Should we go with agile or waterfall or hybrid is the major decision one should make before getting into detailed planning. There are construction projects which got great benefits by following agile during the engineering phases, which facilitated concurrent engineering by distributed teams. While that is the case with project management strategies / approach, project execution strategies are also equally important. For example, I know a construction project which could meet their tight deadline because they decided to go with pre-fabricated components in the project. Project strategies can also revolve around make or buy decisions, various contracting types, technologies used etc…
While the factors to be considered for developing the project’s strategy / approach are multidimensional , the rest of this article will discuss about the various project management strategies that can be adopted for successful execution of projects.
When to go with predictive or waterfall?
If the scope is very clear (Construction projects)
If the technology is well known
If the engineering discipline do not allow for change
If the contract type is fixed price, fixed duration
When to go with Agile?
If the scope is evolving
If the technology is new to the team
If the engineering discipline allows for change (Information technology, Engineering phase)
When to go with Hybrid?
When the team is moving from Waterfall to Agile
When some phases are ideal for agile and some phases are ideal for waterfall, within the same project some phases can follow agile where as some phases will follow waterfall (predictive) style. For example, in a construction project, the architecture, approvals, engineering, procurement, snags, punch lists are potential candidates for agile where as the actual construction phase will benefit by following predictive approaches.
Even in a predominantly predictive project management approach, adopting some of the agile ceremonies like daily meetings, short term planning, burn down charts etc can improve productivity.
Good project approaches / strategy will play a major role in meeting the timelines within cost with quality.
The project management job opportunities as well as the scope of the project manager’s job description are on the rise. Project manager’s job description goes beyond the triple constraints of time, cost and scope. The new project manager’s job description covers the achievement of the business case of the project as well. This makes the new project manager’s role more strategic. In this changed scenario, Have you ever wondered why some really climb up the professional ladder where as many do not, despite having the same credentials and opportunities? When we studied the careers of very successful project professionals, we could identify the following 7 habits common across the achievers.
Good foundation – Most of them had good grades in their academics and they pursued their project career in the areas related to their field of study.
Application of Project Management – They had clarity on their academic and professional goals and they applied project management to achieve them.
Focus on long term rewards – Their focus is on long term rewards than on the short term benefits.
Continuous on the job learning – The first ten years of their career was dedicated to gaining hands on experience and learning new things.
StrategicCredential enhancement – They continuously improved their knowledge and authenticity through globally accepted qualifications.
Networking – They are good in networking with others in the profession.
Pro-activeness – They are pro-active in sensing opportunities ahead and pursued them before others.
What is the Opportunity awaiting Capable Project Professionals?
By 2027, employers will need 87.7 million individuals working in project management oriented roles. The talent gap could result in a potential loss of some US$207.9 billion in GDP through 2027 for the 11 countries analyzed (China, India, USA, Japan, Brazil, Germany, UK, Canada, Australia and the Middle East region). PMI (2017). Project Management Job Growth and Talent Gap 2017–2027. Even though the pandemic might have negatively impacted these projections, this is good time to get ready to leverage the opportunities ahead.
How to leverage these 7 habits to advance your profession?
If you want to understand how to systematically plan your project management career goals proactively, and to achieve them at the appropriate time, then read ahead;
What is PMg-CMM?. How will it help career progression?
The objective of the Project Manager’s Capability Maturity Model is to provide a professional ecosystem comprising of aspiring professionals, mentors, trainers, organizations and recruiters collaborating around a structured road map for meticulous planning and progression of project management as a profession.
The diagram below depicts the five levels of project management professional maturity.
Level#1 – Beginner
Because you are technically good, you are asked to manage teams
You are not aware of the basic project management tools and techniques and their application
You think project management is about just getting things done at any cost
Success is inconsistent and short lived
In the longer run, You and the team members fail to perform as a single unit due to internal conflicts
Though you have technology mentors, you do not have mentors to guide you on the management side to the right degree
Level#2 – Professionally qualified
You get certified in one of the popular project management certifications, hoping to improve your job prospects.
You are aware of the globally accepted project management best practices.
