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Project Management in an Agile Environment

The modern world of project management is changing fast. The agile methodology has taken the world by storm, and every year hundreds of businesses adapt to encourage it. Managing a project in an agile environment can be quite challenging, especially for someone more used to traditional, more rigid forms of delivering projects. 

Today we’re going to talk about how agile environments are influencing the way we run projects, and how you can adapt to become an agile project manager. Let’s get started. 

What is an Agile Environment?

First of all, when we refer to ‘agile’ we are talking about the agile methodology, which can be defined like so:

Agile is a process that involves seamless collaboration between teams and stakeholders, delivering a project through consistent improvement through iterations. Rather than assigning a set of deliverables or goals at the start of the project and relentlessly sticking by them, agile project management employs a more flexible approach, where organisations can adapt to changing circumstances and viewpoints, both user-side and stakeholder-side. 

Agile environments are found across multiple sectors, from modern digital organisations to long-standing industry titans. 

What Benefits does an Agile Environment Bring?

Working using the agile methodology is designed around the principle of adapting to changing needs and goalposts. Popularly employed by software development groups, agile project management seeks to constantly assess the needs of the consumer, and meet those needs through their development. 

Especially in competitive fields such as software or app development, an agile environment is highly effective in delivering products that match the needs of the consumer. Agile project management employs a handful of modern methods such as Kanban boards and Gantt charts, which both provide a visual representation of workflows. 

Tips for Managing an Agile Project

Managing a project using the agile methodology shares some similarities with more traditional methods, but some special skills are needed to make it work to your benefit. 

1) Be versatile & flexible

A project manager cannot work in an agile way unless they are open to changing courses on previously established goalposts if the data indicates that this is the right way forward. To do this effectively, the ability to be versatile is essential. 

As product owners and leaders, we tend to become attached to our work, but the ability to think pragmatically and be open to change is essential for agile project management. Having the mechanisms and contingencies in place to shift strategic focus is what being agile is all about; adapting our projects and workflows in line with shifting market factors. 

Encourage collaboration and versatility throughout your team by demonstrating it yourself, and focusing on the end goal; to create a final product that meets the needs of the consumer exactly. 

2) Collaborate with everyone

Agile project management is – at its heart – collaboration on every front. It’s where team members work together with the project owner and stakeholders to have the ability to look at a project from all angles and share ideas from every perspective. The value of collaboration cannot be understated, as there may be team members who have a unique insight into a certain aspect of a project. 

The expression ‘too many cooks’ comes to mind here. While collaboration opens the door for everyone to voice their thoughts, collaborative working requires strong leadership to ensure the integrity of the final product is not compromised. Instead, collaboration should be a process in which everyone shares ideas on improving the product to meet consumer needs. These needs are not dictated by the team, but by the end user, and therefore everyone should be in agreement on the final aim. 

Collaboration is often best managed from a central project management tool, such as Verto. With our collaborative tools, everyone can communicate and be kept up to date with every aspect of the project. Data is centralised, and therefore everyone can see all perspectives of the project.

3) Maintain good comms with stakeholders

Communication in agile project management is not just about speaking with your team. Staying in contact with stakeholders and keeping them updated and included is also essential. Each stakeholder may bring a different perspective to the table that cannot be ignored.

One of the main pain points with agile working is seeing stakeholders change the course of a project last minute. However, this can be minimised if stakeholders are kept engaged and involved as their insight will be available throughout the process, preventing a poorly timed shift in direction. 

When stakeholders are engaged throughout, they will feel part of the team, providing their knowledge and opinions as the project progresses. It can be common for stakeholders to disagree with certain changes, but this can be avoided by keeping good communication between all parties open, so it doesn’t just fall to the project manager to negotiate tactics. When all the data is available, convincing stakeholders is a much simpler endeavour. 

4) Allow your team to be flexible 

Ownership and autonomy of work are great to instill into your team members. As project manager, the entire deliverable is yours to nurture and deliver, and the same mindset can be passed onto your workers. Each team member should be accountable for their own workload, which empowers team members and embeds a sense of responsibility. 

While teams are able to work flexibility to deliver their individual workloads, it’s still possible to inform and direct them of their priorities. Working flexibly doesn’t have to be simply letting your teams loose and telling them to work on what they want. It simply means that micromanagement is at a minimum, and every worker is trusted to deliver their contributions to the project by an allotted deadline. 

5) Know how to delegate

One of the most important tricks of managing a team effectively is knowing how to delegate tasks. A good project manager knows the strengths and working styles of every member of the team, and therefore knows which individuals are best placed to carry out certain tasks. As the project lead, there are few things better than giving a task to a team member, and knowing 100% that they will deliver it to the high standard you need, on time. 

If you are unsure of your team’s strengths and weaknesses, take the time to watch how they work, review their deliverables and compare skill sets. Some people will be easy to distinguish as having a certain skill set, while others may be harder to read. 

Agile Project Management with Verto

There are a number of platforms you can use to streamline how you manage agile projects. Verto is one such tool. Our partnership with Microsoft Teams offers a wide range of functions and solutions for managing a project the agile way. As a cloud-based solution, all data and stored documents can be collaborated on in real time, and custom reports can be created to show stakeholders the data that matters to them. 

Verto is trusted by government organisations, health and education sectors and private companies alike to manage tasks, remote working, risk management and project timelines. Get in touch today to find out what Verto can do for you. 

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About the author – Laura Watts

Laura is the Marketing Manager at TMI Systems Ltd., working predominantly on Verto 365 and closely on the Microsoft partnership enabling the platform to be used in its entirety from Microsoft Teams. Laura and her family moved from London in 2021 and now live and work in Gloucestershire.