Agile project management has hundreds of potential applications in today’s economy, everything from software development to advertising. While agile thinking was developed for the IT industry, it was never designed to be restricted to a single purpose. The benefits of agile project management are hard to overstate, especially when it comes to enterprise-level projects. While adequate project governance requires extensive project management training, the benefits of this are immense and is a must for any business that wants to remain profitable in the modern economy.
Enterprise project overview
What is an enterprise level project you ask? Well that’s simple: it’s a project that effects your entire organization, from the humble employee all the way to upper management. Enterprise projects may include complex tasks such as replacing a business finance and payroll system, for example. A task such as this doesn’t just affect the accounting department, it can affect how you purchase, how you sell and how you maintain inventory and deliver products. Another, simpler example may be moving from one office complex to another. Regardless of what shape your business-project takes, there’s an agile solution to make the process just that much easier.
Before we address how agile can serve your business needs, let’s look at some of the challenges presented by enterprise-level projects:
- Enterprise projects are often underestimated
When projects demand a change in behavior those effected will view it with changing perspectives. Changing project scope is an inevitable side-effect of enterprise-level projects. Those estimates and opinions formed at the start of the project may start falling victim to these changing perspectives and can have major ramifications including scope creep and budgeting issues.
- The ‘wholesale’ mentality
During enterprise change, it’s tempting for those involved to start viewing the project as their chance to make changes they deem necessary. Don’t let other ‘piggyback’ their ideas onto a larger project. Stick to the plan and prevent scope-creep at all costs.
- Over-reliance on technology
With all the apps and software at our disposal in the modern age, it’s always tempting to try solve every issue with the addition of more advanced technology. This can quickly lead to projects becoming focused on the implantation of new software rather than a concrete deliverable. Make sure to articulate exactly what it is your business needs to complete an enterprise-level project during the initiation phase and stick to the plan.
How can agile support enterprise-level projects?
Many organizations utilize agile as the primary method for developing and governing enterprise projects. The most obvious benefit of agile is the iterative release of end-to-end functioning products. This allows customers and business owners to start seeing returns on each completed phase of development. As each stage is completed, the quality of subsequent stages is likely to improve.
A less obvious advantage of agile project environments is the integration of consumer feedback into the development process. Those involved in development can use said feedback to continuously improve their development strategy as the project progresses.
These advantages aren’t just limited to the development of products and can be quite easily applied to projects where there is no clearly defined end-user. We don’t recommend that you adopt an agile approach for the purpose of developing a single enterprise project. The integration of agile into existing management structures is an enterprise-level project in itself and requires months of preparation and training.
Agile is most commonly used to supplement more traditional project management methods. Implementing agile in this way means you don’t have to restructure your entire business but can still drastically improve the manner in which projects are governed and executed.
Here are just a few aspects of agile project management that can be seamlessly integrated into existing management practices with a minimum of fuss:
A sprint is a short mini project that lasts just a few days. Tasks from the project backlog are assigned developers and said developers are given the tools necessary to do their job. Breaking larger projects into smaller tasks allows work to be tightly monitored while giving developers a large degree of freedom to accomplish goals within the sprint.
- Mutli-tasking teams
Development teams of yester-year tended to group together workers who shared a similar set of skills. Agile methods dictate that development teams should rather be comprised of teams with a wide variety of skills and disciplines. Cross-functional teams operate with greater efficiency and remove the risks associated from developing a product in a vacuum. All too often siloed teams emerge from their cubicles to find that their months of work have been made redundant by work completed by other siloed teams.
User stories give a narrative of a business problem and are distinct from use-cases. While the latter are often used in traditional project development, user-stories are almost entirely absent from non-agile projects and yet, are incredibly useful. A user-story helps outline why change is occurring in the first place. All too often, projects are completed, and solutions implanted without a fundamental understating of what the initial problem was. When you create a user-story, you describe clearly what the problem is and how it can be overcome. This helps projects from becoming an end unto themselves and ensures that they always serve a larger business goal.
How to implement Agile methods
The first and most obvious step of successfully implementing agile methods in your enterprise projects is to ensure your project managers are trained in the latest agile methods and theory. Luckily, modern software allows for business to accomplish this quickly and easily.
AgileKRC offers both self-study online and virtual agile course so you can get your development teams up to speed as quickly as possible.
Beyond this, business owners need to stay informed of the latest trends in project management methodology. You’ll find numerous sources of information online such as the PRINCE2 blog.
Finally, you’ll need to consider how to adapt agile methods to suit your unique context and the challenges your organization faces. Agile can rarely be implemented without major adjustments made to accommodate the current work environment. It may be wise to seek the advice of an external consultant to aid in your transition to agile project management.