To Agile, or not to Agile?

Insights | 01 May 2018

That is the question. The answer isn’t necessarily a simple one.

As agile delivery continues its relentless march across the project management landscape, many organisations are starting to face the decision not whether they should do agile – but are there situations and projects where we shouldn’t do agile? There are some agile evangelists who argue that everything can be run in an agile way, but experience demonstrates that there are many reasons where it simply isn’t appropriate – at least not by the book.

So how do you determine whether a project or initiative should or shouldn’t be run using an agile approach? Remember that ultimately, an agile mindset is all about testing and learning – so even if it seems like an unlikely contender, you can still apply some agile principles and design an approach that is suitable. Tweet: An agile mindset is all about testing and learning, you can still apply some agile principles and design an approach that is suitable for your organisation. @PMPartners

The following 10 questions will help guide you:

  1. Is the product being developed able to be delivered in an incremental and iterative approach?
  2. Are there sufficient degrees of uncertainty and ambiguity in the final solution to justify an incremental and iterative approach – i.e. the product being developed is not predictable and repeatable?
  3. Does everyone in the project team understand and accept agile as an appropriate delivery framework for the project?
  4. Is the business effectively engaged in the project, and do they understand their roles and responsibilities including the sponsor and product owner roles (or equivalent), accepting that active and ongoing involvement is essential?
  5. Does the business sponsor accept that requirements should only be defined at a high level by the business, and that the team will be empowered to make decisions on how to deliver the detailed scope?
  6. Is there an accepted and effective way to prioritise requirements, and is there confidence that time and cost commitments can be met by flexing the scope?
  7. Does both the business and the project team accept that on-time, incremental and iterative delivery is the primary measure of success on the project?
  8. Does the delivery team collectively have all the knowledge, skills and time commitment to collaboratively evolve and deliver an optimal business solution?
  9. Does the team have all the required tools, practices and working environment to ensure that they are supported to allow effective iterative development of the solution?
  10. Are there no standards, processes or constraints in place that may prevent the application of agile project delivery?

If you can answer yes to most of the above then your project is likely to be a good contender to apply an agile approach, but ultimately the decision on how to proceed needs to be a deliberate and informed one. Several negative responses to the above does not mean you can’t be agile but does highlight some risks that should be considered and managed appropriately. Agile is not a silver bullet – but applied appropriately with situational awareness of risks and constraints is a winning formula. Tweet: Agile is not a silver bullet - but applied appropriately with situational awareness of risks and constraints is a winning formula. @PMPartners

What factors do you consider the most important for a project to successfully run using an agile approach?

For more information on our agile services and how we can help your business, call us on 1300 70 14 13.

About The Author

Matt Sharpe, Agile Principal Consultant and Practice Lead at PM-Partners group

Matt is our Agile Principal Consultant and Practice Lead, with significant experience in advisory and consulting, strategic transformation, project, programme and portfolio management. Matt is a Certified Scrum Professional, with over 15 years’ experience working in the Agile space across Europe, The US, Asia, the Middle East and Australia.

Matt has worked at all levels of project delivery in both Waterfall and Agile modes ranging from single sprint deliverables through to multi-year agile portfolios exceeding $100m, as well as the design, planning, execution and management of agile transformations and capability uplifts in several organisations and industries across the world.

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