Role of a Project Manager in Managing Agile Projects
With the advent of the agile project management methods, the role of a project manager has enhanced to satisfy the needs. The traditional project management principles are not enough to manage today’s large, complex projects. In this paper, we will review the role of a project manager in managing agile projects and how it is different from traditional project manager’s approaches. A comprehensive literature review on the changing roles of a project manager in an agile project is the theoretical foundation of the paper.
Keywords: Agile, Project Manager, Waterfall, Sprint, Scrum, Scrum Master
Role of a Project Manager in Managing Agile Projects
The principle of the project management is to manage a project successfully so that it can produce the desired outcome within the specific budget and time. The role of a project manager is not same in managing different projects. The project management techniques are designed carefully so that the project manager can run the project successfully by minimizing the risks and other negativities. One of the recent project management technique is the agile project management.Introduction to Agile Project Management
With the initiation of business management practices, today’s business environment has become versatile and uncertain. The requirements of clients are changing. Therefore, the business processes accommodate to fulfill client’s demands. A project is defined as “a collection of simultaneous and sequential activities which together produce an identifiable outcome of value (Pich, Loch, & de Meyer, 2002).” A project is a unique set of activities with definite objectives, specific time to complete and identified budget.
The project management team manages the internal and external factors which have an impact on the project. To avoid any risky circumstances, the project management team acts quickly so that project timelines and priorities can be achieved. The quality of taking quick actions to manage the project is known as agility (Chin, 2004). The contemporary financially unstable and technology driven environments are unreliable for traditional project management methodologies. Changing customer demands, minimizing budget and tightening the delivery deadline are the three key factors of managing a project in agility – “The ability to move quickly and dramatically to get around any and all obstacles (Chin, 2004).” Agile project management process develops a realistic and repeatable methods to increase the flexibility of the project.
According to Chin (2004), the reasons to implement agile project management practices in an organization are as follows:
According to Chris, Phil, and Mike (2012), one of the common project management method is known as Waterfall project management principle. According to this concept, the project is divided into different phases. One phase needs to be completed before another phase begins. Skilled individuals are associated with the project irrespective of teams and geographic locations. A successful project can bring changes in the organizational operation and it may have a long-term impact on the business.
Figure 1. Project Implementation phases in Waterfall ConceptLimitations of Waterfall Concept
Waterfall process develops several limitations to achieve the project objectives (Chris et al., 2012).
Agile methodology can be defined as “Iterative and incremental style of development that dynamically adjusts to changing requirements and enables better risk management (Hoda, Noble, & Marshall, 2008).” The agile projects are customer defined, aligned to client’s expectation and measurable activities specific. It focuses on delivering the client’s needs at the earliest, forming the project plan as per client’s demands and implementing changes to provide the best solution to the client (Karlesky & Vander Voord, 2008). In agile methods, the interactions of the individuals are valued to develop a software solution for the changing requirements of the client.
Scrum is another agile method, developed by Jeff Sutherland. According to Hoda et al. (2008), Scrum refers to short development phases of a large project. The daily short interaction of Product Owner, Scrum Master, and the team is one of the key characteristics of the scrum method. The product owner maintains the accurate business standpoint, the scrum master is a facilitator and the team, consists of 5 – 7 executives, executes on the project activities. The responsibilities of the team include sprint planning and scrum meeting. A Sprint is a specific timeframe (usually 2-4 weeks) to work on a set of activities. In a sprint review meeting, the set of activities is identified and reviewed. The Scrum master organizes a daily meeting of 15 minutes to discuss any issues or concerns (Hoda et al., 2008). By using Sprint and Scrum methods, agile project management techniques empower the project managers and the team to successfully manage risks, define scope, maintain budget and follow timelines.
According to Lee and Xia (2010), agility is defined as “the continuous readiness of an entity to rapidly, inherently proactively or reactively, embrace change, through high-quality, simplistic, economical components and relationships with its environment.” Agility is the promptness in accepting a change or action. There are two dimensions. It can be accepting and adapting to changes or ability to re-engineer the existing process. Agile methodology is “a set of flexible techniques (Maruping, Venkatesh, & Agarwal, 2009).” It helps the software development team to sustain in a volatile environment. The teams are responsible for managing the software development process, resolving issues, making decisions and delegating tasks to other teams. The expertise in managing changes by using agile methodologies make it easily acceptable by the software development teams.Limitation of Agile Process
Turk, France, and Rumpe (2014) mentioned that agile process combines technical and managerial processes to adapt the changes in a software development process during development phase or in the environment of the software development. Following are some limitations of agile process:
The agile process focuses on the interaction between people, process, and tools. It also fosters customer’s involvement in providing best solution (Vijayasarathy & Turk, 2008).Project Manager in Agile Project
According to Turbit (2005), a project manager is a way to connect to the steering committee. The responsibilities of a project manager include the following:
As a scrum master, a successful project manager attains a daily meeting with the team members. This helps the project manager to identify any issues that the team members have faced or shared the update among all the team members (Eriksson, April 14, 2015). As a scrum master, the project manager is responsible for sharing status reporting, communicating changes, risks, project plans and to identify any missing roles. Contrary to waterfall method, roles are distributed among all the team members. The key people in an agile method are the team members, scrum master, and the client.
