Project management. Agile or classic? – Sylwia WójcikGeneral Manager
During project realization team members pay attention to the choice of solutions to be provided, the so-called design products. It is easy to focous on product because of their physical, tangible character. The assumptions of the project are to provide a certain number of named systems, modules, instructions… It is different with project management methodology. The decision to choose a specific methodology may seem like a side issue. However, this is a misconception. The most common reason of ERP implementation failure is improper project management. Choosing the right management methodology can therefore be crucial to the success of the project.
Which approach is the most optimal for successful implementation?
Couple years ago, companies that wanted to implement projects for public administration were required to have a valid PRINCE certificate from the supplier’s project manager. According to the contracting authority, this was a key factor that was to guarantee the success of the project. In fact, using the classic PRINCE methodology often generated excessive documentation, which is the main objection from its opponents. However, this should not be understood solely as a negative assessment of this methodology and it should be emphasized that it works perfectly in many projects. However, it cannot be treated as a universal methodology that guarantees proper management of the project. The success of the project depends on many factors, the use of the right methodology, tailored to the nature of the project being implemented, is one of them.
Learn about popular implementation approaches
Two approaches emerge in project management:
- Waterfall – traditional, assuming the sequential implementation of individual stages,
- Agile – in which the team works based on short sprints, providing working fragments of the system (increase).
It is a traditional approach which involves planning the next stages and implementing them one by one. In sequence: requirements are collected, a plan is created, the work is carried out and a complete operational end product is presented. Each phase of the project has a start and end point, and work on the next phase does not begin until the current phase is completed – that’s why it is called a “waterfall”.
Sample stages of the system implementation according to Waterfall:
- Determination of requirements, results and system selection
- System maintenance
Waterfall seems to be safe approach. Individual stages, budget or time allocated for the implementation of individual steps are planned. However, an important issue in this approach is, as in the case of a waterfall, is the inability to go back to completed stages (or it requires the involvement of a large amount of resources and work). Because possible problems and the need to introduce changes usually appear at the end (testing or implementation stage), their repair is expensive and extends the duration of the project.
And there is more
What is more implemantation with this approach is time consuming and can extend project realization time becasause it assumes start of further works only after the end of the given stage. However, it has some positive aspects. First, results expectations are set in advance, which greatly simplifies and simplifies planning and designing. In addition, a clear definition of the individual stages greatly facilitates measuring the progress of implementation, and finally the customer is presented with a complete, finished product, consistent with the original assumptions. Clear start and end intervals and clear project structure are defined. Individual steps and stages are clear to all project participants. Works great in fixed price projects.
Agile approach and methodologies are gaining popularity every year. They often work well in software development teams. The basic measure here is the program’s operation. The project team often meets, so any problems can be quickly noticed and resolved.
Compared to the Waterfall approach Agile is faster and more flexible. The main difference between them lies in the stages of development and implementation. Agile focuses on the stage that is currently being implemented, and what is most important at the moment, instead of the finished product. It allows to find and solve problems during many rounds of testing and design. It assumes that the system will be implemented as soon as possible, and that it should be adapted and expanded during its work. The next steps are determined and are successively implemented.
How does Agile work?
Agile teams divide work into small tasks, called sprints, that minimize the amount of initial planning and design. The team works on all stages (planning, programming, implementation, testing, etc.) during one sprint. Finally, the finished part of the entire system is created. This allows for greater flexibility in meeting the changing requirements of customers.
For more complex and dynamic enterprise, efficient implementation of solutions guarantees that the software implements business processes as expected both at the beginning of the project and at its end.
It should be remembered that the agile approach requires a lot of commitment on the part of the customer. There are projects where it is difficult to estimate the costs, and the result may differ significantly from the original project assumptions.
What methodology should you choose? Think about a hybrid solution
It is difficult to decide which approach is better. Both have their pros and cons, and the choice of a specific methodology also depends on the characteristics of the enterprise. It is also possible to take the best of both and create your own procedures.
The hybrid method
The hybrid method determines work in advance, borrowing specific development phases and setting high level requirements from the Waterfall approach. Often, repetition of the same operations (iteration), testing and interdisciplinary involvement are added from the Agile methodology. By choosing what is best for us, companies receive a clear map of the project, with specific, achievable phases in which progress is easy to track and at the same time flexible enough to meet unforeseen challenges or changes in the company. The hybrid approach also assumes maximum involvement of end users of the new system, and this is another step closer to the success of the implementation. The hybrid approach assumes that each stage is more than just software development. It is about solving general operational problems and transforming business so that the company can meet current and future challenges.
The issue of choosing an approach to implementation or a specific project management methodology is definitely a key factor on the way to the goal, broadly understood implementation success. Regardless of the decision, reliable analysis and focus on customer requirements, as well as good project management in the set scope, as well as emerging changes, will bring us closer to this goal.
Whether we use a traditional or agile approach in the implemented project must also take into account the external environment, the customer’s approach to active participation in the work of the team and a certain flexibility of the budget planned for implementation.
It depends on the enterprise and implementation partner which method will be the best choice in a given project. It is important to adapt it, in addition to the project and the implementation environment, to the companies cooperating with each other in the implementation of the project, as well as to their employees, remembering that the greatest strength and value of the company is a person.
Sylwia Wójcik – General Manager at IT Vision. She manages projects and teams. She advises customers on ERP, WMS and document workflows.