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Agile vs. traditional project management

Agile vs. traditional project management

What is project management?

Project management is a system that organizations use to plan and dedicate resources to complete a specific task or project. Traditional and agile project management methods are 2 of the most common approaches to completing tasks and initiatives.

traditional project management

Traditional project management is an approach executed in a linear sequence. The basic model includes initiation, planning, execution, monitoring, and closure phases. It’s essential to define the scope and project requirements at the start of the project.

Benefits of traditional project management

  • Clear expectations: Traditional project management features a planning phase that makes estimating costs, schedules, and needed resources easier. Clear expectations ensure everyone responsible and everyone requesting the project knows the timeline and expected outcome.
  • Clear responsibilities: Each individual has a role in a successful project. The project manager should avoid overlap and duplication to ensure the team is working as efficiently as possible and knows what is expected of them.
  • Documentation: Every step, starting with planning, requires clear documentation. Project documents can serve as guidebooks for everyone involved. Future projects and project managers can also refer to these for guidance.
  • Accountability: The project manager should make sure everyone is reaching their milestones and completing the project on time. This model helps stakeholders and other members of the organization know that they should approach the project manager with any concerns or update requests. The project manager is ultimately responsible for the success of a project.
  • Control: Each phase has very specific requirements before moving to the next phase. This ensures no deviation from the original plan. The project manager must approve any change request after reviewing the potential impact.

Agile project management

Agile project management is a newer methodology that relies on smaller groups and interactive releases throughout a project. Rather than the traditional, rigid model, agile requires team collaboration, outside feedback, and flexibility to be successful.

Benefits of agile project management

  • Flexibility: Flexibility in project management is the ability to update requirements, shift priorities, and adjust resources as needed. In agile project management, the project manager groups tasks into shorter timelines within the larger project. They can make updates more frequently with less impact on the larger goal. Being able to prioritize new features or requirements and delay others based on need shows that an organization is responding to the needs of its end users.
  • Early and consistent delivery: With frequent updates in response to stakeholder needs, an organization can build trust with the clients or stakeholders. An easy way to implement this is by having weekly check-in meetings while the project is underway.
  • Transparency: In an agile project, team members are all made aware of their assigned tasks and what other team members are working on. This transparency can lead to innovation, teammate empowerment, and leadership understanding everything involved with the project.
  • Collaboration: Agile teams can include people that might not typically have a role in project management. This can consist of stakeholders, members from different departments, and varying levels within an organization. This helps continuously improve the quality of deliverables, systems, and processes to reflect the actual needs of end-users.

How do you choose between traditional and agile?

The size of the project and your department can be the most significant factor in deciding which methodology to use. Larger units and initiatives might use the traditional method more if they want a tested framework that delivers the expected results within budget and on schedule. If the requirements aren’t exactly clear or the company is smaller and more collaborative, an agile method might be best.

Similarly, assess the risk level when analyzing a goal. If there is a high risk or requirements are subject to change, pursue an agile framework. You can address and fix issues quickly within the shorter sprints. If there are critical projects with little room for error, the extensive planning and documentation in the traditional method ensure a minimal change in scope.

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