Agile Project Management Challenges
In software development, the Agile method focuses on discovering requirements and developing solutions through the collaborative effort of self-organizing and cross-functional teams and their customer(s)/end user(s). There is a set of requirements decided for a sprint and the next sprint is built on top of that.
For long term-projects, Agile Project Management is the most efficient way to manage and track progress.
In the real world, we cannot predict in advance the long-term evolution of product plans and requirements. The long-term projects are typically critical, with significant complexity, and there are risks involved in following a waterfall model as mentioned below:
- At the end of the schedule, what is delivered may not match the latest requirements, since the requirements were locked long ago.
- Small changes in a module may require very significant development re-work, as many similar modules exist and all of them are similarly impacted.
- Resources who were present during the requirement phase may not be present during go-live which leads to communication gap between the teams.
- The client has nothing at all to get started with and has to wait till the completion of the project to provide feedback that’d come from “look-feel-and-use”.
- During production & monitoring, the teams may encounter issues which may be overwhelming.
Agile Project Management: Challenges and Benefits
Agile project management offers a range of potential benefits to the IT organization, including greater adaptability, faster deployments, and better alignment with business or customer needs. The adoption of agile mindsets and frameworks, however, still proves challenging.
Most IT organizations, accustomed to traditional project management methods, will hit hurdles along the way. IT leaders, who can anticipate these common challenges and understand how to overcome or avoid them, can help smooth the transition.
- Sprint planning is tiring & non-stop. The requirements are not always clear.
- Sometimes, there are clashes between different stakeholders regarding the priority of requirements.
- If modules are not smartly planned in a sprint, then the project may not look good or organized and the benefits of the continuous cycle of deployment, delivery, and feedback won’t come to pass.
- Maintaining the code versions is difficult. Eg: Sprint 1 is in Production; Sprint 2 is in QA; while sprint 3 is in Development. So, if any defect/bug arises in production or QA, the approach needs to be identified. While most of the tools provide version control, synching code is not possible for all tools. So, the development team may end up branching, merging, and re-working the deployment pipeline.
- Sometimes, critical requirements are identified & need to be incorporated in the current sprint. This leads to unplanned work & over-worked resources which has an impact on QA too.
- At times, requirements are clear, but funding issues occur leading to inefficient utilization of resources.
Dealing With Agile Project Management Challenges
Agile challenges need to be tackled in a smart and strategic way for the problems that might have already come up or being prepared for possible issues. Being aware of how to handle the most common challenges will provide you with a valuable safety net.
Set Predefined Timelines
There should be pre-defined timelines to finalize any requirement along with priority to be locked. If something is not clear by that time, that module should be moved/planned for the next sprint.
Sometimes accommodating a client’s requirement may look easier to the development team, however the unplanned small things cause ripple effects on a larger scale.
Smarter Module Management
If there is a requirement to be built on existing code, that module should be smartly planned so as the development & testing phase should not overlap. The next build on a module should only start if the previous version of the code is stable in production.
Multiple versions of code should not be present in different places. Developers should refrain from writing code in local machines, developers should check-out the code in the development server & start working.
Resource Allocation / Dedicated SMEs For Modules
For a set of modules, a dedicated SME developer should be assigned. Any changes to these modules or similar changes should be assigned to the same person who has expertise on certain modules & can train other team members as well.
If a similar type of work is given to different team members all the time, then each person will take the same time to understand the module, whereas if the same person does it then the first time it will take the same time, next time onwards it will become easier and the person will also have expertise.
For critical requirements added on the fly on current sprint, only expert team members should be working upon them. It is very important that for any critical requirement the developer should be aware and knowledgeable in the work.
Before building different interfaces of the same module, one template module should be created and reviewed by designer/architect. E.g. if there are 20 interfaces to be worked on the same module then building & testing & getting reviewed for one of them will ensure that rest 19 will be developed with minimum errors. This way the bug fix or review fix will be done once & not repeated 20 times.
Efficient Monitoring & Tracking
Proper tracking of all phases should be taken care of. Since the project is long-term & vast, with lots of sprints, tracking is important for all requirements, development code list, defects/bugs, etc.
Additionally, these tracking documents can be uploaded to SharePoint or any similar system to update and maintain latest checked-in versions. We all know how time sensitive Agile projects are and developers rarely have time for any documentation; however, this way, we can not only track the project but also any changes to team member composition will be smoother.
There are many project management models out there, but the Agile method has proven to be one of the best for long term projects. If the agile process is followed with plans and expertise, and using an effective management of its challenges, then this method is the most productive long-term solution to complex project development.