It's no secret that Agile project management was originally envisioned to improve software development, in order to combat the inability of traditional methods to tackle modern market dynamics and the enormous leaps that the technology was starting to take.
However, can you use agile project management for non-software projects? Let's find out.
Agile in the software development comes in form of many approaches and practices, but it's primarily a mindset that needs to be adopted. In other words, any method or practice used in software development can also be adjusted for non-software projects. A good example of this is the backlog. The backlog is an ordered list of everything that will make a product.
A product doesn't necessarily have to mean software when Agile is involved. Any product about to be developed and released on the market can have its own backlog. Furthermore, the product backlog can be consisted of items that will simply move the company or the team towards a result that will benefit them.
That way, Agile project management can be used to prioritize and focus on value when a product or a service is being developed.
Iterations or Sprints
The Agile methodology focuses on operational freedom for teams involved in the project. Managers provide the means to an end and employees make the decisions on how to proceed. This culture can be applied to a wide variety of non-software projects.
In most cases, enterprise organizations tend to keep departments isolated from the others, as well as keep the information within a silo. This method can lead to a number of issues as the project progresses further. On the other hand, Agile focuses on cross-functional and self-organizing teams that will communicate and collaborate, in order to deliver a working product.
If you have experts in your company with good knowledge and skills, it's only natural to allow them to show off their potential. That way, Agile project management can foster a culture where collaboration and free flow of information is at the main focus.
Another important factor in Agile project management is continuous improvement. In other words, it's a retrospective point of view that allows future strategies to improve by looking back on the previous ones. What can you learn for the previous projects that will help you improve the future ones? That's pretty much the essence of Agile methodology.
By fostering this mindset, you can ensure continuous improvement for any project, not just software development. Team members will assess their work, in order to determine what's working and what's not, what to continue using and what to abandon. That way, each new project is different and slightly better than the previous one. This approach yields long-term benefits for any organization, not just those that develop software.
Iterative or evolutionary development is yet another facet to Agile that can benefit non-software projects. The fact of the matter is that Agile is designed to tackle the uncertainty and extreme dynamics of the market. In other words, it allows projects to quickly, easily and efficiently adapt to any changes on the market. Simply put, project and even entire organizations can quickly adjust to shifts.
This is especially beneficial for large-scale enterprise projects where it's impossible to predict outcomes later in the project before you see how decisions made early on will unravel. Agile project management eliminates the high-risk scenario of uncertainty and allows projects to adapt to any changes by refining the design as many times as needed. That way, even such large projects can be made quite seamless.
Agile projects function based on feedback from stakeholders. This feedback is collected both in a structured and unstructured way, throughout the project. Non-software projects can also benefit from such feedback. Having insight from stakeholders during the entire project is far better and more effective than simply having them revise the final product when the changes are either too expensive or too time-consuming to make.
If you're developing a marketing campaign, you'd be much more successful if somebody for whom the campaign is designed for can provide feedback on the work you've completed so far. Whether it's a customer, client or any other stakeholder feedback, this can ensure the focus remains on delivering value to the end-user, regardless of the nature of the project.
Agile project management, although originally intended for software development in uncertain and dynamic environments, can also be used for non-software projects such as manufacturing, support, marketing or supply chain management. Some people even use personal Scrum to improve their private lives. Almost any product can be managed as an agile product. Almost.
The key is viewing Agile as a mindset rather than a set of guidelines.
Simply jumping on a bandwagon called Agile and adopting everything at once can be counterproductive. Adopting Agile in a non-software environment takes both the time and proper planning. That way you can actually ensure that you benefit from Agile practices rather than hinder your business operations.