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Scrum and Agile Project Management

These days it seems that everyone wants to be Agile.  This is a good thing as Agile presents a number of benefits to organisations that have a need for project based working.  There are however a number of misconceptions about what Agile is and how it works, one of the biggest is that Scrum is all that is required to manage projects in an agile way.

Scrum and Agile Project Management are not synonymous

Scrum is a product development methodology.  It’s not a Project Management methodology.  There is no role for a PM in Scrum, because Scrum is not about managing the project.  Scrum is focused on managing the work packages that the project requires.  This means that a lot of the other activities required in managing projects are not covered by Scrum.  This is one of the reasons that Scrum based projects can appear to be out-of-control and chaotic to c-level management.

There are other established Project Management methodologies that can be wrapped around Scrum in order to complement it by providing required PM functions around starting up projects, managing the business case, stakeholder communication and risk management etc.  To be successful these PM methodologies must provide the additional benefits of a PM methodology without restricting the flexibility that Scrum provides for the teams actually doing the project’s development work.

Benefits of AgilePM or PRINCE2 Agile

Methodologies such as AgilePM build on a foundation of agile working that started before Scrum.  AgilePM fits in very well with Scrum and provides a proven PM methodology that enables rather than constrains the use of Scrum.   More recently, PRINCE2 Agile also provides guidance on how to adapt and scale PRINCE2 to fit in with agile product development methodologies such as Scrum.

AgilePM and PRINCE2 Agile put the focus back on customer needs rather than on the organisation of the product development team, the latter can still be left to Scrum.    Such PM methodologies are not documentation free, but are documentation “sensible”, AgilePM for example only has two mandatory documents, a list of things the customer wants and a high-level plan for achieving them.  Other documents can be added as required from the suggested templates in AgilePM.

AgilePM & PRINCE2 Agile both work well with stage gate reviews.  Both agile PM methodologies provide defined roles and responsibilities, thereby enabling clarity within the team and consistency between projects. They also provide the foundations for enabling management of the business case and of project risk.
AgilePM also includes a very useful Project Approach Questionnaire that can be used to help identify project risks at the start of a project.  I will add more about this in a separate post.

In short, as useful as Scrum is, Scrum on its own is insufficient to provide a full project management methodology.