Project Management

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The Project Management Institute's annual events attract some of the most renowned and esteemed experts in the industry. In this blog, Global Conference, EMEA Congress and experienced event presenters past, present and future from the entire PMI event family share their knowledge on a wide range of issues important to project managers.

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Steve Salisbury
Yves Cavarec
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Nadia Vincent
Carlos Javier Pampliega García
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Michelle Stronach
Sydni Neptune
Laura Samsó
Marcos Arias
Cheryl Lee
Kristin Jones
Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin
Annmarie Curley

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What Our Attendees Asked: Questions About Everything from Pure Agile to Waterfall (and Hybrid!)

By Sydni Neptune, PMP

The PMXPO session I presented on 25 March 2021 with PM Solutions Research Editor-in-Chief Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin entitled “PM Maturity and Agile Capability: Meet Up!” had a lively group of attendees, and their questions came in so fast and furious that we had trouble answering them all during the session. We welcome this opportunity to follow up on some of these questions. They show that the theme of our presentation was a timely one, addressing the kinds of issues that project managers are facing in today’s organizations.

Q: Any suggestions for transition to Agile in the middle of a Waterfall project?

A: Transitioning to managing work and team in the middle of any effort is absolutely doable!  User Stories will need to be created for remaining work, sprint cadence will need to be defined, and so on.   Agile roles need to be defined (including Product Owner), ceremonies need to take place, co-location of the team/resource allocation (developers need to be 100% to the product effort or the team needs to have appropriate time allocations to support agile development, ceremonies, etc.).  Required training for the learning curve in a new methodology and way of doing work/interacting, new and very different team roles, and supporting sprint cadence, etc.  should be considered. What I would caution teams to consider is calculating/documenting the benefit in changing approach mid-stream, given there is a training/learning curve that will affect budget and timeline.

Q: Great discussion and insights, but isn't Agile just another way of doing project management? Is the comparison really between Agile and Waterfall (and Wagile)?

A: The agile approach can facilitate more flexibility for the business value with increased speed-to-market, iterative feature delivery, fail-fast-and correct mentality in development with shorter development/test cycles for a deliverable, etc. Done well and right, this approach breeds more satisfied employees feeling empowered to make a difference and better job satisfaction.  Utilizing Agile methods is not the only way to achieve these measures; however, utilizing the principles and ceremonies, and practicing them as they should be, has built in rigor that WILL achieve desired results.

Q: How do we do a pure agile methodology when we are implementing large software products for large organizations?

A: "Pure agile"" as described in textbooks requires organizational changes.   Product Owners own/prioritize the backlog, teams are co-located and allocated to the product effort 100%, the team is delivering something to the customer after every sprint, etc.   I believe the result of the organization change and work teams and delivery is powerful; however, many organizations are not willing to commit to such changes.  This is why many companies turn to a "hybrid" of Agile methods and traditional project management.

Q: Can a project manager be a Scrum master and Product owner? If a company isn't apt to hiring 2 new people to fill the Scrum master and product owner roles can a project manager fill them, and both coach the team and have the perspective of the client/business goals?

A: The roles of a Project Manager and a Product Owner are entirely different.  If the Project Manager truly is empowered to define and prioritize the backlog, this may work but most likely the Project Manager cannot represent the business need appropriately.  Does this question stem from the scenario where the project does not have a collaborative business partner and therefore someone needs to step in and fill the Product Owner role?  Think through this situation well.  This means the Project Manager is signing off on the sprint deliverables and can represent all of the business needs, i.e. decisions.  In a traditional PM methodology, the Product Owner is a similar equation to the Business Stakeholder and/or Project Sponsor.   Budget and business decisions are the responsibility of the Product Owner.   Rarely have I heard of a Project Manager empowered to make these decisions.

Q: Understanding the methodologies is key ... but does the leading Program Manager really need to be CSM certified?

A: The answer is NO. Certification provides formal acknowledgement that the practitioner has completed training/learning for scrum master role and has practiced as a scrum master.  However, Agile methodology can be learned and practiced by those not certified.  I do encourage certification as it requires a formal learning of the Agile methodology that will always benefit the practitioner/leader.

Q: How do you bridge the contradiction between "Agility" and "Rigorous adherence"?

A: Great question!  Many people can't wait to get out from under adherence to policies/standards and procedures and think "doing Agile” will provide flexibility and not require such rigor.  Those with this mindset do not understand Agile well and would be surprised to find that most often, and if done as the agilist evangelists preach, there is more rigor with Agile (i.e. ceremonies, velocity, etc.).

Q: How do you achieve successful agile methodology without a dedicated team?

A: Teams can incorporate Agile methods within a traditional project environment resulting in a hybrid approach (traditional PM and Agile approach).   If the team does not consist of 100% dedicated resources, you can determine a velocity output based on current allocations from your team members.   When this approach is used, a commitment from all team members is required to meet the established velocity.

Q: Am I correct in understanding that tracking metrics such as SPI and CPI is more difficult that other methodologies?

A: Agile methodology utilizes different metrics that measure an equivalent to SPI. For example, a burndown chart will reflect the amount of backlog remaining and progress in 'burning down' the backlog.   Cost/Budget is typically tracked on a planned vs. actual chart.  Suggestion: Have you thought of a burndown type chart for cost?

Q: Is Agile a methodology or framework?

A: Agile is a methodology and can be used within various frameworks, i.e.  Sprints, Kanban, SAFe Agile, Scaled Agile, etc. More than that, it is a way of thinking about how to get work done, and a mindset that values speed, flexibility, teamwork and value.

I had a great time presenting, and the full presentation will be on demand through 31 January 2022.  Visit PMI Virtual Experience Series 2021 for more details on this and other sessions.

Posted by Sydni Neptune on: April 27, 2021 12:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)