UltaVista has embraced Agile Project Management well before word "Agile" became "coool". Through the planning phases of business and projects, we have realized that it is easy to get bogged down in the details before feet hit the ground to move forward. Through experience with startups to enterprise projects the best approach for us at UltraVista is roll up our sleeves and test the concept by getting it working. The process of planning can leave the mind swimming with an endless number of scenarios. To narrow the scope of what is truly important the most direct route is launching into a first "iteration" of the project that can bring the hypothetical closer to reality giving focus to potential issues and feedback from a trial run.

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This is not to say that planning is to be abandon, it should be more focused and concentrated. Consider only the points that would halt progress or perhaps kill the project or business idea all together. These reality checks include the basics of cash, resources and market and are often noted as go/no go points. Sorting these show stoppers from the most basic to the more complex allows quick progress through investigation and keeps enthusiasm up as the way is cleared for launching a pilot of the concept. Combined with the proof of concept, pilot or test run, the details that are most important to address will surface quicker. This step does not eliminate the bigger picture planning it simply makes it relevant. A successful proof of concept provides the confidence to the project lead, investors, staff and the market place. What we want to say is, getting our hands into the work gives us a better feel for what we are facing and directs our inquiries to relevant places instead of the endless and often unfounded scenarios.

And with "Agile Manifesto", Agile Project Management has entered our lives. Agile development has typically been classified as a “lightweight” software development approach that encourages quick changes and rapid delivery of solutions. Some of the more popular methodologies include Scrum, Crystal Clear and Extreme Programming. All are designed to have a more inclusive and iterative approach to software development projects. In contrast to the more rigid Waterfall methodology, Agile methodologies encourage a democratization of development that is believed to improve team collaboration and accelerate delivery to customers. Core to an Agile development environment is the shift in power from the project leaders who have traditionally driven projects from start to finish, to the team of developers who are actually designing and building the product. Each team member takes ownership of their piece of the project and is ultimately responsible for its success.

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The biggest challenge Agile environments face is effectively balancing the productivity of project teams through a self-governing system guided by project facilitators. Agile philosophy asserts that “Projects are built around motivated individuals, who should be trusted.” With diverse resources and unique personalities and motivations, building an effective Agile environment requires a different set of skills project managers are typically not accustomed to. More than anything, Agile methodologies demand “project managers” with a keen sense of what makes their particular team tick ensuring the “job” gets done within a very flat organizational structure. Project leaders in successful Agile environments are effective in facilitating the people behind the processes that drive projects.

Agile Development Projects are projects of the people, by the people, and for the people. For some, the notion of self-governing project teams may challenge the necessity of the traditional project management role that is responsible for the plan, schedule and ultimate successful outcome of a project. In Agile environments, loosening the reigns and placing the project’s ownership on the project team has forced project leaders to rethink their position within the organizations they serve. In Agile environments project leaders are Agile development environments project managers are in fact more strategic than ever. Although the administrative functions around developing plans, building schedules and generating reports may take a back burner, in Agile environments the true leadership of the project manager is tested by how well he or she can lead the troops without the use of a heavy hand.

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So, if Agile environments demand a people-centric approach to project management, how does this impact the processes that define a project leader’s role? A classic example can be derived from the Scrum Master role defined by the Agile Scrum methodology. Scrum Masters are defined as “servant-leaders” that on one hand ensure that the project team stays on task, while at the same time protect the interests and the dynamic of the team as a whole. This duality of roles demands a project management strategy that does not separate deliverables from the owners of assigned tasks. In fact, where in a traditional project management model project leadership is a slave to the plan and processes that are divorced from those responsible for execution, the Agile& style of project management unifies plans, processes and people as one holistic concept that integrate management and the execution of responsibilities by all stakeholders.

In the final analysis, although the Agile methodology assumes a looser structure to its project management practices, it also allows for a better distribution of power and responsibility that can strengthen the chances for success. Moreover, this holistic approach challenges traditional methodologies on their effectiveness in stakeholder accountability. Regardless of which project management methodology is chosen, all project managers’ would agree that having a better handle on stakeholders can only positively impact a project’s outcome.

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 A Widening Stakeholder Circle Means Better Collaboration
Probably the biggest lesson Agile development methodology can teach traditional project management environments is that successful projects are realized by successful teamwork. The biggest asset to any project is its people and their ability to work together toward a common goal. Agile methodology encourages an all-inclusive environment where feedback and project ownership are in the hands of all the people that touch the project. In fact, the development team responsible for the execution of the deliverables and plans becomes an equal stakeholder in the projects they serve. Moreover, the sharing of ideas among customers, developers, and management and the ability to quickly respond to change allows for a more transparent and flexible project team that is in line with today's more demanding customer.
Agile development takes stakeholder management to the next level. Where in a typical project management environment stakeholders tend to be the recipients and beneficiaries of the project, in an Agile setting every member of the project is implicated as well. As a result, Agile environments transform project management into project collaboration by creating a unified team with an agreed upon vision. Although in an ideal world this reality will drive the best results, the facts are external distractions and disruptions that can derail a project are inherent to all project environments. In light of this, stakeholder management requires a careful balancing act among all internal and external parties having a clear understanding of their needs and wants. This can only be achieved by implementing an effective project collaboration strategy that will better respond to bottlenecks and disruptions internally, while pro-actively servicing customer demands and issues externally. The Agile methodology encourages a people-centric approach to project management that recognizes that a project's success is only as good as the people behind it and their ability to effectively exchange relevant information to make better decisions.

In an effort to enable companies to focus on the business value using short development cycles in their application development projects, Genius Project supports Agile and SCRUM methodologies by providing a
variety of Agile and SCRUM specific tools and views that tie into an organization's project management processes.
UltraVista supports mapping of Scrum and Agile methodologies by developing:

  • Use case, sprint, definition, review and performance tracking
  • Product backlog
  • Product & Release
  • Planning
  • Scrum meeting reviews
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