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Using Agile Project Management Outside of the IT Sector
By Michelle Symonds

The agile approach to project management techniques has proven itself to be a time and money saving strategy with the flexibility to keep up with rapid changes in the modern world. It has taken the IT industry by storm and is now the preferred method of managing projects in many of the biggest software and product developer’s offices all over the world. However, agile has a place in all sorts of industries as a means of managing projects more effectively.

What has agile done for IT?

The agile concept was first presented in 2001 when a group of software developers published the ‘agile manifesto’. This was developed in response to many of the shortcomings of the more traditional ‘waterfall’ style of project management, and was presented as a solution to some of the problems they had experienced in software development projects.

Since then, agile has become the ‘norm’ in the majority of IT project environments, and has allowed businesses to cut development times by a reported 25 – 50 per cent. The concept breaks down a project into bite size sections and allows each completed section to be reviewed by the wider project management team and stakeholders. This allows for collet vice feedback to be incorporated into the next step and for more robust testing to take place throughout the project delivery.

Why choose agile for your next project

The waterfall method is tried and tested, and in some situations where things have to be performed in a certain sequence, such as building a bridge or erecting scaffolding, it is the only management technique to use. However, in other projects the limitations of this method could leave you feeling frustrated and bogged down. The main issues with waterfall project management are:

  • Sequences are performed in order, sections cannot be revisited without starting the whole thing over.
  • The end product is defined at the start of the project: if new technologies or developments come about during project delivery it is impossible to include these in the product.

  • If changes are made during the project, the consequences will often be late delivery and budget overspends.

  • Testing is reserved until the end, so if one component of the delivery fails, the entire product can be flawed.

By contrast, the agile method of project management works in small stages rather than one big sequence. Projects get broken down into small, bite size chunks, and each ‘chunk’ is worked on a small sprints, usually lasting around one to four weeks. This makes it perfect for environments where changes to the project come thick and fast. At the end of each sprint, the project team test, review and feedback on progress so far, allowing suggestions and changes to be incorporated to the next stage of development.

The end result is a more flexible project management approach that allows for modification in order to keep up with changes to the industry, and ensures the end product is still useful and relevant to the client. In a world where a new social network pops up every other week, and technology moves at a lightening pace, every project manager can learn something from the agile methodology about successful project management.

Michelle Symonds is a qualified PRINCE2 Project Manager and believes that the right project management training can transform a good project manager into a great project manager and is essential for a successful outcome to any project.

There is a wide range of formal and informal training courses now available that include online learning and podcasts as well as more traditional classroom courses from organizations such as Parallel Project Training.

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