Project work is part of daily business in many companies, but it is far from being routine. Of course, every project has its own individual requirements, which must be adequately addressed in project coordination. However, the greatest challenge lies in the current speed of change from analogue to digital business processes on more and more levels.
For project management, particularly drastic effects of this development are sometimes enormously shortened product cycles as well as time-to-market intervals, the increasing need to provide personalised products and the new consumer habits that go hand in hand with this, the adoption of AI as well as comprehensive analytics to create maximum target group-specific results and the inevitable use of other new technologies, without which efficient project coordination can hardly be guaranteed.
Time-honoured and more or less static approaches to project work hardly satisfy these needs. New, flexible solutions are required – and agile project coordination offers just the right approach.
What is agile project work?
The faster a business area develops in which a project is to be carried out, the more difficult it is to plan it and/or stick to such a plan. Agile project coordination effectively remedies this. It is a useful tool to successfully manage projects in today’s increasingly complex business world full of uncertainties and risks.
The methods of agile project work do not follow a strict pattern. The focus here is on the delivering a product and on its acceptance by the ultimate users. Typical business requirements, such as hierarchies, adherence to deadlines or the fulfilment of a specified scope of services, are considered less or not at all.
Planning is not superfluous when using agile solutions – on the contrary. However, it is not possible to work with a large, detailed plan when project conditions are complex. Rather, it is important to rely on more frequent and segmented planning, such as that offered by a three-week sprint plan.
Project managers have to rethink – a project can hardly start with an extensive planning phase and then strictly stick to a plan. This is simply almost impossible to fulfil under today’s circumstances. Extensive documents and functional specifications are a thing of the past.
Agility doesn’t need all that – and that is precisely why it is a good answer to complexity. The less use is made of old standards, the more flexibly project participants can react to changes. Agile project coordination not only increases flexibility, but also the performance of the project team. It enables fast and all-round efficient implementation with a significant improvement in scalability.
Typical approaches in agile project management
Scrum and Kanban are undoubtedly two of the most common methods in agile project coordination. These methods were developed to tackle complex challenges with a clear focus on the scope, quality and timing of a project and solving them effectively as well as humanely. Responding flexibly to change plays a key role here.
However, knowledge of these principles and a non-reflective application of them alone do not guarantee success. This is indeed the case with all agile approaches. They are not guidelines to be strictly adhered to in order to profit in the end. Rather, it is a matter of completely establishing corresponding ways of thinking in the project team.
The individual project members carry the methods, fill them and shape the processes involved. Agile methods are open and easy to understand, but precisely because of the first-mentioned characteristic they are difficult to master. They are based on a system of “loose”, not strictly regulated components working together which only unfold their full potential once all people working together on a project have internalised them.
The only real reference for agile project coordination is considered to be the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, published in 2001, with its four key statements:
– “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”
– “Functioning software over comprehensive documentation”
– “Collaboration with the customer over contract negotiation”
– “Responding to change over following a plan”.