You would have realized how the application of these best practices would have helped you to prevent some of the challenges you faced before.
You start applying and leveraging some of the project management core practices
As and when challenges arise, you leverage the models, methods & artifacts recommended by global standards
You have good mentors who can guide you professionally
Level#3 – Professionally proven
You have proven yourself as a dependable project manager who can manage small to medium complexity projects
You are highly respected within the project organization
You are considered to manage prestigious projects
You become a role model for other budding project managers within the organization
You are good at nurturing your professional networks
You have good mentors and you start mentoring others
Level#4 Strategic Role
You are invited to strategic project portfolio meetings
In some cases your expert advise is sought to improve the project management capability of the organization (PMO)
You will be asked to manage programs or very large projects
You leverage your professional networks to great advantage
You have mentors and you yourself is a highly sought after mentor
Level#5 Leadership Role
You are considered as an expert authority in project management
You contribute to the project management community by way of research and knowledge sharing
Great deal of you time is spent in mentoring individuals, teams, organizations and communities
How quickly one traverse through these levels depends on their ambition, commitment, mentoring and the ability to pivot according to the market trends. Instead of growing vertically through the five maturity levels, one has the opportunity to grow horizontally as ‘T’ skilled professionals who have in-depth domain expertise in a particular trade supported by good project management capability as well.
In this conversation Dr. Stefanie shares about her work, experiences, insights her books and Psychology4Agility with Abrachan Pudussery, Director at the Project Management Research Institute and Wrench Academy
Till yesterday, when people anxiously asked me about the changes in PMBOK7, my reply was in the form of another question – ‘Can you execute a project without any one of the knowledge areas (listed below)?’. The answer is a unanimous ‘No’. So they are inevitable. They have to be there in the new version hidden somewhere. If you can master the 10 knowledge areas and their application in both predictive and agile project management, you are pretty much done with project management. That is my view.
I am glad that my views hold good after going through all the 370 pages of the new PMBOK7.
The Ten Knowledge Areas evolved from Version 1 to Version 6 of the Project Management Body of Knowledge;
Project Integration Management
Project Scope Management
Project Schedule Management
Project Cost Management
Project Quality Management
Project Risk Management
Project Resource management
Project Procurement management
Project communications management
Project stakeholder management
These are immortal. Projects cannot succeed without them. The sequences may vary.
The PMBOK7 looks like an apex manual explaining the;
12 principles of professional project management (new)
8 project performance domains (new)
Models, methods and artifacts (Not part of the PMBOK7 document, but accessible from the digital library, Old, taken from PMBOK6)
High level mind map of PMBOK7
PMBOK7 comprises of 12 principles, 8 performance domains, tailoring guidelines and the models, methods and artifacts contained in a digital library ‘PM Standards Plus’ maintained by PMI. The immediate thought can be, about the 10 knowledge areas, 5 process groups, 49 processes and the inputs, tools & techniques and the outputs of the PMBOK6. Where is the place for them in the PMBOK7. All of that is under the digital library ‘PM Standards Plus’. In essence, nothing is lost during the transition from PMBOK6 to PMBOK7, and at the same time 12 principles, Eight project performance domains and the tailoring guidelines sits on top of the digital library PMStandards Plus which is nothing but the PMBOK6 contents, that makes up the 10 knowledge areas evolved from version 1.0 till 6.
How will this impact the different stakeholders who comprise the project management community?
Impact on Practitioners – the organizations who have shaped their project management policies and procedures around the structure of PMBOK versions 1 to 6 will have the added opportunity to embrace value driven delivery which can accommodate the whole gamut of project management ranging from large infrastructure projects to research and development projects. Even if they do not change anything, nothing will be in contradiction to PMBOK7.
Impact on 12,0000 PMPs World Wide – Change will always push us outside our comfort zones. Initially there can be expectation mismatch and the frustration stemming out of it. Once one dig deeper, like me, they also will realize that the changes are more to the value system and structure, than to the content.
Impact on PMP trainers – PMP trainers who are good at both predictive and agile project management will not find it difficult. The ones, who have not yet understood the true spirit of agile may need to gain hands on experience on agile to really understand and explain value driven project management.
