The buzzwords of Agile project management are ubiquitous, but you’ll benefit from being familiar with these principles of product development.
In this beginner’s guide, we’ll explain what Agile project management and the Scrum framework are all about.
Use this table of contents to jump to the section that interests you:
What is Agile project management?
Agile project management is an iterative approach for project teams to manage work throughout their development process.
It is often used by software development teams to move faster and adapt. In fact, one of its perks is the ability to adjust iteration tasks as you progress rather than following one path.
How is it different from the other project management methodologies?
Traditional project management methodologies such as Waterfall are rigid. They outline distinct stages for project planning from start to finish and assume that you have all the requirements and information you need upfront.
Agile project management accepts uncertainty as a given, and values responding to change over having a plan. Agile planning encourages you to work on something small, execute it quickly, get feedback, evaluate what’s working and what’s not, and adapt your plan from there. This process of small, fast, and repeated cycles is known as “iterative.”
The principles of Agile project management
- Customer satisfaction is the highest priority, which is ensured with early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
- You welcome changing requirements, even late in development, for the customer’s competitive advantage.
- You deliver working software frequently.
- You must have daily stand-ups between business and development teams.
- Projects are built around motivated individuals, who deserve support and trust to get the job done.
- Face-to-face conversation is the most efficient and effective form of communication.
- Working software is the primary measure of progress.
- Development should be sustainable. The team meets and maintains a constant pace indefinitely.
- You must give continuous attention to technical excellence and good design.
- Simplicity is essential.
- The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
- Teams should regularly reflect on how to become more effective and adjust accordingly.
Why use Agile project management?
According to the Project Management Institute,
- 75% of highly Agile organizations met their goals and business intent
- 65% finished projects on time
- 67% finished projects within budget
The same research shows that Agile teams grow revenue 37% faster and earn 30% higher profits than non-Agile companies.
Agile project management is popular because it’s well suited for the fast and dynamic nature of business. Retrospection—the 12th principle outlined in the Manifesto—helps teams understand what worked, what didn’t, and adjust their workflow accordingly to constantly improve.
Other benefits of Agile project management include:
- Quick detection and resolution of issues, bugs, and defects before they become critical
- Improved customer satisfaction
What is Agile project management with Scrum?
Scrum is actually one of the agile methodologies designed to guide teams in their iterative and incremental delivery of a product. It’s often referred to as “an agile project management framework,” and focuses on the use of a verified process that allows teams to respond swiftly, efficiently, and effectively to change.
Almost all of our cross-functional teams at monday.com use some interpretation of Scrum to manage their day-to-day work because it is an easy, intuitive, and fun way to focus on what you need to get done from one week to the next.
10 simple steps to Agile project management with Scrum
What specific tasks need to be completed to reach your goals?
For example, if you’re redecorating your home your backlog might include:
- Choose the paint color
- Research paint suppliers
- Research equipment you need
- Buy the paint
- Buy the equipment
- Remove your furniture from the room
- Cover and tape the floor and fixed furnishings with plastic
- Prime left wall
- Paint left wall…
Breaking down your tasks allows you to more accurately estimate how long it will take you to complete each task. It also helps you identify dependencies and priorities.
Our R&D team has a bunch of backlogs: features we plan for our product, nice things that would improve the platform (which we call “cheese”), bugs we need to fix… and they’re all listed and organized in separate boards.
These boards create transparency, aligning everyone and ensuring that everyone is working toward the same goal.
Agile project management values working by time: what exactly can each team member achieve in a specified period of time? Scrum generally advocates working in two-week “sprints” or “iterations.”
The idea of sprints is that they create a sense of urgency to achieve everything you can before crossing the two-week finish line.
3. Move tasks from your backlog to your task board. This is called “iteration planning” or “sprint planning.”
Be ambitious, but realistic, about what your team can achieve over the next two weeks. Make time for sprint planning meetings where you open your agile management software or software development tool and go through your various backlogs to ensure you have all your bases covered.
For example, you can decide that each sprint, you’re going to devote 30% of your time to fixing bugs, 50% to developing new features, and 20% to working on other improvements.
Each of these different areas of focus is called an “epic:” a chunk of work that has one common objective. It’s essentially a category that helps you keep track of how each smaller task fits together in the big picture.
On monday, we like to use hashtags to keep track of these epics. With one click on the #bug tag, for example, you can get a filtered review of all the bugs that have ever been reported or worked on.
4. Assign each task in your sprint.
Ownership motivates. When a task has a person’s face next to it, it motivates the owner to take responsibility and see it through to the end.
Clearly seeing each phase of the product’s owner also ensures smooth collaboration. 5. Prioritize the tasks in your upcoming sprint.
Agile project management favors categorizing tasks according to four priorities: critical, high, medium, and low. Since plans can change and things might take longer in the sprint than the team estimated, every task in your upcoming sprint might not be completed. Having priorities clearly noted helps you choose what to work on first.
6. Estimate how long each task will take.
When going through each task, try to think about the amount of work that needs to be done, the complexity of the work, and any risk or uncertainty you might encounter when working on the task. The classic Scrum methodology calls this effort a “story point,” but you can track it however you want: in days, hours, etc.
The numbers column in monday.com helps you quickly calculate a sum of the total amount of time.
7. Start your sprint!
Scrum respects that things change and unexpected circumstances can stop a task from reaching completion. If a task gets delayed, just update your status column to let everyone else on your team know where things stand. You can also mention a @teammate or @everyone on your team to notify them of what’s going on, and the updates in your board will store all the relevant documentation and information for everyone to see.
8. Hold short daily scrum meetings.
A 10 to 15-minute scrum daily standup meeting at the beginning of every workday allows everyone to provide a quick sprint review of what they worked on the day before and what they plan to work on that day. This is also the time to discuss any specific challenge or issue, and decide as a group how to tackle it.
9. The sprint is finished.
In monday.com’s Work OS, the name of the game is turning everything green—or in other words, marking your tasks as “done.” Once your sprint is over, sit as a team for sprint retrospection to celebrate what you achieved, what went wrong, and plan how to handle things in the next iteration.
10. Move your completed sprint to the bottom of your board. Start a new iteration at the top of the board.
Storing all your iterations in one board allows you to keep a clear record of everything you’ve completed.
Any incomplete items can be added to the next sprint. And should a task from a previous sprint come back to life, you can just drag it back into your current sprint.
How our R&D team uses Agile project management with Scrum
In this video, our Customer Success Manager Anna (and her cute pup Simba) talk to our Head of R&D Daniel to see how our dev teams implement Agile project management with Scrum. Daniel walks you through our actual boards to show you how we plan ahead proactively for each iteration, squash bugs, and communicate and collaborate effectively.
Who can benefit from working with Agile project management?
While Agile project management was designed specifically around software development, anyone who works in a fast-paced and dynamic environment can benefit from working in a flexible and iterative manner.
Concentrating on what you can achieve during a specific one-week or two-week period gives everyone a sense of urgency that forces them to make smart decisions to reach their goals.
And it gives teams the incredible feeling of accomplishment when you mark your tasks as “done” and see the whole week turn green. This boosts motivation to start the next week fresh.
There is so much to say about Agile project management and Scrum; we’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg in this post. But hopefully, these takeaways can help you and your team get more done.