancements, and fixes that need attention in a project.

  • Product Owner:The individual responsible for defining and prioritising the product backlog and the customer's interests

  • Daily Stand-up:A brief, daily meeting where team members discuss and track progress, challenges, and plans for the day.

  • Sprint Review:A meeting at the end of a sprint where the team showcases completed work to stakeholders for feedback.

  • Sprint Retrospective:A meeting at the end of a sprint where the team reflects on its performance and identifies areas for improvement.

  • Continuous Integration:A development practice where daily code changes are automatically merged into a shared repository.

  • Burn-down Chart: A visual representation showing the amount of work remaining in a sprint or project over time.

  • Velocity:A measure of the work a team can complete in a sprint. This is used for capacity planning and forecasting.

  • Definition of Done (DoD): A set of criteria must be met for a user story or task to be considered complete.

  • Increment:The sum of all completed backlog items at the sprint's end, representing a potentially shippable product.

  • Burndown Rate:The rate at which work is completed, and the remaining work in a sprint or project decreases, often represented on a burndown chart.

Agile methodologies have expanded beyond software development projects. Today, various industries are choosing agile as organisations seek more responsive and customer-focused project management practices.

Benefits of Adopting Agile

Benefits of Adopting Agile

Agile project management methodology can bring many benefits, from increased project success to reduced risks. Here are some of the significant benefits of agile:

  • Flexibility and Adaptability:Agile methodologies prioritise adaptability to change. This allows teams to respond quickly to evolving requirements, customer feedback, or market conditions.

  • Customer Satisfaction:Agile focuses on delivering minor, incremental project releases, allowing stakeholders to see progress regularly and provide feedback. This ensures that the final product aligns more closely with customer expectations, leading to higher satisfaction.

  • Faster Time to Market:Agile projects are divided into smaller, manageable iterations (sprints) that typically last two to four weeks. This iterative approach enables quicker delivery of functional components, reducing time to market for the overall project.

  • Continuous Improvement:Agile encourages regular retrospectives where teams reflect on their processes and performance. This constant improvement mindset allows teams to identify and address issues promptly.

  • Increased Collaboration: Agile promotes close collaboration among team members, stakeholders, and customers. Communication is frequent, and everyone involved is encouraged to participate in discussions.

  • Reduced Risk and Costs:Agile project management identifies and addresses potential issues early in development. Regular feedback loops and adaptability help manage risks effectively, preventing them from escalating into major problems later in the project. Agile's iterative development approach also allows for better cost control.

  • Empowered Teams:Agile principles empower cross-functional teams to make decisions and take ownership of their work. This autonomy and self-organisation often lead to increased motivation and a sense of ownership among team members.

While Agile offers these benefits, it's important to note that the success of an Agile implementation depends on factors such as development teams' commitment, effective communication, and organisational support.

Fundamental Principles behind Agile

Fundamental Principles behind Agile

The Agile Manifesto outlines four core values and twelve principles that are the foundation for Agile methodologies. They are as follows:

Agile Values:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools: Emphasises the importance of people and effective communication within a team.

Working software over comprehensive documentation: Prioritises delivering a functional product rather than focusing solely on extensive documentation.

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation: Encourages active engagement with customers to understand and meet their evolving needs.

Responding to change over following a plan: Acknowledges the inevitability of change and values adaptability in response to new insights or requirements.

Agile Principles:

  • Satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  • Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer's competitive advantage.
  • Deliver working software frequently, with a preference for shorter timescales.
  • Collaborate with customers and stakeholders throughout the project.
  • Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to do the job.
  • Use face-to-face communication whenever possible.
  • Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  • Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  • Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  • Simplicity—the art of maximising the amount of work not done—is essential.
  • The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organising teams.
  • The team regularly reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.

These principles and values guide Agile teams in their approach to project management.

Key Phases and Lifecycle in Agile Projects

Key Phases and Lifecycle in Agile Projects

In Agile project management, the approach typically lacks fixed phases, contrasting traditional methodologies. Despite this flexibility, most Agile projects generally adhere to a lifecycle that has the following key phases:

  • Concept:During the Concept phase, initial ideas are thoroughly discussed and prioritised. This is the stage where the project vision is identified, and the potential return on investment (ROI) is assessed.

  • Inception:Moving into the Inception phase, the project team members are identified, and initial resources and environments are allocated. This is when the initial requirements solidify, providing a clear understanding of what needs to be developed.

  • Iteration (or Construction):The core of the Agile process lies in the Iteration or Construction phase. The development team operates in short cycles or iterations, delivering functional software. Each iteration focuses on a specific set of functionalities based on prioritised tasks and feedback from preceding iterations.

  • Release:Once features are built and tested in an iteration, they undergo preparation for release. This involves Quality Assurance (QA) testing, internal, and sometimes external training, and documentation development. Ultimately, the features are deployed to production.