Impact on the new PMP aspirants – PMI, keeps on repeating the fact that the PMP aspirants can still use the PMBOK6 as the reference material. Going by the earlier revisions, even if one use PMBOK Version 5, it should not make much of a difference because the fundamentals of project management cannot be changed as it revolves around the famous Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle and around the 10 knowledge areas. If you have already completed your PMP preparatory training, then do not disrupt your preparation. Proceed with PMBOK6 as the basis. It will be good if you can go through the new PMBOK7 quickly to understand those new jargon (not many any way).
Impact on other Agile frameworks and certifications – If the PMBOK7 gets wider acceptance, and if the new PMPs are equally adept in both predictive and agile project management frameworks then other agile frameworks and certifications will face a strong contender in PMBOK7 and PMP2021. PMI themselves will be forced to stop the PMI-ACP, as it will become redundant within PMI’s portfolio.
Projects are neither completely predictive nor agile any more. They are hybrid in nature. That is the reality. So far, project management had two distinct streams, the Adaptive (Agile) and the Predictive (traditional). The purists believed in any one of the streams. They are busy justifying their views. Now, the industry has changed. Irrespective of the type of work, majority are working from home and that demands adoption of both agile and predictive best practices in the day to day work. That trend is here to stay. The Project Management Institute (PMI) was the front runner in this by including Agile in the Project Management Body of Knowledge four years back. This was followed by the new Scrum Guide 2021, which has become more generic. Scrum is the most popular among the Agile frameworks because of it’s adaptability to various disciplines of project management. According to Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, the founders of Scrum, they made the Scrum Guide 2021 more generic so that it becomes easier for all types of projects to adopt it. The trend is very clear. The boundaries between agile and predictive is vanishing, if not yet vanished.
Unfortunately, when I visited the Agile Manifesto Page, it still reads as ‘Agile manifesto for developing software’. From an EPC project practitioner’s perspective this is very demotivating. The engineering phases of any EPC project is a good candidate for agile adoption, but still the agile manifesto is maintained exclusively for software development. Like every other EPC person wanting to leverage agile I feel stranded and unsupported.
These two factors leads to the need for the Hybrid Project Management Manifesto;
The Hybrid Project Management Manifesto
As practitioners of Professional Project Management, We believe that;All projects are unique in nature,
Tailoring the processes, by incorporating the best from every project management framework is better for project success, than relying on any single framework.
For this;We will continuously update our knowledge and skills without any bias to any one particular project management framework,
We will always maintain an independent open view in all our actionsto ensure project success.
I am very optimistic about this, because there are many who opposes this view as well as those support this view. It is high time we stopped saying ‘Agile Vs Waterfall’, instead we must learn to say ‘Agile and Waterfall’ and for that the apt word is 'Hybrid'. Thanks to the traditionalists who contributed us with great tools like the critical path analysis, earned value management and the likes. These are time tested concepts which is here to stay. The agile practices like time boxing, the short term planning, daily team meetings, self organizing teams can be effectively used within phases of every project. That will result in a healthy co-existence. Think of burn down charts co-existing with earned value management and helping to protect the earned value. Nothing is good or bad, the project context determines it’s suitability.
Hope Hybrid manifesto will help us to focus on the project’s success than worrying about the technicalities of frameworks.
The Hybrid manifesto is evolving. You can help with your suggestions.
In today’s fast changing world we cannot escape from the fact that business requirements change very often. If we use the predictive, heavy weight methodologies for developing software it is very difficult to incorporate the changing business needs of our customers. Lightweight software development methodologies, which appeared in the late nineties “embrace changes”. The disciplined adaptive nature of these methodologies helps us to easily accommodate changing business needs of our customers, even in later part of the development cycle.
Many software development organizations are using agile development methodologies like Scrum as it helps the organizations to respond to changing business environments very quickly and provide better customer satisfaction. In today’s business environment it is not really the big that win the battles rather it’s the fast that win the battles over the slow. Time to market is very important in today’s fast changing world. Agile development helps us to deliver the value to the customer rapidly through a divide and conquer approach and prioritization. The right 20% of effort will yield 80% of the value, so we do a lot of those in agile development and extreme testing.
