These days, it seems that most managers have heard of Agile. It may have started out in software development, but it now has a significant presence in business analysis, project management, and even program management.
This is hardly surprising given what Agile has to offer. Within a program, Agile can help teams achieve results faster and more efficiently while also enabling them to review targets to better reflect changing requirements. Agile’s iterative approach also creates usable products that not only start generating feedback but also create tangible value.
That’s not to say that Agile offers quick or simple solutions. Replacing a traditional waterfall-style management approach can cause resistance if handled incorrectly, and any employees who will actually be applying Agile will need adequate training to get to grips with it. Convincing stakeholders to make such a significant change in how strategic programs are managed can be particularly difficult, especially if they lack confidence that the benefits of Agile are worth the risk.
Luckily, there are a few ways to ease the process. One is to invest in a proven Agile program management framework, such as the appropriately named Agile Programme Management, also known as AgilePgM . Having come from APMG International and developed in partnership with the Agile Business Consortium, the framework was created by the world’s leading experts in utilizing Agile. It offers excellent tools, insight, and best practices for Agile program management while also resolving common issues by prioritizing solid governance and control.
Even with the AgilePgM framework, however, companies can still face significant challenges when first adopting Agile. Here are the biggest issues to be aware of and how to get around them!
Agile teams are able to work more quickly than those following traditional program management tactics. This is largely because team members have greater autonomy and can function with less managerial oversight.
Coupled with this speed, however, is the idea of adaptation. Agile teams pursue incremental goals and will alter targets depending on customer feedback, as well as changing priorities and other factors.
While this can lead to more valuable end-products, as they will be better suited to user needs, it can also deter stakeholders. Why? Because they often prefer that teams make a plan and stick to it. With the sheer weight of time and resources invested in most strategic programs, the idea of working quickly and constantly switching targets can seem like a major red flag. If Agile teams fail to keep strategic goals in mind, they may even risk focusing so much on client objectives that they lose sight of their own.
Because of this, it is important to emphasize the strategic tools present in AgilePgM. It offers an excellent governance model designed to keep programs aligned with strategic goals. While existing Agile practitioners may not be used to utilizing such tools, they are essential for making sure that Agile programs enjoy both adaptability and laser-guided focus.
Working Too Quickly
AgilePgM differs from traditional program management in a number of ways. This can create a shock when it is initially brought in, especially if employees and managers do not have time to adjust or do not understand how to use the framework. This will often lead to resistance, particularly from employees who do not yet understand the benefits of AgilePgM.
Rather than going all in at once, it can be better to take a gradual approach. You may want to start with smaller-scale programs, or even a series of projects, to make sure your employees fully understand Agile ways of working. This can also provide you with insight into how to adapt the framework to suit your organization while creating results that will help get stakeholders on board for large-scale implementation later on.
Finally, taking this kind of gradual approach also offers the benefit of giving you more time to upskill other members of your business. AgilePgM training is one option, as is looking for experienced AgilePgM practitioners to help guide implementation. Even without structured training, you can work wonders simply by taking the time to make sure staff understand AgilePgM and exactly how it will enhance their roles.
Accountants have a difficult job, and Agile has the potential to make it even harder. In a traditional program, accountants want to be aware of projected expenses in advance. Not only does this go a long way in justifying the program in relation to its benefits, but it also helps with tracking progress.
With Agile programs, things work a little differently. It is not always possible to know about all costs in advance, and budgets may sometimes need to be altered incrementally. While we can (and do) make the argument that Agile programs are more efficient and lead to better ROIs, actually judging what constitutes ‘profit’ is still up to accounting, and they may simply not be used to assess this in Agile environments.
So, there will be some growing pains as AgilePgM practitioners work with company accountants to develop new practices for projecting and reporting on the financial aspects of new and ongoing programs. To help with this, you will need to take the time to emphasize how AgilePgM creates value. Incremental targets may be more difficult to predict in advance, but they can also start generating value more quickly. AgilePgM can also help businesses achieve results with less time and expenditure.
If necessary, you may even want to consider upskilling your financial team in Agile. Even an awareness course or a Q&A session with an AgilePgM practitioner can go a long way in creating a new system that makes sense for everyone.
For Agile programs to work, feedback is essential. This helps Agile teams make ongoing improvements before the end of the program, with the final results reflecting client needs and preferences as closely as possible.
For some managers, continually taking and responding to feedback can take some getting used to. Altering targets in this way is a rather large departure from traditional program management, which, while capable of flexibility, rarely involves making amendments so regularly. It can also take some extra initial effort to open up the necessary communication channels and make time to collect responses from clients and team members.
This is just one aspect of a larger challenge when adopting AgilePgM: making sure that managers stick to the framework. It can be easy to finish a training course, get the qualification, and then go back to doing things the old way, especially when you aren’t held accountable. After making sure that your managers understand the framework, it will be worth making time to organize review dates to discuss their use of AgilePgM.
People talk a lot about the ‘pillars’ and basic approach of Agile. The reason you rarely see terms like ‘Agile methodology used is that, in a nutshell, there isn’t one. Or, rather, there is no one definitive Agile framework.
Instead, there are several variations of Agile’s general approach that have been made into frameworks. The differences between these frameworks are key, as they focus on separate areas such as project management, software management, program management, and so on. They can also be based on different sources of expertise, such as the Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM).
AgilePgM is a framework with a specific way of doing things, along with specific terminology, practices, and so on. If you really want to benefit from AgilePgM, you will need to invest in upskilling your employees, and the best route for this is with training. An accredited course will get candidates fully up to speed with the AgilePgM syllabus, and a flexible online course can even allow them to study without hampering their day-to-day work.
If an employee is already highly experienced in using and adapting Agile, they may not require additional help to take an active part in using AgilePgM. However, you should still make sure that they have an active understanding of the elements of the framework you will be implementing. If there are gaps in their knowledge, they may also benefit from AgilePgM training.