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Agile vs Traditional Project Management: Key Points in 2022

 / April 03, 2022

Project management holds a key role in any company of all kinds. This important process leads a team to work effectively and ensures all goals are achieved. Two main types of approaches you often see in most companies include: agile vs traditional project management. 

This Designveloper article will emphasize their major differences and potential trends in this segment. Accordingly, we expect to help you identify a proper method for your business to have a decent kickoff in any project.

What is Agile Project Management?

What is Agile Project Management?

Being “AGILE” means dealing with changes and new situations as fast as possible but still ensuring a product’s quality. Based on this definition, experts in lightweight processes (e.g. eXtreme Programming or Feature-Driven Development) coined the term “AGILE” and discussed the Agile Manifesto afterwards. 

Accordingly, agile project management is the process of breaking whole projects down into smaller increments accomplished within short timescales. Its mechanism of action lies behind the understanding that no product is perfect because user requests are always changing. 

This method works based on important values as follows:

  • Quick responses to the ever-changing demands of customers through early and constant releases;
  • Focus on how members, including developers and business people, communicate;
  • Emphasis on working products and flexible priority of product specs;
  • Priority on customer feedback.

Recommended reading: What is Agile Software development?

How Agile Teams Work

There’s no standard workflow for your company to follow in agile. But normally, truly agile teams build the right agile mindset and conduct timeboxing tasks based on the Agile Manifesto’s principles. 

Typically at Designveloper, teams work through such fundamental steps: 

  • Work with clients to define problems, plan and analyze input metrics, and constructively contribute to suitable digital solutions;
  • Design and develop a minimum viable product (MVP) that only contains the most critical features and functions for the first launch. A product owner and stakeholders can track work progress through communication tools;
  • Test a product before deployment;
  • Receive feedback from real users and review what teams have or haven’t done to meet predefined objectives;
  • Carry out continuous maintenance and updates. 
FURTHER READING:
1. Agile Software Development Life Cycle Guide
2. Pros and Cons of Agile Methodology: Which Team Should Apply This Model
3. Agile Sprint Planning: Definition and Generic Guides in 2022
4. Agile Sprint Cycle: Definition, Execution, and Steps Explained
5. Scaled Agile Framework: The Optimal Approach for Scaling Enterprises
Agile methodology topic

Common Agile Frameworks

“AGILE” is a broad term, which covers numerous types of methods such as Scrum, Kanban, Lean, and more. 

When to Use Agile

Agile approaches are widely used when new features are essential to react to changes. Such methods also suit teams that require no detailed planning and clear documents. This is because their work depends much on customer needs which are believed to constantly change. 

Such characters make traditional agile methods better suit small-scale projects or SMBs. But, scaling agile solutions (e.g. SAFe or LeSS) helps large enterprises with business agility. They are effective alternatives to traditional analogs in large-scale projects.

What is Traditional Project Management?

What is Traditional Project Management?

Contrary to agile, traditional project management is a sequential process where projects are executed within pre-planned steps. Thereby, when working in a traditional setting, you need to consider the following factors:

  • Goals should be clearly determined;
  • Detailed plans of what and how to do should be devised in advance;
  • Requirements are supposed to remain fixed while timeline and budget can vary;
  • Team members should be conscious of their duties and requirements;
  • Building proper documents also plays an important role as it regulates standards for a whole process to follow.

How Traditional Teams Work

In a traditional setup, the whole workflow is in a linear order: ideation, planning, execution, review, deployment, and closure. 

Unlike agile, interactions with real customers and even stakeholders are limited during the development phase. Beyond that, a project manager takes almost full control of a project. Any problem needs reporting to the manager and team members must receive his/her approval for even small changes. 

Common Traditional Frameworks

Some traditional frameworks include Waterfall and PRINCE2. But because of the dominance of Waterfall, this name is frequently used to refer to traditional methodologies in general.

When to Use Traditional Methodology

Traditional methodologies are popular when changes are insignificant. That’s why input parameters are assumed not to change accordingly. 

Key Differences Between Agile vs Traditional Project Management

Above all, the summary table below gives you an objective, in-depth insight into the different features of agile vs traditional project management.

Attributes Agile method Traditional method
Business structure Iterative Sequential
Client requirements Flexible as per iterations Clearly determined before development
Project scale Small and medium scale Large-scale
Development model Continuous delivery and adaptation to changes Develop a full product based on fixed parameters
Communication with clients and end-users Agile approach requires clients and end-users to get regularly involved since work starts Client and user involvement is limited. They only get contacted during the planning stage and when final outcomes are released
Issue management When problems arise, all team members work together to handle it Incurred problems must be reported to a project manager before any changes
Process Customer- and product-centric Directive and formal
Testing Testing is planned and carried out in each iteration Comprehensive testing is planned for an entire process
Estimation Tech leader supports a whole team to estimate Project manager offers estimates and receives approval from the project office (PO) for the whole work
Review Review and retrospective are executed by a whole team at the end of each iteration Most reviews are conducted by team leaders

Prospects and Reasons Why More Companies Choose Agile Methodology

Both agile and traditional project management methods have their own pros and cons. So each of the approaches best suits different projects and companies. 

