In the tech world, there are a lot of analysts and consultants that want to plan everything about a project in advance.  To them, if a project fails, it’s because there wasn’t enough planning, or the plan wasn’t executed properly.  But maybe the real problem isn’t in the planning, or in the execution.  Maybe it’s in the way they’re managing the project.

Oftentimes in technology-oriented projects you’ll encounter wicked problems which, by very nature “…cannot be tackled by the traditional approach in which problems are defined, analyzed and solved in sequential steps.”

For example, you may have a customer who operates in an unfamiliar industry.  They may be vague on what they need.  And the solution may involve technologies that are new to your team.  This sort of imperfect situation is where agile project management probably makes more sense than traditional.  When you don’t know what you need to do, and you don’t know how long it will take, how do you still deliver results?

I’ve noticed an increasing number of system integrators and in-house IT departments are using agile methodologies.  This was especially clear at the EDM106 Agile Project Management Methodology class at the Empower 2011 Laserfiche Institute Conference.  At Laserfiche, we have been using these methodologies in several departments. Here’s what I’ve learned along the way:

  1. The first rule of agile club is: you do not talk about agile club. When talking with clients or higher-ups, don’t worry them by explaining your new project management methodology.  Instead, focus on the constant communication that you should be having with them anyways.
  2. Agile doesn’t transform people into super heroes or make projects get done faster. However, it does give you transparency into who’s delivering results and when.  You’ll know pretty quickly when a project isn’t proceeding as you’d like.  With traditional project management methods, it’s easier to hide when projects aren’t progressing properly.
  3. When the project owner isn’t very involved, the team can go off-course. This is pretty true even for traditional project management, but you realize a lack of direction or executive buy-in sooner with agile.  It’s not a magic bullet, but you’ll have better insight into the reality of the situation, letting you focus efforts on increasing the project owner’s involvement.
  4. You may get resistance. Some people are very set in their ways and want perfection from the start.   But the reality is that traditional, “do it right the first time” approaches also need to deal with changing requirements.   So, they may as well embrace the need to deliver results in an imperfect world.

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