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The Agile/Scrum project management methodology is an iterative approach that requires fewer resources than other approaches.
When to Use Agile/Scrum Methodology
The Agile/Scrum approach works well when the project goals have some flexibility. The iterative nature allows the team to rapidly change direction based upon what they discovered in a preceding iteration. It does require a co-located team and versatile multi-functional team members.
The Agile/Scrum methodology is the most flexible of the methodologies discussed. There is both flexibility in the project goals and the project approach; although it requires flexible team members to be effective. There are many Agile methodologies, the Scrum methodology relies of rapid iterations by empowered teams. Each iteration may go through all the of the typical project phases in order to create a minimally viable product or project result. The approach relies on prioritization of requirements so that only a subset of the requirements is addressed in any iteration. The use of traditional project management tools is minimized since they add very little value with this approach. An illustration of this approach is shown below for a generic software development project.
The approach uses a small inter-disciplinary team to conduct the project activities. Because of the inter-disciplinary nature of the team, there are no set roles among team members. Anyone can work on anything. The focus is to get something working. So the project activities are pointed to achieving the minimally viable product – not a full featured product. Also, because of the nature of the team, issues are worked on by whoever on the project team is available to work on it. A general rule of thumb is, “You find it - you fix it.”
The advantages of this approach are both in the size of the team and its flexibility. The small co-located nature of the team provides excellent communication and rapid issue resolution. There are no big committee meetings; the team members just to talk with each other to find a resolution to a problem. The team members are able to create and maintain a prioritized list of requirements, and work to the priorities, not to everything in a requirements document. One of the key characteristics is that this approach often requires just a fraction of the normal amount of people. This again leads to better communication and more flexibility.
However, there are weaknesses with this approach. The weaknesses which I will discuss are those I observed with companies who tried to use this approach in the past without some of the Agile/Scrum practices. Many of the topics we will discuss later will address and attempt to manage these weaknesses.
The first is that it may be difficult to find the multi-discipline “superheroes” to do this type of work. It is not a coincidence that this is the approach that most start-up companies use. They need the entrepreneurial mindset to overcome some of this problem. Another problem is the confused lines of responsibility. This will particularly be true if this approach is attempted with a large team or a team that is not co-located. The other weaknesses are the unpredictability in this approach. There is unpredictability on what will be the characteristics of the final result, on when it will be ready, and on the level and quality of both documentation of both the execution of the project and the results of the project.
Hints and Tips
- Don’t attempt this approach without using the Agile/Scrum tools. The weaknesses will overwhelm the benefits.
- This is an approach that leverages flexibility. Don’t try to tie it down precisely. If you need precision, use sequential or concurrent.
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