  • Maintenance:Following the release of a new feature set, the project enters the Maintenance phase. Here, the software is vigilantly monitored for bugs and issues, and any necessary updates or fixes are promptly implemented.

  • Retirement:In the event that a product reaches the end of its life, the project progresses to the Retirement phase. During this stage, the software is retired, and resources are redirected to new projects.

    It's important to remember that Agile is flexible, and the specific phases and activities may vary among specific Agile project management methodologies and the project itself.

4 Frameworks of Agile

Most people use Agile framework and Agile methodology interchangeably. Agile methodology refers to the broader philosophy that guides Agile development. It encompasses a set of values and principles that shape how a team approaches their work. Examples of this include the Agile Manifesto and Agile principles.

On the other hand, Agile framework is a more specific implementation of Agile methodology. It provides a structure with defined roles, practices, and tools that help teams implement Agile values into action. In short, Agile methodology is the foundation, while Agile framework is the structure that helps teams put it into practice.

Here are the most popular frameworks of Agile:

1.Scrum

The most well-known Agile framework is Scrum, used by 61% of respondents from 76 countries, as stated in a recent survey. Scrum is a widely adopted Agile project management framework that follows an iterative and Incremental approach to project management. 

It involves distinct roles, including the Scrum Master, Product Owner, Development Team, and ceremonies like Sprint Planning, Daily Stand-up, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective. Scrum's strength lies in its flexibility, transparency, and the regular delivery of a potentially shippable product increment.

However, its learning curve can be challenging for teams new to Agile, and there may be better fits for projects with highly uncertain requirements. At e-Careers, we offer the BCS EXIN Practitioner Certificate in Agile Scrum Master and the CS EXIN Foundation Certificate in Agile Scrum.

2. Kanban

Kanban, a visual management method, focuses on visualising work, limiting work progress, and maximising flow. Teams use a visual board where tasks move through different columns representing various stages, and work-in-progress limits help maintain a steady flow. Kanban is admired for its adaptability to different project types, efficiency in continuous delivery, and simplicity. Nevertheless, it may lack the defined structure in other frameworks, making it less suitable for projects requiring detailed planning.

3. Extreme Programming (XP)

Extreme Programming (XP) is an Agile framework prioritising collaboration, feedback, and engineering best practices. Practices like pair programming, test-driven development (TDD), and continuous integration are integral to XP.

Its focus on quality, adaptability to changing requirements, and frequent communication through pair programming stands out. However, XP has a learning curve, particularly in adopting new development practices, and some practices, like pair programming, can be resource-intensive.

4. Lean

Lean, an Agile framework inspired by lean manufacturing principles, aims to maximise value delivery by eliminating waste and optimising efficiency. Lean software development includes value stream mapping to identify and optimise value delivery and the principle of just-in-time to minimise inventory and deliver value when needed.

Lean is appreciated for its efficiency, customer focus, and adaptability, but implementing Lean principles can be complex, and it often requires a significant cultural shift within organisations.

These Agile frameworks offer diverse approaches to agile software development. Choosing the right framework depends on the specific needs, constraints, and preferences of the project team and the organisation. At e-Careers, we offer training on Lean Six Sigma Green Belt ISO 18404, Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt and Lean Six Sigma Black Belt ISO 18404.

Essential Tools and Software for Agile Project Management

Essential Tools and Software for Agile Project Management

1. Jira

Jira, developed by Atlassian, stands out as one of the most extensively used Agile project management tools. It provides robust features for backlog management, sprint planning, and real-time collaboration.

Known for its versatility, Jira supports various Agile methodologies, including Scrum and Kanban. Its highly customisable nature allows teams to tailor their workflows, but this flexibility comes with a steeper learning curve, making it a powerful choice for larger, complex projects.

2. Trello

Trello is a widely embraced visual project management tool. It utilises boards, lists, and cards to facilitate organisation and prioritisation of work. Its intuitive and user-friendly interface makes it particularly suitable for smaller teams or less complex projects.

While it excels in simplicity and ease of use, Trello may lack some advanced features in more comprehensive tools, making it an ideal choice for straightforward project tracking and collaboration.

3. Asana

Asana is a versatile project management tool that supports Agile methodologies, providing features for task management, project timelines, and collaboration. With a user-friendly interface, Asana facilitates robust task and project tracking, making it a suitable choice for teams of various sizes. Its integration capabilities with multiple apps enhance its flexibility, but users may encounter a steeper learning curve when delving into extensive customisation options.

4. Monday.com

Monday.com is a visual work operating system streamlining project workflows with customisable boards, timelines, and automation features. Its intuitive and visually appealing design makes it user-friendly, while its flexibility allows adaptation to different project needs. While it may incur costs for larger teams, Monday.com offers integration options with various third-party tools, adding to its appeal as a comprehensive project management solution.

