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Topics: Agile, Consulting, Earned Value Management
Why are Agile approaches not proving effective in completing R&D projects on time? Is it a nightmare for those Project Managers who are leading such ventures?
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The new Agile Practice Guide provides a number of tools, strategies and an understanding of the various agile approaches available to enable better results. But it is more useful for those PMs who are leading projects in a traditional environment. Managing R&D projects under the agile umbrella is proving an uphill task, and PMs are facing challenges to meet timelines while applying agile approaches. PMs are to acquire skills other than the traditional strategies and it is expected that this discussion forum will certainly recommend practical approaches to apply for successful handling of R&D projects.
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First let me say that the Agile Practice Guide is not a good source. It was created with the Agile Alliance and the Agile Alliance is focused on software so the guide could help to software projects. Second, Agile is not about to use a method or process, did not start with the Mainifesto,Agile was born inside the USA DoD NSF/Agility Forum in 1990 but their practices started time before.Third, Agile applies to R&D initiatives (I used it and when you search for Agile history you will see that) but as into any other type of initiatives there is something mostly missing: the first thing to do is an impact analysis taking into account the whole enterprise architecture to understand if the organization is ready to use Agile. Agile fits for R&D initiatives mainly when there is some type of uncertainty about the product and the acceptance into the market and some aditional information is needed. Sometimes after the first version, depending on the product characteristics,next versions are using other methods. Remember: just in case organization need to use Agile based method the Agile world does not end in Scrum. You have other methods like DSDM that are best suited for R&D initiatives (just after you see it when impact analysis ends).
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2 replies by Anish Abraham and MUHAMMAD NASIM UDDIN
May 10, 2018 8:42 PM
MUHAMMAD NASIM UDDIN
...
I appreciate your detailed response. Yes, the Impact Analysis technique or DSDM can be used in the better understanding of the probable implications/obstacles while finalizing the peculiar R&D requirements at different milestones; however, generally such common pitfalls are studied and identified during risk management stage. You are right in saying that it depends on the nature of the product or precisely processes creating delays, and moreover how the PM takes advantage of the outcome of the analysis.
May 17, 2018 12:31 PM
Anish Abraham
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Good feedback Sergio, and thanks for sharing your insights.
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Muhammad, do you have more details or perhaps a case study for Agile/Scrum in R&D?
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1 reply by MUHAMMAD NASIM UDDIN
May 10, 2018 8:47 PM
MUHAMMAD NASIM UDDIN
...
Sorry, I don't have any case study specific to Agile/Scrum in R&D projects.
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My experience is that Agile methods are better for R&D projects, since the goal of the project is often nebulous. Sometimes goals are refined or modified after iterations. And Agile's premise of delivering value early and often meshes well with R&D objectives. Specifically, the "spiral" process of Agile delivery is based on converging on a solution, and has often been used in R&D.

For instance, NASA's Apollo program to put a man on the moon was a step by step "spiral" evolutionary process culminating with Apollo 11's lunar landing, and then expanding with later Apollo missions to gather samples and data.
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1 reply by Sante Vergini
May 10, 2018 5:56 PM
Sante Vergini
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John do you have an example or short case study of Agile used in R&D?
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Muhammad -

A traditional approach will run into more challenges with true R&D given the level of complexity and uncertainty involved whereas agile approaches where you could cost or time box the experimentation surrounding a hypothesis (the essence of Eric Ries' Lean Startup approach) might be more applicable.

Kiron
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1 reply by MUHAMMAD NASIM UDDIN
May 10, 2018 9:14 PM
MUHAMMAD NASIM UDDIN
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I agreed. While talking about R&D projects of strategic nature having a very specific goal/ outcome/ end-product than mostly 'best practices' become a preferred option for PMs to start with because it works everywhere at all times especially in the planning phase. Yes, Lean Startup approach can be used: however, this is new methodology, and mainly focus towards eliminating uncertainty in the product development process that might be already, being looked after through risk register in a traditional way. I welcome any case study on the subject.
Network:10345



May 10, 2018 11:39 AM
Replying to John Herman
...
My experience is that Agile methods are better for R&D projects, since the goal of the project is often nebulous. Sometimes goals are refined or modified after iterations. And Agile's premise of delivering value early and often meshes well with R&D objectives. Specifically, the "spiral" process of Agile delivery is based on converging on a solution, and has often been used in R&D.

For instance, NASA's Apollo program to put a man on the moon was a step by step "spiral" evolutionary process culminating with Apollo 11's lunar landing, and then expanding with later Apollo missions to gather samples and data.
John do you have an example or short case study of Agile used in R&D?
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1 reply by John Herman
May 17, 2018 12:08 PM
John Herman
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I will need to think about this. There are several good ones that I cannot share due to confidentiality agreements.
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May 10, 2018 4:13 AM
Replying to Sergio Luis Conte
...
First let me say that the Agile Practice Guide is not a good source. It was created with the Agile Alliance and the Agile Alliance is focused on software so the guide could help to software projects. Second, Agile is not about to use a method or process, did not start with the Mainifesto,Agile was born inside the USA DoD NSF/Agility Forum in 1990 but their practices started time before.Third, Agile applies to R&D initiatives (I used it and when you search for Agile history you will see that) but as into any other type of initiatives there is something mostly missing: the first thing to do is an impact analysis taking into account the whole enterprise architecture to understand if the organization is ready to use Agile. Agile fits for R&D initiatives mainly when there is some type of uncertainty about the product and the acceptance into the market and some aditional information is needed. Sometimes after the first version, depending on the product characteristics,next versions are using other methods. Remember: just in case organization need to use Agile based method the Agile world does not end in Scrum. You have other methods like DSDM that are best suited for R&D initiatives (just after you see it when impact analysis ends).
I appreciate your detailed response. Yes, the Impact Analysis technique or DSDM can be used in the better understanding of the probable implications/obstacles while finalizing the peculiar R&D requirements at different milestones; however, generally such common pitfalls are studied and identified during risk management stage. You are right in saying that it depends on the nature of the product or precisely processes creating delays, and moreover how the PM takes advantage of the outcome of the analysis.
Network:295



May 10, 2018 7:36 AM
Replying to Sante Vergini
...
Muhammad, do you have more details or perhaps a case study for Agile/Scrum in R&D?
Sorry, I don't have any case study specific to Agile/Scrum in R&D projects.
...
1 reply by Sante Vergini
May 10, 2018 9:59 PM
Sante Vergini
...
Thanks anyway :-)
Network:295



May 10, 2018 2:08 PM
Replying to Kiron Bondale
...
Muhammad -

A traditional approach will run into more challenges with true R&D given the level of complexity and uncertainty involved whereas agile approaches where you could cost or time box the experimentation surrounding a hypothesis (the essence of Eric Ries' Lean Startup approach) might be more applicable.

Kiron
I agreed. While talking about R&D projects of strategic nature having a very specific goal/ outcome/ end-product than mostly 'best practices' become a preferred option for PMs to start with because it works everywhere at all times especially in the planning phase. Yes, Lean Startup approach can be used: however, this is new methodology, and mainly focus towards eliminating uncertainty in the product development process that might be already, being looked after through risk register in a traditional way. I welcome any case study on the subject.
Network:10345



May 10, 2018 8:47 PM
Replying to MUHAMMAD NASIM UDDIN
...
Sorry, I don't have any case study specific to Agile/Scrum in R&D projects.
Thanks anyway :-)
Network:926



May 10, 2018 5:56 PM
Replying to Sante Vergini
...
John do you have an example or short case study of Agile used in R&D?
I will need to think about this. There are several good ones that I cannot share due to confidentiality agreements.
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