Agile Project Management is the most important trend in project management in my Washington DC PMI chapter, with more presentations and attendance on Agile than any other topic.
Let’s try to explain why Agile is so important today, and how is it different than other project management models.
What industry does project management originate from?
PMP’s roots are in construction and engineering; engineering professors like Harold J. Kerzner influenced project management with his theory of stochastic stability, in the field of Control Theory. This nature of control and a sequential approach to project management draws from these roots.
The Traditional Waterfall Model Lifecycle
For construction and engineering, you’re going to do things in a sequential way. You’re going to do predictive planning.
- you better have locked down, air-tight blueprints
- you sequentially move through the life cycle
- you develop high level requirements in your conceptual design
- then you move into detailed design
- and only at this point do you move into construction , testing, and finally, user acceptance.
That’s also how we developed software back in the early days.
I worked with COBOL programming in 70’s, using the traditional Waterfall approach.
We might spend more than a month going out, canvassing stakeholders and getting user requirements, and put that into a functional specification.
Then we could move from conceptual design to into detailed design, figure out file layouts, hierarchically into program models and subroutines.
We might spend 2-3 months doing detailed design documents, the system architecture and subsystem specs, and get that approved.
Only then did we move into coding, programming and development.
For COBOL programmers, a typical application circa 1978 could take a year, maybe 18 months, to write the code, go through testing phases, and approval.
At the end we finally bring in the customer for user acceptance testing
Why Agile Management is the Topic of Choice for PMP Washington DC
What happens after all this development? Developers are not happy, because it was so long before the customers got to see the applications, and developers could see response times and throughput times. The 2-year development period meant customers got old software ideas, not reflecting current trends and new customer requirements.
It’s not until customers can really kick the tires and test this all out that developers could figure out what they needed in the first place.
Which is why agile management is so frequently discussed, and attended, in the Washington DC PMI Chapter. In today’s world of just in time development, lean and agile, the iterative process is leading the way. How we manage iterations often defines success or failure for today’s project managers.