Agility in Amsterdam

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Categories: Agile, PMI

I am just back from the PMI Global Congress 2009--EMEA in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

PMI seemed focused on the environment--with a keynote emphasizing the need to be more green--and on the value of project management, with the Research Working Session and a few tracks by PMI personnel on the subject.

The majority of tracks, however, seemed to hit on different topics, including:

1.    People issues, like decision-making, leadership, communication, culture, politics and stakeholder management
2.    The strategic link of projects, like organizational project management, project selection, portfolio and program management and the PMO
3.    Agile

I think this last one is a growing trend in project management.

Many of the concepts of Agile can be traced back to fast-track construction projects, where basic principles like co-location, fast prototyping, iterative development, daily orientation meetings and other concepts were developed.

In IT, the Agile methods evolved in the mid-1990s in reaction to what is called the "waterfall model," a sequential approach to programming.

In 2001, 17 prominent thinkers of what were then called "lightweight methods" issued the Agile Manifesto, which states four basic principles:

•    Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
•    Working software over comprehensive documentation
•    Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
•    Responding to change over following a plan

Although, in a way, Agile seems to be the antithesis of project management, as explained in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), it can be very advantageous to use it in turbulent and strategic settings.

As project management is used more and more to manage strategic change and projects become more complex, Agile principles will influence more and more the management of projects, and more specifically, program management.

More in my next post ...
Posted by Michel Thiry on: May 28, 2009 09:32 AM | Permalink


Dr.Ahmad Al-Ani , MD, PMP
I've been there in Amsterdam, and saw the number of sessions and speakers advocating the Agile methodology,it's really admirable to see PMI opening our eyes on this new trend and put it on the table for discussion.There is so much buzz about Agile,and whether this suits all kinds of projects, which is logically incorrect, or only applicable for software development as it originated from, is an issue that will be always debateble and prone to experimentation. However, on the other hand, I don't see any major conflict, as PMBOK guide standards and agile share a lot or principles, e.g. stakeholder management,and tools from both can be customized and used in a creative way in any project or industry, when suitable to that particular situation.

Edivandro C. Conforto
I missed the PMI Global Congress in Amsterdam but I'm glad to hear about the discussion of agile methodologies specially because two years ago when I had the opportunity to attend a local conference here in Brazil and perform a presentation about agile project management concepts. In that occasion, the audience provided me an interesting feedback. They were totally against the idea of explore and adopt some agile principles with traditional project management practices. The first impression was they did not know the exactly meaning of agile project management and its purpose. They argued that agile methodologies were designed to software development area. I kept investigating the theme and today I have many evidences that is possible to apply agile principles and values combined with the best project management practices and tools as described in the PMBoK. This first experience was very frustrating because some professionals were not open for discussion on how they could improve their project management methodologies considering this approach "agile". Additionally they considered this approach inappropriate for other areas than software development. There are lot of practitioners that just ignore new approaches or even still insist in following an unique project management methodology or process to different projects. We know that there isn't an unique recipe, each project has its singularities therefore in new product development area, there are many projects with specific characteristics and challenges, specially the ones developed in dynamic and uncertain environments. In my point of view, agile project management, considered as an approach, or even a "philosophy" is not against PMBoK, firstly because PMBoK is a "body of knowledge", a guide, something that indicates best practices on project management, where each project member and project team must adopt the best for each project and create their own methodology, and also consider agile principles, why not? Agile approach needs to be considered as something to use in favor of the project managers to better develop their work and achieve better results. Congratulations to the PMI for the opportunity to discuss and debate new ideas to improve project management discipline! By Edivandro C. Conforto Project Management & Product Development Management Researcher and Consultant

Michael Mrkobrada
The recognized shortfall of the “waterfallâ€쳌 approach in IT project management is its lack of flexibility in accommodating change requests regarding change of requirements later on in the project. It is my experience that that lack of flexibility is a particular obstacle for project categories with the similar profile regarding risks (high), visibility to the management (high), financial impact on failure (high), initial understanding of the scope (low) and time available to gain (regain) stakeholders confidence and trust. These project are often driven by business criticality to deliver solution quickly ("driven by the time to market pressure") and they all have the same characteristics recognizing that, during an engagement, customers can change their minds about what they want and need, together with the appearance of previously unanticipated and unpredicted challenges, and that all have the major impact on project constraints. This situation could not be easily addressed in a traditional predictive or planned manner (SDLC “waterfallâ€쳌 approach) and managing like projects require adopting a fresh and empirical approach, accepting that the problem cannot be fully understood or defined before the start of the project, focusing instead on maximizing the team's ability to deliver quickly and responding to emerging requirements by decomposing the project deliverables in smaller parts.

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- Mark Twain