Does being agile just mean agile projects?

I am sure you have all had discussions about being more agile either as an individual or at an organisational level. But does being agile just mean agile projects? Depending on the audience, I imagine the conversations focused on waterfall v agile, project management v agile, using scrum, finding new ways to adapt current approaches, collaboration, stakeholder management and governance to name but a few!

I’m fully in favour of sharing information and experiences as they are a great way to learn. But what does being agile mean in practice, for example, when delivering organisation-wide digital solutions?

Is it ‘my way or no way’ – regardless of whether you are an agile fan or a traditional project manager? Or are you and your organisation taking a more flexible ‘horses for courses’ approach?

Consider this – can there really be a single right way to deliver? Or, as I believe, a best or most appropriate way depending on the circumstances?

I have been in the business for many years and successfully delivered using the more traditional project and programme management (PPM) approaches. But even then I tweaked these to fit the initiative and the organisation. Was I ahead of my time? Perhaps.

I do not believe there is only one way to deliver. Agile approaches are absolutely the right way in some circumstances and in others – a very expensive and potentially time consuming option – and vice versa for PPM.

For now – let’s assume you agree with me. (But if you don’t – I’m happy to talk at length about alternatives later!)

If you are, or have been able to select the most appropriate delivery approach to use for your initiative, what did you consider in your decision making?

As a starter for 10, I find considering the following critical. But of course these are only part of the picture:

  1. Is your initiative a stand-alone piece of technical work? For example, developing systems to deliver to a new business need.
  2. Is there a set of stable requirements for your deliverables?
  3. Does your initiative have a mixed set of requirements – some stable and some not?
  4. Is your initiative part of a wider piece? For example, an organisation-wide transformation programme?

The first two scenarios are easy. The first is clearly best suited to an agile approach with the second definitely one for a waterfall / traditional project management approach.

But what about scenarios 3 and 4? It’s not so easy is it? There’s no clear, or obvious best fit, approach. In fact I would argue a combination of approaches would be appropriate from both an ROI and a delivery perspective.

But, of course, such an answer is not without consequences. With two differing development and delivery approaches, how do you manage the initiative’s governance, particularly the reporting cycle and performance indicators and the stakeholders’ expectations? How do you assure your sponsor that the initiative is on track to achieve the desired benefits when the requirements are flexing? How do you link end of phase and sprint positions to the desired benefits position?

But that’s for next time.

However, if you can’t wait as you are about to make the critical delivery and governance approach decisions or you are facing the mixed model concerns – please contact us via info@citi.co.uk