Free Agile Tools:

  • 1. Agilefant

    Agilefant is an open-source Agile project management tool that supports Scrum and Kanban methodologies. Offering features for backlog management, sprint planning, and reporting, Agilefant is a cost-effective solution for teams seeking Agile project management capabilities without financial constraints.

  • 2. Taiga

    Taiga, an open-source project management platform, caters to Agile developers and designers. With features for backlog management, sprint planning, and collaboration, Taiga provides a flexible solution for teams working within an open-source environment.

  • 3. ClickUp

    ClickUp is a comprehensive project management tool offering a free plan with Agile features. Supporting task management, time tracking, and integrations, ClickUp provides a user-friendly interface for teams seeking a versatile Agile project management solution without a significant financial commitment.

    These tools cater to a diverse range of project management needs. However, choosing the best tool depends on the project team's specific requirements, preferences, and size. Many of these tools offer free plans, allowing your teams to explore their features and functionalities before committing.

Agile Project Management Certifications

Agile Project Management Certifications

Several Agile project management certifications are created for beginners. These courses provide foundational Agile project management knowledge and skills. Here are some of the most famous and beginner-friendly Agile certifications:

1. AgilePM Foundation and Practitioner (APMG)

The APMG Agile Project Management Foundation course is designed to provide a basic understanding of Agile processes. It covers the essential concepts, principles, advantages and disadvantages of Agile Project Management. The training also explores the DSDM framework, including roles, responsibilities and products.

With the foundation course, you get to understand the theory. However, if you want to leverage and manage Agile projects, you need to enrol in the APMG Agile Project Management Practitioner course. This is where you apply what you have learned in the foundational level.

These certifactions are suitable for individuals holding positions such as Agile Team Members, Team Leaders, Agile Project Managers, or Software Development Managers.

Prerequisites: There are no specific requirements for the Foundation certification course.

Delivery Method: e-Careers offer this course both through eLearning platform and virtual classroom.

2. PRINCE2® Agile Foundation and Practitioner (PeopleCert on behalf of AXELOS)

PRINCE2® Agile Foundationis a combination of the structured approach of PRINCE2® and the flexible and responsive approach of Agile. It is designed for Project Managers and their teams who are already familiar with PRINCE2® but want to leverage the advantages of Agile methodologies. The course covers key concepts related to PRINCE2®, and how PRINCE2® principles, themes, processes, and management products can be customised or implemented in an Agile environment.

After learning the basics, you can advance your career by taking the PRINCE2® Agile Practitioner certification.

Prerequisites: No prerequisites are required for taking the Foundation courses.

Delivery Method: Classes are held through e-Careers virtual classrooms.

3. Foundation and Practitioner Certificate in Agile Scrum (BCS EXIN)

The BCS Exin Foundation Certificate in Agile Scrum is a unique certification that combines Agile service management methods with Scrum development frameworks. This programme offers a complete approach to implementing Agile practices throughout your company. Furthermore, this Agile training certificate provides you with the knowledge, tools, and skills needed to lead change and deliver top-notch products and services.

Prerequisites: Taking the Foundation course requires no prerequisites.

Delivery Method: Training is done through virtual classrooms.

4. Practitioner Certificate in Agile Scrum Master (BCS EXIN)

The training course provided by BCS on Agile Scrum Master equips individuals with the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively use Agile framework and Scrum methodology in their work. This methodology is widely used in the software development industry for continuous corrections and modifications throughout the project.

However, the other industries are also using agile methodologies. The Agile Scrum qualification program by BCS offers a Practitioner certificate in Agile Scrum Master certification which focuses on helping individuals adopt Agile or Scrum methodologies in their workplace and become professional Scrum masters. The certification enables individuals to qualify for positions like Professional Scrum Master, Agile Product Owner, or Programme Manager.

Prerequisites: A BCS Foundation Certificate is required to take the course.

Delivery Method: The course is taught through e-Careers virtual classrooms.

How to get started with Agile Project Management

If your team or organisation wants to get started with Agile project management, you can begin by consulting with project management experts, like e-Careers, to choose the best course of action. Once you connect with us, our team of industry specialists will then help you decide which certification is best according to your career aspirations.

You can proceed in choosing from our various Agile courses such as AgilePM Foundation and Practitioner, and PRINCE2® Agile Foundation and Practitioner. These courses will help you kickstart your career even if you don't have any prior experience.

Furthermore, e-Careers partners with reputable accreditation bodies which ensure that your training is globally recognised. With over 625,000 successfully trained professionals, we are committed to helping you achieve your professional goals. Contact us at +44 (0) 20 3198 7700 or email us at ask@e-careers.com to unlock new opportunities and achieve your goals.

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