Introduction to Agile
In Scrum the whole development is divided into different increments/sprints. Top priority user stories are covered in the initial sprints. Unit tests are developed first as a best practice. Then the code is written to ensure that 100% of unit tests pass. This is done in an incremental way. The developers write unit tests and 100% of Unit tests are automated. This will help in executing the tests repeatedly and also simplify the reporting of results.
There is one more important type of testing involved in agile testing, which is called Acceptance Test/Customer Test. These tests are written, based on User stories. They are formal tests conducted to determine whether or not a system satisfies its acceptance criteria and to enable the customer to determine whether or not to accept the system. Test engineers write the Acceptance tests with the help of customers in some organizations. It is very important to understand the customer perspectives while writing the acceptance tests. The big mountain acceptance tests are automated using an appropriate tool and executed on all the builds. Agile testing creates confidence that code is complete and it works; catches integration defects when they are first created, and, most importantly, provides confidence that a maintenance change did not introduce a regression error.
Basic values like open communication, tight feedback loop in the scrum teams, simplicity and courage are the key in scrum teams. In scrum, testing isn’t a final hurdle it is a journey along the full development cycle.
Areas to Focus
While building a distributed agile team we need to consider multiple factors. If we don’t build the right team for Agile it is going to be very tough to get the results. Open Communication is one of the key values in agile development.
Individuals and Interactions
If your existing team is to be transformed into an Agile team the most important step is to evangelize the agile concepts and benefits in your team. Management and Development teams also need to be educated on the ROI(Return On Investment). When we were implementing Agile in our organization we used to conduct talks by practitioners on agile, play agile dramas depicting the outcome from monumental methodologies and light methodologies. Once the platform is set we can start implementing agile practices and values. We need to identify and prioritize which are the areas to focus on first for the team. We may need to refactor the team. If there are team members in your team with a negative attitude or having an attitude to resist changes, then proper guidance needs to be given to them to bring in the change. If there are no improvements, it is a good idea to move them to a different project. Agile talks about “tossing off” the code at the end of the day if it doesn’t serve the purpose. This is applicable for team members also. Don’t try to patch it up too much…
While recruiting new members to an agile team we need to ensure that they have the right set of attitudes and skills in line with the agile way of working. Openness, ready to give and accept feedback, simplicity, courage, adaptability, good in communication, right skill mix …these are some of the attributes we need to ensure in a new hire. If you are planning to hire it is a good idea to have a brief discussion about agile practices you follow in your organization during the interview. Once they are hired we need to evangelize agile among them. In some cities we may not get engineers who worked in agile earlier. Transforming an engineer who has been working in monumental methodologies to an agile environment is not that easy. It’s a big paradigm shift. There may be resistance to change. We need to plan our inductions in such a way that the returns of Agile are communicated to the new hires appropriately. Once they understand the synergy it gives to customers and the organization employees will start believing in this new model. Once this milestone is covered it is easy to evangelize the other agile practices we follow in our organization.
Like the “pair programming” concept in Agile mentoring also can be done through pairing. A new hire is paired with a senior engineer who is in the team for more than 1 year. A high level introduction about the product is given to the new hire. After that during the sprint the new hire pair up with other team members according to the plan laid out by the Coach. The mentoring plans always focus on big mountain functionalities first.
When a groupWhen group of people works together in internationally distributed locations, there is great need to communicate with each other, share data and share expensive resources. Building a good communication mechanism is very important for the success of agile testing. Conversation with developer, customer, and feature team leads and product manager is frequent. Daily Stand up meetings with the scrum teams helps to build the relationships among the teams. All the Agile team members including developers, test engineers, documentation experts, product managers and DevOps assemble in the morning (usually on a planned fixed time like 10am) for a short stand up meeting of 5 to 10 minutes duration. Plan for the day and top priority unresolved issues from the previous days work is communicated to the team. This meeting is not for resolving the issues or detailed discussion. Resolutions are taken later after the meeting. If we are working in a distributed model where the development is happening in the US and the testing is in India or some part of the feature team is in a remote location like India and China, Communication and the feedback loop get badly affected. Tailored agile for these kinds of offshore development can be called as “Distributed Agile”. Collaboration among testers, programmers, and other stakeholders is more highly valued on agile projects than details of process, practices, or tools. Test engineers are part of scrum teams. Agile methods ask teams to continually evaluate how to improve group interaction, for the benefit of the project.
