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Agile Project Management White Paper
Agile Project Management White Paper

In This White Paper

February 2011 | Agile Projects | APMG International


Agile Project Management is an initiative which extracts the Project Management elements of DSDM Atern and makes them available as Agile Project Management – a certified approach in its own right. This enables experienced Project Managers to adopt a mature, scalable corporate-strength Agile approach within their organizations.

Collaboration between APMG International and the Agile Business Consortium

Agile Project Management White Paper

Introducing Agile Project Management

Agile Project Management is the result of collaboration between APMG-International and The DSDM Consortium.

DSDM (Dynamic Systems Development Method) is the longest-established Agile method, launched in 1995, and is the only Agile method to focus on the management of Agile projects. The method has evolved over the years and DSDM Atern is the latest version. DSDM has always operated predominantly in the corporate environment, and has consistently demonstrated its ability to successfully work with and complement existing corporate processes.

Until fairly recently, Agile was still viewed by some as “bleeding edge” or “inherently risky”, whereas the reality is that over many years of successful implementation Agile has become mainstream, and the drive to “go Agile” has been fuelled by the need to deliver timely and cost-effective projects, whilst at the same time embracing change and offering flexibility.

Agile Project Management is a new initiative which extracts the Project Management elements of DSDM Atern and makes them available as Agile Project Management – a certified approach in its own right. This enables experienced Project Managers to adopt a mature, scalable corporate-strength Agile approach within their organizations.

On a traditional project, the Project Manager may be actively involved in directing work and telling their team what needs to be done – a style often referred to as Command and Control. Agile PM follows a different style. In the early stages, the Agile PM creates a high level plan, based on outline requirements and a high level view of the solution to be created. From that point onwards the end project is created iteratively and incrementally, with each increment building on the output of increments preceding it.

Unlike a traditional project, the detailed plans for each step are created by the team members themselves and not the Project Manager.

Within each stage of the project the team works in an iterative and incremental style in close collaboration with a representative of the business/customer in order to understand the detail of the next step and to create and validate an evolving solution.

Agile Project Management comprises established and proven components that provide a holistic approach to the management and governance of projects. It has an overarching philosophy and guiding principles, together with a lifecycle (or process) and a set of deliverables to be created and maintained as the project progresses from a controlled start through to completion.

It provides clearly defined roles with specific responsibilities designed to bring together all stakeholders involved in the project.

Relationship with DSDM Atern and Key Differences

Agile Project Management is based on DSDM Atern, which has always been the only Agile method to fully address the concept of an Agile project, and provides detailed guidance on how to manage and deliver Agile projects.

Agile Project Management focuses on the elements of Atern that are specific to the Agile Project Manager; it is important to note that Atern also provides detailed guidance on delivery techniques and solution development, which are outside of the Agile Project Management Handbook.

Agile Project Management follows the same structure as DSDM Atern, with the Agile Project Management Handbook and the DSDM Atern Handbook having the same layout and chapter numbering. This allows the Agile Project Manager easy reference to the full Atern method, should they wish to supplement their understanding of Agile Project Management, and relate their knowledge of DSDM Atern within the Solution Development Team. Many of the chapters in the DSDM Atern Handbook are fully relevant to Agile Project Management, and are reproduced almost in full. Other chapters have been edited to remove details that fall outside of pure Agile Project Management, and in some cases information has been pared back to provide the Agile Project Manager with awareness of a topic and ensure that it is being planned and managed correctly.

Although Agile Project Management can be viewed as a subset of DSDM Atern, there are some extra features in Agile Project Management that are not currently available in Atern. These include ‘Top Tips’ for Agile Project Managers at the conclusion of most chapters. These ‘Top Tips’ have been collected from the in-depth practical experience of professional individuals who have managed and delivered Agile projects for many years. These are practitioners who work across a wide range of backgrounds, from small, simple projects to large, complex projects, including regulated environments where they need to work in conjunction with other methods and approaches such as PRINCE2, ITIL®, CMMI, ISO, etc. Access to this experience through these ‘Top Tips’ has proved to be invaluable and will help the Agile Project Manager to avoid pitfalls and prepare for success.

Supplementary information is also available to help the professional Project Manager to apply Agile Project Management in the corporate environment, specifically linking and aligning this approach to PRINCE2 and ITIL, through reference to in-depth White Papers and publications, created by experienced Practitioners.

Comparing Agile Project Management with other agile methodologies

In the Agile world, there are a number of approaches available; the most common of these are DSDM Atern, eXtreme Programming (XP), SCRUM and Lean. To put these Agile approaches into context:

XP – focusing on I.T. development, XP provides developer techniques and practices such as Pair Programming, Continuous Integration etc. There is no concept of a Project in XP, and with the exception of planning, little guidance around management, since the primary purpose of XP is to provide Agile delivery techniques.

Typically where XP is to be used to deliver Agile Projects, it is often combined with other Agile approaches which add-on the Project and Management elements. Examples of this would be XP with DSDM Atern, XP with Scrum.

Scrum provides an excellent team based approach to allow work to be prioritised and delivered, using the concept of a constantly evolving “backlog” to provide the team’s workload. The strength of Scrum is its simplicity, and since it is so easy to describe and to start to use, this has driven its popularity to date.

However in Scrum, there is no concept of a project, simply a Product Backlog of work to be done. For those wishing to scale Scrum to work as a corporate-wide Agile approach, or to use it for management of projects and releases, there is usually significant extra work needed to overlay the project/release concept onto the basic Scrum process. Scrum does offer a very simple version of corporate-wide Scrum (referred to as “Scrum of Scrums”), but in the complex corporate world, there is little confidence in the successful practical application of this.

The end result is often that complex organizations using Scrum, but needing a corporate-strength Agile approach, end up re-inventing the information and guidance already available in DSDM Atern.

On IT projects, Scrum is often paired with XP, with Scrum providing the team management process and XP providing the developer techniques.

Scrum is also often combined with DSDM Atern, where Scrum is used at the development team level, and DSDM Atern sits above the team to position the work within a project and to provide the project management elements.

Lean – an approach which originated in the Toyota manufacturing environment in the 1940s.Lean drives work to be done in an efficient way through its main principle of “Eliminate Waste”. In practice, this means avoiding anything that does not produce value for the customer. Examples of Lean thinking are “don’t do all the detailed analysis up front, because it will change/ some will not be progressed to delivery” and “test throughout, then you don’t waste time working on things that do not fit the business”.

A lean approach can be applied at development level, but it is also often used at the organizational level.

Lean is often used in conjunction with other Agile approaches, since it is complementary to most of them, e.g. Lean and DSDM Atern, Lean and Scrum, Lean and XP.

When choosing which Agile approach to adopt, at its simplest, an organization could choose a single Agile approach, focusing on the area of highest concern to them.

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