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Agile Project Management: Course Review

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By: Sheane Jayne

May 8, 2020

In every project, the common end-goal is to produce or create value for the organization. What kind of value you may ask? One that creates a beneficial business impact by giving clients what they want or by providing them with the right solutions to meet their current needs.

One of the many courses that Cybrary recently rolled out recently is Agile Project Management (Agile PM). It gives learners some insight into the origins, best practices and applications in software development, and the widely-used types of Agile Methodologies.

The Values of Agile

Agile brings considerably more value than the previous traditionally known Waterfall model, as it provided better ways of developing software through means of the actual development of a product/service coupled with close interactions and involvement with the customers.

The course discusses five “modern flavors” of Agile:

  • Scrum:

A framework commonly used in projects that aims to complete as much work as possible by using sprints (a short period of time of typically 2-4 weeks long). A product backlog or a list of items to do is created by the Product Owner, items will then be prioritized, and an estimated schedule is decided when an item will be completed. Take the following example of a company moving to a new office. A backlog is created to determine the objects to be moved. A sprint could be determining the placement of network access points.

A team will analyze and test the wireless signal strength at each room of the new office. After testing, the team realizes few wireless repeaters need to be purchased to reach certain rooms where the wireless signals are weak. Although this sprint is complete, the team needs to update the Product Owner on their findings of what was completed, what went wrong, and what needs improvement. The purchase of new wireless repeaters can be considered as a new sprint to be added to the backlog.

  • Lean:

An approach that aims to reduce waste and provide continuous improvement in project workflows and processes. For example, a development team has created a finished asset-tracking product based on initial requirements and then presented to management. The management will then present their feedback on what they like, what they do not like, and possible suggestions on additional features.

This then iterates until the management signs off on the agreed finished product. By developing the asset-tracking system, the facilities team in the organization to improve their work productivity in their asset and inventory management, and reduce waste that originally caused time-sink, lack of visibility in inventory, or input-errors affecting data integrity.

  • Extreme Programming (XP):

A framework that is believed to achieve a more productive setup and more value to clients by creating smaller work packages from a work task. It also focuses on using the simplest coding, whereby code is reusable and has the least number of lines. XP can improve software development by adapting to changing user requirements.

Let’s say a software company is developing a new HRMS for a customer. After gathering the initial requirements, a programming team will work on developing a feature, e.g. allowing employees to create leave request applications. After creating the initial leave form and presenting to the customer the basic features such as type of leave (annual, sick, unpaid, etc.), date of leave, and leave approval (only editable by the Supervisor); the customer may input additional features such as options for half-day leaves and enabling files to be uploaded. The programming team then works on this, possibly in a pair programming style, and then is presented again to the customer. This style of feedback, program, and presentation will continue until the customer finally approves the working feature.

  • Dynamic System Development Method (DSDM):

A framework that is often considered to be the more viable option for non-IT projects as it can work well with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9000 and PRINCE2. DSDM aims to deliver projects within schedule and budget. Projects will progress incrementally following a form of governance structure (similar to the Waterfall methodology) for the requirements and planning phase, and project execution will follow the agile mindset. Business owners and stakeholders influence the decision of what can be included in a project scope.

For example, a team is assigned to work on upgrading a customer’s network infrastructure. Documentations have been submitted to management and budget approvals from the board of directors. As the project progresses, DSDM executes the agile approach when customers request for changes in the initial project scope. The team will then discuss among themselves and with management to approve the change request. The change may only be implemented if it is considered important in delivering value to the customer and will not compromise the quality of the service, and the agreed-upon project time and budget.

  • Kanban:

A technique that provides visualization in a project workflow. Commonly, post-it notes are placed on a board and can be categorized as pending, in-progress, to verify, and complete. This allows team members to be more productive because they can pick and choose tasks to do instead of relying on the project manager to assign them new tasks. An IT service desk can use Kanban as a good practice workflow when handling multiple customer tickets concurrently.

Tickets are opened by customers, usually for inquiries or reporting issues. Agents in the service desk will handle a ticket, and select the ones with high priority. When the ticket is resolved, the agent will need to verify with the customer to close the ticket. Once the customer confirms, the agent can then close the ticket, which indicates the completion of this task and then work on another pending open ticket.

Although each flavor has its own style of principles and execution, they do overlap each other and generally include team collaboration; a minimum viable product (MVP) or the must-have features that can go to market/basic features that the clients currently need; and the continuous developments of the product. All of which brings about the value to the clients.

Should I adapt to Agile?

A common misconception around the concept of Agile is the idea that it could very much be the right solution for you because many organizations are implementing this type of methodology. In reality, however, it depends on proper planning and execution. Agile is dynamic, and with different techniques and frameworks under its umbrella, it can be made to cater to the best practices in your organization by helping to ensure workflow processes create a realization of value.

In other words, allowing the minimum viable product to be marketed as quickly as possible to customers that need them, and without compromising quality. It is important to fully understand the agile methodology, and remember, you can choose or combine the techniques that are best appropriate or applicable to your organization.

Do not be afraid of failing

This is one of the many eye-openers in the course, where it reminds learners that failure is not always a bad thing. Although it may be known to many individuals, it takes time to accept this as a norm in project management.

With failures, you open yourself to opportunities for improvement and create new baselines for your next projects.

Summary and what next?

Agile methodology aims to produce a realization of value for an organization by utilizing resources more efficiently in a time effective and cost-effective manner. It has different options like Scrum, Lean, XP, DSDM, and Kanban, which cater to different work-flow environments, and in every new development stage, there are lessons learned and continuous improvement. However, careful thought and consideration of existing policies and workflows must be taken into account before deciding to integrate Agile within an organization.

Cybrary is a fantastic platform to help develop further in the IT and cybersecurity field. It offers numerous great courses and labs, where you can broaden your knowledge and develop new skills in this continually growing industry. You may create an account and enroll for the Agile PM course, or many other courses of interest.

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