Once we have decided the members of the scrum team, building the team is the first priority. We need to plan for internal and external team building activities initially. We can also do a lot of informal interactions and get together … like all feature team members having evening snacks together in the snacks parlor.
Video calls, Chat, email , lightweight documentations , phone calls etc.. can be used for constant communications. We can plan for weekly meetings with members of the scrum team who are in the remote location. It is a good idea to have all the scrum team members participate in this meeting. Frequent conversations between the remotely located team members is a good practice. This will help us to build relationships. We need to agree on the overlap timings when the video calls can happen as most of the time one of the engineers will be at home because of the time zone differences. Engineers traveling in both directions frequently (2-3 travels per quarter) and working with the remote team for 3-4 weeks will enhance the relationships. This will help us for better culture sync. These ambassadors ensure there is enough osmosis within the distributed feature team.
Working Software over Comprehensive Documentation
Jim McCarthy said that, “The regular build is the single most reliable indicator that a team is functional and a product is being developed.” This is very much true in the case of a distributed agile team. We need to ensure that we have good CI/CD practices in our organization where the latest builds are easily available for the test teams. This will help the test teams to run their test on the latest code. We need to automate the big mountain acceptance tests using appropriate tools. This will help us to test often and communicate the progress to the feature teams.
Frequent demos of the current status of the features to the entire feature team is very important. It is a good idea to have such demos weekly once. Demos can be arranged for remote teams on Fridays and we can have a group test after that where the entire feature team tests the latest build with a focus on new features. These demos can be recorded and uploaded to a common repository. Later if some of the team members want to go through the demo they can always replay it from the common repository. During the initial milestones where the top priority features are developed we can use build mechanisms like “sandbox” where the developers check in their new code as and when the unit test passes into a sandbox build maintained by the feature team. Test engineers can always use this build for testing the new features. As we are going to give feedback on working software rather than on design documents or requirement documents the feedback inputs will have more value. Development engineers can incorporate the feedback back into the sandbox the next day. At the end of the week all the new code checked in by the feature team in the sand box (which is tested and feedback incorporated) can be checked into the main line code. If we are working in distributed agile we may need to document some of the important changes. We can use wiki or google doc etc… for maintaining these kinds of knowledge bits.
To build an effective testing team for Distributed agile we need to focus on individuals and interactions over processes and tools. We need to ensure that the latest code is available for testing in all the internationally distributed locations. Feedback based on working software helps to build confidence in the feature teams.
In a nutshell, everything in the corporate environment have become dynamically agile, where business owners are trying their best to maximize return on their investments. As a timely coincidence, leading organizations like the Project Management Institute (PMI) started their initiatives long back to converge the Predictive and Agile Project Management best practices, as if they could foresee the forthcoming new world order well in advance. All these have major impact on how we collaborate and work on projects. The concept of permanent employment have already become a matter of the past, as organizations are actively seeking flexibility in resourcing to optimize costs.
People with proven skill sets and the ability to learn fast with good work ethics will be sought after. Professionals with the ability to deliver value at the right time, with almost zero supervision, working remotely will be in demand globally. The geographical constraints of employment will become almost zero for the right people who can proactively identify the new opportunities and gear up. In this new world order, our professional profiles matters a lot to market ourselves. You are a brand, and that brand has to be continuously nourished to be in demand. This is the right time to equip yourself with new in demand skills supported by globally acknowledged credentials. Project Management 2021, is all about highly skilled, motivated individuals, working on their projects of choice as self organizing teams, demonstrating high degree of work ethics.