You may be at the start of your Project Management career, or a seasoned veteran. You may work on software engineering projects or in business change. But, whatever your project role, one thing is clear. Project Managers can no longer afford to ignore Agile methodologies.
We spoke with Agile Project Management trainer and founder of AgileSumo.com, Chris O’Halloran. The first thing he said was this:
‘I am the first to admit that when I first heard about Agile in 2003, I mentally wrote it off…
Surely, no serious project manager would follow principles of Agile. I mean, how could a lack of planning actually work?’
He goes on to also admit that he didn’t understand Agile.
But now he believes he was wrong. It wasn’t until many years later that he began to understand Agile, the value it brings and, crucially, why it works.
Now, Chris is a huge advocate for Agile. He teaches Agile principles and coaches teams on moving to Agile ways of working.
In this article, Chris explains why you can no longer afford to ignore Agile methodologies, if you don’t want to be left behind.
#Project Managers can't afford to ignore #Agile if u don’t want to be left behind #PMOT Click To Tweet
For some time now, Agile principles have increasingly been in how businesses choose to deliver projects and create value.
Agile is a maturing discipline. But it started life as an idea for improving product management. Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka wrote a widely reprinted 1996 Harvard Business Review article, ‘The New New Product Development Game‘.
Then, Jeff Sutherland took these ideas and used them to speed up software development at Easel Corporation in the 1990s. The process he developed was the genesis of the Agile Methodology, Scrum. Today this is the most widely used of the many Agile approaches.
In 2001, he and other developers met to compare notes on rapid software project management methods, and agreed on the term Agile to cover them all. At the same time, they created the Agile Manifesto to describe 12 operating principles that would govern Agile methodologies.
Now, we have come full circle. We are starting to see Agile methodologies used for projects outside of the software development environment. So, when we spoke with Chris O’Halloran, he told us of wide application. In his training and coaching of Agile methodologies and principles, Chris has seen software application development of course. But he has also seen Australian states setting their budgets as Agile projects, using Scrum and Kanban.
The philosophy behind Agile Project Management is simple:
‘Maximise value and eliminate waste’
To do this, Agile methodologies are incremental. They use iterations to refine and add to stable deliverables. And they engage high levels of customer involvement, to review scope and quality frequently. Each iteration sees a cycle of defining, building and testing the next step in the product’s development.
The project management process puts an emphasis on speed and delivery, over governance and documentation. Leadership tends to be far more distributed and non-heirarchical than in traditional projects. And there is no explicit Project Manager role in some Agile methodologies.
The Agile principles can be delivered by many different methodologies. Some of the best known are, perhaps:
All of these share some or all of a number of fundamental practices, like paired programming, behavior and test driven development (BDD and TDD), user stories and story points.
Our Project Manager’s Immersion Program has a video introduction to the ideas behind Agile and its most popular methodology, Scrum.
Chris has researched the way interest has grown in Agile methodologies. Using Google search data, he demonstrates the rise and rise of Agile, and make the case that we can no longer afford to ignore it. This, of course, matches the trends the Project Management Institute found in its most recent PMI Pulse of the Profession report. See Conclusion No. 6 of our article.
Let’s take a look at Chris’s analysis…
Chris looke at the search volumes in Google for the words:
The Agile methodologies of Scrum and Kanban both show greater, and growing, search volumes than the two traditional project management search terms.
Agile methodologies like Scrum and Kanban are often contrasted with traditional approaches that are characterized as ‘waterfall’ project management. This reflects the one-thing-leads-to-the-next nature of many traditional project implementations. It’s a charaterization OnlinePMCourses deprecates, but one that’s widely used. Chris uses it as a handy shorthand.
When he zooms in on the graph above, studying the last five years, he finds Scrum out-trending the typical waterfall methodologies of PMPoK and PRINCE2, by a large margin.
He then narrows his search. Focusing on Business and Industrial markets, we see that PRINCE2 and PMBoK still have higher monthly search volumes. But look at the trends: they are both falling. Scrum and Kanban, on the other hand, are both growing.
