How can I run an Agile project when Agile doesn’t seem to fit?

It’s all about planning, control, learning! 

Agile is the buzzword in delivery/project management and has been for some time now. On the whole I like it, it makes sense, it’s simple to follow and really can deliver great results. But…there’s more than one way to cook an egg! 

We’ve centred our delivery team around the principles of Planning, Control and Learning. Yes, we can call ourselves Agile, we even have the qualifications and certificates to prove it. But we achieve the project outputs by using a number of varied techniques and mechanisms, honed over a number of years to suit the particular type of project we are working on. I believe in using a pragmatic and tailored approach to delivery, not a one size fits all. You have to create a partnership with your customer and truly understand their requirements but also the underlying challenges they face to ensure that you deliver valuable and transformative outputs. 

In the beginning: 

The projects that we work on always involve data of some sort, often from disparate sources and occasionally very sensitive. Sitting the customer down at the start and being clear and firm on what their requirements are is great if they already know what they want or what they are looking for. But what if they don’t? You then have to work closely and often in partnership with your customers, to get a better, clearer and deeper understanding of what they need. That data discovery process then leads you toward a plan. 

The initial stages of our projects are focussed on helping our customers understand what their data can tell them and how to unlock the insights they hold. For this reason, we have to be Agile, we have to be open for the requirements to change as the understanding grows. Really the goal for this stage of the project is understanding the situation at hand. 

However, understanding is not really a solid output, it shifts and changes as we work through a project. So we build simple dashboards or reports to show the customer the progress or visualise the focus areas. These are often the fixed outputs that are required but we build them quickly to aid in the understanding and then iterate them during the project to show the projects progress toward the goal. Being engaged at that level and from the start gives us a much higher probability that the end result will be what the customer needs. 

 

In Part 2 I’ll be sharing my thoughts on planning and how to keep control.