Project teams that adopt an Agile framework as a project management methodology sometimes begin to operate under a “time is flexible” mantra. In many cases, this mindset manifests as a project team that isn’t too worried about when they deliver the product, as long as they deliver the right features. It’s an approach that may help ease team members’ time burdens but it ignores the needs and expectations of other stakeholders. Without the right project management methodology to maintain a balance between being nimble and being accountable, the project team could find itself losing the trust of the senior management group.
To the customer—whether that means the organization’s executive team or an outside client—time matters very much. They aren’t interested in which project management methodology and strategy your team uses, they just want their stuff, and for good reason. A product that continues to be vaporware long past the original due date can cause big problems. The company’s leadership team may have made financial commitments based on the expected delivery date, or the business could find itself losing market share if product launches or updates lag behind schedule.
Fortunately, it isn’t necessary to choose between Agile or accountability. The use of an Agile approach doesn’t require a divorce from the time component of your initiative. Your project team, along with your stakeholders and sponsors, can still expect to meet important deadlines and achieve the project’s goals. When time is a primary consideration, such as when a technology project absolutely must reach key milestones on schedule and hit its target completion date, you don’t need to abandon Agile to make that happen.
The right project management methodology can position your team to execute each phase of your project on time while still reaping the benefits of Agile. As you begin the process, a few important considerations should come first.
To ensure your Agile project doesn’t leave your team or your customer in the dark, begin by identifying the needs and expectations of everyone involved. If you’re working closely with the executives on a project, they will likely expect to see the entire schedule with firm milestone and completion dates. This is one group that absolutely values time, and the project team must keep that in mind. For every day your project is late, the company will see a resulting cost—lost revenue, a diminished customer base, investors who pull their funding, business collaborators who chose to leave the project, and potentially even in fines or regulatory fees. Those dollars may not always add up to large amounts but there will be an impact and the leadership team will remember it.
As part of the time component, you’ll also need to identify a critical path for your project and manage your team’s efforts using the critical path method. Your customers’ expectations around the project’s goals will typically determine the critical path. Straying from that path could result in missed deliverables and potentially the failure of the project. As you look at the critical path and develop a timeline that aligns with the milestone deadlines, you can still predict when the project will be done using an Agile framework. Whether you prefer to leverage sprints or story points, your team will need to estimate their task durations. Using the right projcet management methodology, the schedule you develop will continue to be accurate and up-to-date because it uses those duration estimates as its foundation. This gives you the ability to monitor your project’s progress against the original schedule and provide status reports to your customer throughout the project’s lifecycle, since your dynamic timeline will accommodate ongoing updates from your team.