Take a look at this table of keyword search volumes. Now, there are more monthly Google searches for Scrum than PMBoK and PRINCE2 combined. And the term Agile far outranks Project Management as a search term, according to Google.
While it’s no more credible to say that Agile is project management than to say flying is transport or athletics is sport, one thing is clear. Today, the more specific framework Agile garners more interest and research than the more general term Project Management. And the even specific Agile methodology Scrum is not far behind.
Some countries that have been substantial adopters of the traditional project management methodology PRINCE2. These are led by the UK (where PRINCE2 was developed), Australia, Nigeria, and the US. But look at the chart Chris offers us. Here we can see the dominant search interest globally is Scrum.
The picture shifts when Chris isolates the business and industrial market segments. But this is unlikely to remain the pattern for long.
Remember the search trends? Look at how Scrum is rising against declining search volumes for PRINCE2 and PMBoK. The graph is close to cross-over.
Google calls Scrum a ‘breakout’ search term. This means that searches for Scrum are increasing exponentially, month-on-month.Scrum is a ‘breakout’ search term. Searches for #Scrum are rising exponentially. #PMOT Click To Tweet
This is also affecting the accredited training that new project managers are seeking out. Over the past five years, Chris tells us, interest in PRINCE2 training has declined rapidly.
This conflicts with other assertions on the web that PRINCE2 continues to grow. Two things, however, that I think we can be sure of, are that overall interest in Project Management training is growing healthily. And also that PRINCE2 is popular in pockets – geographically (Britain and Commonwealth countries) and sectorially (public sector and industry).
What Chris does illustrate compellingly is the interest in the search terms associated with two ‘competing’ accredited training programs for traditional and Agile methodologies.
Scrum Master is the primary qualification in the most widely adopted of the Agile Methodologies. And PMP is the PMI’s principal project management qualification. Look at these two graphs that Chris offers us.
I find Chris’s evidence compelling. It shows how significant Agile has become, as an approach to project management. More and more people are showing an interest and this is a bandwagon that is unlikely to slow soon.
As an expert trainer and coach in Agile Methodologies, and Scrum in particular, Chris has developed an online course. Master Agile in 30 Days blends video training with live coaching calls.
You can simply join and follow the course, or sign up to also achieve an internationally recognized certificate. Follow our link below, to take a look.
Chris also offers a free 90-minute Agile Masterclass that you can take straight away, just by clicking either the link, or the thumbnail below.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, and we’ll respond to all of them.
Chris O'Halloran has over 20 years in project management experience. He is a certified Agile coach and has spent the last decade focused on Agile coaching and training. His book Done Better Faster: The Manager’s Guide To Agile is an excellent handbook for managers looking to implement Agile strategies, principles, and practices in the workplace. Chris is founder of Agile Sumo, at http://agilesumo.com. Chris currently serves as Vice President of the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM), Queensland Chapter, and is a member of the International Project Management Association (IPMA) and the Project Management Institute (PMI).
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Have you considered that those searching for ‘scrum’ may also be searching for a Rugby Magazine, Rugby TV programme or just to understand the rules of the most technical parts of the game of Rugby. The other terms you include do not have any significant other common meanings. You are also comparing searches on specific techniques (scrum and Kanban) with much broader well known methods/frameworks. Since Scrum is relatively new compared to say PRINCE2 (and PRINCE2 Agile had been recently published) lots of people who already know of PRINCE2 may be looking up scrum to use with it. These figures are hardly a basis on which to analyse trends in project management.
Indeed, you’re right. The term ‘scrum’ is as much a metaphor as ‘gateway’ or ‘milestone’. When its originators, Hirotaka Takeuchi & Ikujiro Nonaka, developed their thinking, they were thinking very much of the comparison with Rugby. I wonder that it has taken off so well in non-Rugby nations like the US.
Regarding Chris’ analysis of trend in PM, I don’t think he was making a rigorous quantitative case. Rather, he is using Google search statistics as a proxy for interest in these topics. his data show that there is a lot of interest in Agile and Scrum, and that therefore, as his title suggests, we can no longer afford to ignore them.
How you and each PM assess them – either as an appropriate methodology for your domain, or not – is a professional choice.
Thank you for your comment