What Is Agile Project Management? Plus 6 Key Best Practices

Sean Blake

by Sean Blake, Head of Marketing

02 Nov 2021

What is agile project management: person pointing to a scrum board

What is agile project management? It’s the way of the future — it’s adaptable, collaborative, innovative, engaging, efficient, and so much more. In this post, we’ll branch away from product development to discuss agile project management.

It’s been years since agile practices were reserved solely for software developers. Each year, more and more businesses and industries adopt agile values to improve team dynamics, customer relationships, efficiency, and their overall products and services.

The benefits of agile are proven time and time again — no matter the industry. As the world continues to evolve at a rapid pace with unprecedented challenges, teams of all shapes and sizes need to adopt adaptive processes. Let’s learn more about the power of agile, how it’s transferred to project management teams, and how project managers can help their teams succeed with agile processes.

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What is agile project management?

What is agile project management: team planning a project together

The agile methodology was first popularized in the software industry as a way to aid development teams with the fast-paced and ever-evolving development process. Although it originated in software development projects, the flexible and iterative approach of agile has since expanded into a variety of industries that want to emphasize continuous improvement and adaptability.

Agile is the opposite of traditional project management. Project teams working under traditional project management follow a strict sequential order: Each element of a project must be completed before moving on to the next. This approach is like a waterfall — the flow of work remains the same from task to task and project to project.

Agile, on the other hand, is non-linear. The focus of agile methods is on flexibility, collaboration between team members, continuous improvement, and delivering consistent value to stakeholders.

Agile provides a multi-dimensional way of working that removes the bottlenecks so common in traditional project management. Each iteration yields fresh and actionable insights into what’s working and what could be improved upon.

➡️ Want to learn more about different agile methodologies? We covered 8 of the most common Software Development Methodologies, including Scrum, lean, and extreme programming.

The benefits of agile project management

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When implemented with proper care, complete team buy-in, and the right tools, the agile framework offers a number of benefits to project management teams. Seriously, once you start seeing the benefits, you’ll never go back to traditional, rigid approaches. 😎

The benefits of agile project management include:

  • Improved adaptability in the face of fast-paced change
  • The ability to make real-time adjustments as new information is gained
  • Being able to set clear and realistic goals
  • The elimination of wasteful practices and procedures
  • Deliverable deadlines that are anticipated and met
  • Effective decision making
  • Improved team communication and collaboration
  • Increased employee investment
  • Boosted team happiness and morale
  • Being able to continually deliver value to stakeholders, customers, or end users
  • The ability to bring customers and stakeholders inside your processes
  • The development of a continuous improvement mindset

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How to do agile project management right

While the benefits of agile are plentiful, adopting an agile project management methodology takes time, investment from leaders, and the right tools. When not properly implemented, there are many ways an agile transformation can fail.

1. Don’t skip important meetings 📆

You 👏🏾 Can’t 👏🏼 Skip 👏🏿 Agile 👏 Meetings. 👏🏻

We hope this will ring loud and clear: Agile processes are there for a reason. Once you start cutting corners, agile loses its effectiveness. When agile meetings are skipped, it leads to team confusion, pushback, and stress.

Depending on the methodology you are adopting, you will need to hold different meetings to keep the team up to speed and collaborating effectively.

For example, in the Scrum process, the Scrum team begins with a sprint planning meeting, which is followed by stand-ups or daily Scrums, a sprint review, and a sprint retrospective. Busy teams who are new to agile may be tempted to skip one of these meetings to save time. However, skipping important agile meetings will cost you in the end, as each meeting serves an important purpose and is designed to keep the team aligned, prepared, and continually improving.

2. Manage capacity and utilize estimation ⚖️

One of the key components of agile is being able to effectively manage team and individual capacities (how much work people can do). So, agile project management teams need to clearly define how much work each person and each team can complete, which begins with properly estimating the time it takes to complete each task.

Bottom line? Clear communication is key. Ensure the team is working together to understand workflows, workload, skill sets, and how each task connects to the other.

➡️ 5 Agile Estimation Techniques to Help with Product Backlog Prioritization
➡️ Easy Agile User Story Maps: Transform your flat product backlog into a more impactful, visual representation of the journey a customer takes with your product


3. Understand the needs of customers and stakeholders 💗

You can’t meet the needs of your customers and stakeholders if you don’t know what those needs are. You must have a thorough understanding of the people you are serving.

In agile software development, this means understanding what customers are looking for from the products (software or applications) they will use. In project management, this could take on another meaning, such as understanding client project goals and determining how you can deliver the most value to the people you serve. Establishing detailed customer personas, and ensuring they are up to date will keep the needs of your customers front and center.

Easy Agile Personas for Jira helps teams understand the needs of clients, customers, and users so that agile teams can make decisions based on what will provide the most value. Watch an on-demand demo to learn more.

4. Seek feedback and iterate 📈

For agile to work, you need to continually seek feedback from stakeholders, customers, clients, users, etc. Whoever is involved in your process or uses your product or service should have a voice.

Customer collaboration will help you understand how your product or service is benefiting (or not benefiting) people. The sooner you gather feedback, the sooner you can make adjustments. Acquiring feedback early in the process helps teams spot issues that may develop down the road. And let’s face it — fixing an issue at the beginning of a project is much simpler and more cost-effective than realizing the end product is flawed, which may force the team to start over entirely.

5. Foster a continuous improvement mindset

The status quo is the enemy of progress. The goal of agile is to improve with every iteration and every project. There is always a way to do and be better because each iteration and project is a learning opportunity.

The agile process doesn’t stop when the project is completed — the team first has to come together to discuss what went well, what didn’t go so well, and what could be improved for next time. Agile is the opposite of a set it and forget it process. You need to embrace the feedback you receive and welcome it with open arms.

Ensure you apply this mindset to every area of your business and throughout each process. Everything can be improved upon, and everyone can provide insight into where improvements are needed most. Retrospectives should occur after every sprint, project, or milestone, and don’t forget to run retrospectives about how each of your meetings can be improved upon.

📚 Read our Ultimate Guide to Agile Retrospectives for everything you need to run effective retrospective meetings.

6. Utilize agile project management tools and resources 🛠

You don’t need to pave the way alone. The more businesses and people adopt agile principles, the more tools and resources are developed to aid the process.

Utilize agile project management software and give your entire team the resources they need to succeed, such as the Agile Manifesto, Agile Alliance, and the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) for large organizations.

Agile project management made easy

It’s been a long time since agile was reserved for software development. Project managers and teams of all shapes and sizes can bask in the many benefits of agile practices. ☀️

And we’re here to help! Easy Agile builds simple plugins for Scrum Masters, product owners, leadership teams, project managers, and more. Easy Agile User Story Maps and Easy Agile Roadmaps offer a collaborative approach to agile project management that seamlessly integrates with Jira. These tools can be utilized with different agile approaches, including Scrum and Kanban boards.

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