Agile Management Approach to Remote Teams
BY: NELSON ORTIZ
Today’s business world is complex and dynamic. Management teams constantly face constant changes in requirements, in addition to budget constraints and demanding stakeholder expectations. Organizations are looking for options to do more with less — fewer resources, including reduced budgets. Therefore, it’s essential for any prospective solution provider to provide clients with options that are focused on optimizing every aspect of business, including project management.
Traditional project management is deliverable-driven; in other words, it shoulders that circumstances affecting the project are predictable. Agile project management, oppositely, operates well in a dynamic and adaptive environment. Agile project management is a highly iterative and incremental process in which constant communication between the customer (end user / client stakeholders) and the project team, which includes functions of project management and business analysis, is an inherent and critical element to success.
Another business challenge is the availability of responsible, and proven subject matter experts for today’s complex challenges. Hence, it is indispensable to consider the use of geographically dispersed resources in order to ensure quality delivery of solutions, by utilizing remote communication tools for project success.
One similarity between traditional and agile project delivery is to complete activities that deliver measurable results. Traditional project management can be described as a “waterfall” or “top-down” approach, which presumes that requirements, expectations, activity durations, and expected outcomes of projects can be predicted precisely and planned in a sequence before executing any activity. As a result, it is common to hear case study scenarios where clients typically have difficulty in articulating all project requirements during initiation phases yet undergo project activities that force to produce a comprehensive requirements document for sign-off by the users before development can initiate. A frequent result of this scenario is an extensive and sometimes cumbersome time investment in change management activities.
In contrast, and according to Sanjiv Augustine, agile project management “is a way of managing projects to deliver customer value via adaptive planning, rapid feedback, continuous improvement and intense human interaction and collaboration”. Delivering “customer value” is a key aspect of agile project management. Agile project management is conducted through the collaboration of a small, co-located team that usually consists of the customer/end user, a project manager, a business analyst (or the role of business analysis) and specialist(s). Specialists could include system developers, subject matter experts, and/or resources with specific knowledge required for project success.
Jim Highsmith, one of the originators of the Agile Manifesto and a recognized expert in agile approaches, has defined agility in project management by the following statements: “Agility is the ability to both create and respond to change in order to profit in a turbulent business environment,” and “Agility is the ability to balance flexibility and stability”.
In contrast with traditional project methods, agile efforts focus on the incremental delivery of working products or prototypes for client evaluation and optimization. While traditional project management adopts the premise that the entire set of requirements and activities can be forecasted at the beginning of the project, agile methods combine all the elements of product development, such as requirements, analysis, design, development and testing — in brief, regular iterations delivering a working product in each iteration, which in turn may serve as inputs into future iterations.
Agile theory suggests that changes, and additional features will be integrated throughout the product development life cycle, and that changes are opportunities to improve the product and make it more fit for its use and to be in conformance with the business purpose and stakeholder expectations.
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