However, there’s no exaggeration to say that an increasing number of companies favor agile methodologies over traditional solutions. Particularly, the 15th State of Agile Report by Digital.ai in 2021 indicated sharp growth in Agile adoption within IT and non-IT teams. 

In addition, the 2020 Chaos Report of Standish Group also emphasized the higher success rate of Agile projects (42%) than that of Waterfall (13%). This finding comes as no surprise to many experts and business people. 

project success rates agile vs waterfall

According to KPMG specialists, digital transition opens more chances for businesses to create values online and thus reach wider niches. But it also contributes to a highly competitive – or says, more challenging – playground. The digital era also encourages unforeseen changes in user demands at times. As a result, a traditional approach’s final outcomes can become outdated and fail to meet such needs at the time of launching. 

To quickly respond to digital changes, business agility is key. So little wonder that many companies are now turning their focus on agile solutions.

Further, the 2021 Digital Report summarized the top important drivers behind the decision of adopting business agility: 

  • Improve the ability to manage changing priorities;
  • Better adapt to volatile market conditions;
  • Speed up product delivery;
  • Increase team performance and morale;
  • Enhance IT and business alignment;
  • Improve product quality, and support further maintenance and updates;
  • Mitigate project risks and costs;
  • Better manage team members with clearly assigned roles and duties.

Traditional agile methods are relatively suitable for small and medium-scale projects. But, scaling agile solutions (e.g. SAFe or LeSS) are effective alternatives to traditional analogs to help large enterprises with business agility.

Switching From Traditional to Agile Approaches: Possible or Not?

Having a big shift to agile methods is possible. But it’s not an overnight story. Agile transformation is most popular in software development on a team level, as surveyed by KPMG in 2019. But each IT team has its unique strategy, ambition, and perspectives toward Agile. Thus the process of becoming truly agile is different across teams. 

Apart from IT development, Agile principles and approaches are increasingly penetrating into other business functions such as marketing and sales or HR. And there’s no denying that the path to Agility among these departments is not the same. 

So here are some important things you should closely look at before switching from traditional to agile approaches:

Decide Which Business Functions Should be Agile

Decide which business functions should be agile

In the battle of agile vs. traditional project management methods, the former seemingly wins over most companies because of its huge benefits. However, is it a sensible decision to apply business agility company-wide right at the beginning of the transition? Many companies admit that this is among the most challenging work. Not to mention that there are multiple factors around enterprise-level Agile transition such as available resources, willingness, or capacity. 

So the big question you should answer first is at which level business agility will be applied first. One strategy for successful Agile transition is to start small and smart instead of going all (Carilli, J. F., 2013). 

Grasp the Concept of Agility

Your company should have a strong understanding of agility concepts on the level your company wants to apply (e.g. IT level or enterprise level). It’s also important to know that those concepts become more complex on a larger scale. The below video of KPMG interprets how scaling agility works:

Start With Basics

Your company should commence with the basic frameworks and Agile tools like Scrum and Kanban. Further, leaders should first guarantee that some small Agile teams become mature on a team level, which lays a solid foundation to drive business agility enterprise-wide. 

Include Agility in Your Strategy 

You should regard Agility as your company’s strategic priority and establish a realistic Agile ambition. Accordingly, leaders should spend adequate time building up the Agile mindset, harnessing the available knowledge across a company and devising proper plans to prepare for Agile transition.

Don’t Ignore Leadership

agile leadership

When working toward Agile transition, you need to understand the importance of leadership. As a key factor, leaders should understand staff needs toward Agility. For this reason, they empower employees to transform their working style, stimulate intrinsic motivations and build a business culture where Agility can thrive. 

Leaders also act as a bridge to facilitate transparent communications and alignment between senior managers and employees on what to do. But this job is one of the major challenges for leaders, shared by Thomas de Rucker, Agile Transformation Leader at Proximus. 

So, it’s important to build trust in his colleagues and ensure they are always ready for Agile transition through continuous Lean-Agile training. Even leaders themselves need to be eager to change, practice what they preach and constantly learn to avoid mistakes due to lacking knowledge. 

Likewise, leaders can develop specific solutions or follow the Modern Agile approach to define what should alter in ways of working, culture and leadership. 

Consider the Needs of Your Teams

Teams are key factors to realize agility needs in your company. So to give team members leeway to make constructive contributions, you need to strive for them to have mutual understanding and mindset. Other elements such as clearly assigned roles and effective feedback loops in problems are essential to get skilled employees in Agile teams. 

Decide Agile Performance Measures

Last but not least, we strongly advise you to find suitable methods and tools to measure performance. Assessing how the workflows prove critical despite agile or traditional project management. In Agile, Story Points, the Definition of Done, and Velocity are three common solutions to evaluate whether teams reach preset value metrics.

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