Posted on: August 14, 2018

Traditional and Agile project management, why should the differences matter?

Traditional and Agile project management, why should the differences matter?

Students often ask about agile project management, and why there is so much hype about it. Learning about traditional project management, they say, ‘is tough enough…’ My general response is always to gently ask students to share what they really know about traditional project management – in detail. Why is this? I am convinced that by first demonstrating deep enough understanding of traditional project management precepts and practice approach can the student truly grasp the fundamental practice approach enshrined in the Agile Manifesto. The Manifesto – a declarative pontification and raison d’être for agile mindset rationally differentiates why traditional project management practical approaches may not be suitable for software development projects.

The Scope:

The project scope provides a straight forward identification of what we are ask to do on the project, in great detail. For example, if we are here to construct a highway, an airport, a hotel, or a doghouse in the backyard, remodel the bathroom or kitchen…, a traditional approach is our choice without a doubt. On the other hand, if we are here to develop an application package, say a software product that automates our payroll system, manages our inventory system, regulates the ambient temperature in the office…, the agile approach is eminently suitable. 

Variety within the approaches:

There are scores of methodologies in each area – traditional and agile. Whereas the Waterfall project management approach sits on the fence between traditional and agile, when we say that a project management approach is traditional, we simply mean that in this practice we spend a lot of time in the planning stage, and that the entire effort is predicated on processes, activity sequencing, use of tools and techniques, create tons of documentation, and work within constraints to produce project outcomes that are almost ‘set-in-stone’, etc. Flexibility, workable software, early involvement of the customer are the hallmarks of agile project management mindset, with four crucial values and twelve principles that guide the work.

Additional factors:

There are additional factors that we often consider when selecting a suitable methodology within the approach. More than the traditional project management, the agile management approach presents multiple methods based on project unique to with. Call these methods flavors. So for example, traditional project management in a manufacturing setting using extreme project management (XPM) flavor would be conducted in slightly different way that if they employ the theory of constraint (TOC) as the method. Similarly in agile, we are also faced with the choice of utilizing Kanban, Scrum, or another. The project profile almost always determine how we must proceed.

In closing this post, our takeaway clarifies that the overriding factor is simpler at the beginning than later. Is the project deliverable an airport, hotel, or doghouse in the backyard? Is it a software package that automates our medical records? The real challenge is which flavor would best inform the practice such that we achieve the project objective on time, and yes, on budget.

Heads up!

When next we meet, let us talk about project management careers of the future. You’ll be amazed what is ahead of you!

See you next time for more insights.