According to Eriksson (April 14, 2015), in an agile method, ‘command and control’ method is not applicable. The scrum master role is like ‘servant leader’ who leads his team and perform his part. The scrum master is more flexible and versatile than a project manager.
Project manager roles and responsibilities expand in an agile method. As a project manager of an agile project, he manages project financials, project status report, change management, governance, role identification and business communication to the stakeholders.
As a Scrum Master, a project manager plans a sprint. One of the major responsibilities of the project manager as a scrum master is to divide a large project into different phases, accomplish the sprint objectives and maintain the smooth flow of the project.Case Study
The case study is about a project where the agile methodology were followed. The objective of the project is the implementation of Mobile Work Management Systems at Denver Water, Colorado by following the agile project management approach. Denver Water field work used to be communicated to its customer service technicians by phone, paper or radio. The scope of the project was to develop the “mPlatform mobile work management application” which makes the work more efficient and easier for the field technicians. The budget of the project was approximately $1 million and the maximum time allocation was 6 months. Mr. Mike Aragon was the “product owner” of this project. He was trained in agile methodologies. He was involved in many other IT projects previously which followed waterfall method. According to him, it was a challenge to follow waterfall method due to lack of daily involvement with customers or users. He followed agile methodologies in the following way:
The project was beneficial by following the agile methodologies. It was able to meet the objective of the project within time and the budget. The deployment of the project was a huge success. According to Mr. Aragon, producing the same results by following the traditional waterfall approach was difficult. Therefore, the success of this project makes it a benchmark for the following projects in Denver Water organization.Findings: How role of a Scrum Master differs from a PM
According to Frederico (2015), the role of a project manager and a scrum master differs from each other. In an agile project environment, the roles of a project manager and a scrum master are as follows:
The project manager and the scrum master are not two separate entity. The role of a project manager expands as a scrum master. The objective of a project manager is to complete a project successfully within specific budget and timeline. With the advent of the agile method, the involvement of a project manager increases. In agile project management, the distribution of the roles and responsibilities are specific to the individuals. Therefore, the role of a project manager as a scrum master is now more specific, crisp and concise. In an agile method, the focus of a project manager is not limited to the entire project but as a scrum master, it is every scrum that needs to be successful. This new point of view makes it more methodical and quantitative to achieve the success.Recommendations
In this competitive world, the role of a project manager or a scrum master is critical to the success of a project. Be it a project manager or a scrum master, the objective of successful execution of a project remains same. In order to achieve success, the clarity of roles and responsibilities is necessary. Moreover, a project manager and a scrum master can be same individual or different individuals. Both the roles are important for a successful project in agile methods. Therefore, the skills to become a project manager in managing agile projects needs to be learned and applied since the early phase of career development. The skills of segmenting a large project into small parts, involving and contributing with the team as a scrum master, communicating and negotiating with the stakeholders and achieving the success need to be learned over the time. Therefore, be it a scrum master or a project manager, an individual needs to learn the project management techniques continuously to improve themselves and gain more successes.Lessons Learned
According to Granot and Zuckerman (1991), the success of a project depends on the careful planning, managing co-related activities and scheduling the tasks. Careful planning includes developing strategies, managing resources and handling risks. In an agile project, the responsibilities of a project manager are not only limited to careful planning and managing activities; but also to involve in segmenting the project and participate with the team to become successful in the phase-wise implementation of the project. The agile project management gives the flexibility to choose where to start from and where to reach at first before moving further. Therefore, it is one of the most popular project management practices now. With the future perspective, the role of a project manager will be enhanced in order to follow the agile project management methodology.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A graduate student pursuing MS in Technology Management from the University of Bridgeport, CT, USA. Prior to that, MBA is completed in 2011 and followed by reach work experience.