What Is an Agile Project Manager? (With Crucial Skills)
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Agile project managers play a critical role in the success of projects. They lead and direct all team members towards a common goal and vision, helping them overcome challenges and stay focused on project priorities. Understanding what an agile project manager does can be vital in achieving your goals on projects. In this article, we highlight what is an agile project manager, how they contribute to a team's success, and essential skills for a project manager.
What is an agile project manager?
If you're wondering, "What is an agile project manager?", it's essential to know the context of what agile is and how it impacts project management. In traditional project management, a team has a product goal to deliver within a specific time frame. In an iterative development process, you have short cycles to deliver a 'version' of your product or feature.
The agile project manager monitors the development progress, identifies the scope for each release, and communicates with stakeholders. They also monitor risks and issues in each project phase to ensure the project doesn't deviate from the goals. Agile project managers are also responsible for ensuring the process follows agile development standards. They monitor team velocity and scrum issues and coordinate sprint demos to keep all stakeholders informed.
Agile vs. other project management systems
Agile is one of the major management systems teams use to ensure a project's success. The other, more traditional approach is known as waterfall. With the waterfall method, the team completes each step of a project in a precise order. They complete one phase before they can move to the next. These phases include initiation, planning, execution, monitoring, and closure. Here is how agile project methodology compares to traditional project management:
Using the waterfall method, a team only tests and releases a product after completing every phase. With agile project management, the team tests and releases each segment as soon as it's complete, offering more flexibility and adaptability to change.
The waterfall method relies on structured planning and sequence, while agile management focuses on testing, reviewing, and updating.
Agile management completes iterations in order of importance, while waterfall methods have teams working on many features simultaneously.
A project manager usually oversees and guides waterfall project management. Agile project management is a collaborative approach where all team members monitor progress and make decisions.
Team size can vary between management approaches, with traditional methods often requiring large teams with individual skills and agile methods, including a small group of experienced professionals.
Projects involving traditional management approaches are typically large scale. Agile projects are small to medium scale because they focus on one iteration at a time.
Benefits of agile project management
Agile project management has many benefits, particularly for teams working on complex projects or software development that release products quickly and make updates throughout the process. Other pros of agile project management include:
Because teams are testing their products after each iteration instead of project completion, they can fix issues immediately. This testing increases a team's chances of having a successful product at the end of the project. Customers can also get a working product earlier rather than waiting for the entire project's completion.
Cost and time-savings
Companies might save resources by making changes and corrections to a product throughout its development. Once they have completed a project, it's more expensive and time-consuming to make large-scale changes. Agile management can help a project stay on schedule and budget.
The agile project management method makes it easier for teams to adapt to changing requirements if the client or stakeholders request changes or if customers provide feedback. Flexibility also means teams can change or add tasks throughout the development process, making teamwork more dynamic.
When the entire team develops, reviews, and engages in a process, they're often more engaged and empowered. Team members take ownership of the project and might be more likely to share ideas and think of creative solutions to challenges. The testing and review phase also engages the user or customer with the product.
Agile management increases a large-scale or high-risk project's chances of success because the team can identify and correct issues before the product launches. It also allows for faster responses to problems or failures. This way, if there is a problem with the product, the team can fix it quickly.
Agile project management involves communicating with stakeholders and customers during each iteration of the project. As a result, the team can use customer feedback to create a product that makes the client happy. Agile management also increases project transparency and lets the client know what to expect.
Agile project management cons
Like any project management system, the agile methodology has potential drawbacks and might not fit every company's needs. Agile project management cons include:
A fast pace
With the release of each iteration, teams make decisions and changes quickly. Agile project management might not be the right choice for companies that use a committee or take a long time to analyze things before acting. This quick pace may also put additional stress on team members and requires good time management.
Dependence on teamwork
Agile project management teams work as a unit. For a project to be successful, it's good for the team to collaborate well and have strong communication skills. If there are gaps in a team's communication or collaboration, they might want to use a different project management system.
The potential to lose focus
Without a linear structure and possibly a project manager, agile teams that rely on customer and client feedback can deviate from the main goal. Information from reviews and critiques or clients that don't know what they want can send teams in different directions than they originally planned. Instead, it's better to use a project management system that keeps all team members on the same page while also providing flexibility for changes.
Agile project management prioritizes action and improvements over outlining or documenting processes. If an issue occurs, it can be challenging to determine the cause of the issue and how to avoid it in the future. Consider a project management system that has a mix of documentation and action items to improve efficiency and reduce potential downsides.
Projects with agile management continually respond and adapt to feedback and are constantly changing. Because of this fluid process, the project completion date and the final product might be unpredictable or unknown. To overcome this issue, companies may want to use a system that has key milestones and gives attention to detail.
What skills are important for a project manager?
In an agile environment, several skills can help a project manager. Here are a few to improve your chances of success:
It's beneficial for agile project managers to have strong leadership skills as they guide the team. These skills help them understand their audience and communicate effectively with different people. Leadership skills also help an agile project manager motivate and engage with the stakeholders.
Agile project managers resolve conflicts and challenges throughout their projects, so strong problem-solving skills are critical, especially when completing a project under constraints such as deadlines and budgets. Team members look to them for guidance in solving these issues. These skills also help the agile project manager better communicate problems to their team.
Excellent collaboration skills
Agile project managers benefit from excellent communication and teamwork skills, as their success depends on their team's success. They foster relationships with team members, communicate clearly, and negotiate effectively when necessary. Collaboration skills also help them identify and resolve issues immediately, so the team works cohesively.
To oversee a project successfully, it's beneficial for an agile project manager to know their strengths and weaknesses. It's beneficial for project managers to separate personal feelings from the project's goals and remain focused on what's important. They need a clear understanding of how they react under pressure to effectively manage their team when stress levels rise.
At each stage of an agile project, the project manager facilitates reviews and feedback sessions. Facilitation helps these meetings unfold without conflict or problems. These skills also help the agile project manager identify and address issues that could threaten the success of a project before it gets out of control.
Creativity and flexibility
It's good for agile project managers to be open-minded and malleable when working with clients and teams to ensure their projects succeed. They also demonstrate creativity in their approach to problem-solving so they can adapt and be innovative when necessary. Flexibility is essential to their success as they continuously change and adapt according to feedback and unexpected developments.
It's beneficial for the project manager to have excellent time-management skills. These skills help agile project managers plan and organize effectively so they can complete tasks on schedule. They use their time efficiently when working with clients to address their concerns without sacrificing the quality of work.
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