Agile Project Management: The AppUnite Approach
Nov 13 by Maciej Ulatowski

Agile is one of the most frequently used terms in today’s IT environment. Everyone wants to be Agile – companies want to collaborate with Agile companies and have Agile projects driven by Agile Project Managers who want to be leading Agile development teams.

Agile is here, Agile is there, Agile is everywhere…

But don’t you think this term is sometimes abused?

Have you ever stopped to think what Agile really means for you?

In this article, I’ll explain how we understand the term Agile at AppUnite. I’ll outline what values, rules, and statements we consider The AppUnite way of Agile. If you consider yourself an Agile Project Manager, use this article as a guide to compare your approach to agile project management to ours.

What Is Agile Project Management?

Let’s start from the beginning. Do you remember when, where and how it all began – with the Agile Manifesto? We do. The Agile Manifesto sets the foundations for how we approach new projects and challenges. The most important element of the manifesto is its conclusion: “That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.” Yes, we appreciate having detailed project documentation with a very specific and clear execution plan, wrapped into a set of fixed processes and tools, secured by a precise contract. Indeed, that can sometimes work, but are you – as our client – certain that you covered everything in that documentation? Are you certain that none of your requirements will ever change? This is why the agile approach is so important: by valuing communication, collaboration and iterative workflows, it enables us to deliver products that work better and are more closely aligned with your goals. It also allows us to deliver them faster and with fewer conflicts.

Being yourself

Agile at AppUnite is being ourselves. People often ask for our standard methodology or generic processes, shortly after asking about Agile. I’m sorry to say this, but standards, procedures and generalisations can rarely be applied to Agile. There are hundreds of generic articles about Agile and Agile Project Management. They are equally right and wrong (at the same time!) because of the nature of Agile – everything changes and we ought to adapt to it.

For us, Agile Project Management means being flexible in:

  • combining best practices from various methodologies,
  • using our team’s experience and spirit to get the most out of them, and
  • adding some of our own final touches.

Some companies choose to meticulously adopt one specific methodology; however, from our experience, the ability to combine a selection of best practices is the key to success. And in turn, it’s also the key to our customers’ and employees’ success.

Tools for Agile Project Management

In this paragraph you’d probably expect a handy list of tools that we are using at AppUnite to ensure we run agile projects. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Agile isn’t about tools — it’s about values. For us, true agility is the ability to pick the best tool for every job, based on our expertise and the expectations of everyone involved. We don’t enforce a single task management or code collaboration tool for every project. We do, however, demonstrate the use of best practices and explain the reasons why a particular tool is likely to work best given the circumstances. Ultimately, we leave the decision of tooling to the team (which includes the client), even when faced with tools we have never used before. Not only does this give our clients more comfort in using the tools they are familiar with, but it also gives us an excellent opportunity to learn and grow.

Diversity in the Agile Approach

The highlight of our approach to Agile is that everyone has the freedom to interpret and customise its principles. Every project we have is unique and each Project Manager leads his/her teams in a slightly different fashion. Moreover, every team is different. The important linking factor is that we all share the same direction and maintain the same core values and principles — those laid out in the Agile Manifesto.

The big value for us in this comes from diverse approaches and multiple ways of following the agile path. Every new approach we try in our projects has the potential of being adapted to some other projects, by other teams, with a benefit for everyone. Diversity also means that each member of our Project Management team would have written this article differently - and this is our strength as well!

Agile Is Not Scrum

At AppUnite we are Agile, but don’t necessarily run Scrum projects only. How come?

The word Scrum is often misused as a synonym for Agile, which is wrong. Scrum is a subset of tools and techniques based on Agile principles In other words, all Scrum is Agile, but not all Agile is Scrum. This leads to a simple conclusion — you don’t need to practice Scrum to be Agile.

From the Project Manager’s perspective, think twice before you start promoting your “Scrum” approach. If you dig deeper into the definitions of Scrum roles, you will quickly realise that there is no such role as a Project Manager in a Scrum project.

More than Project Management

Being an Agile Project Manager at AppUnite means you also need to be personally agile. It may be beneficial to get out of your regular PM role and help your client to be great in becoming a real Product Owner. One of the most interesting techniques in this area is VOID (Value-Oriented Incremental Delivery). It follows core Agile principles, while at the same time not providing too many detailed processes. This approach focuses on being able to incrementally discover and deliver the most valuable features. In our projects environment this is additionally tricky. What may be called valuable by your client may not be valuable for end-users of the product. It is your role to help your clients better identify with their clients. Remember that in the end, users are the ones who validate the product and bring the true value to your client’s business.

Conclusion

Agile is used so frequently nowadays that many of us are forgetting what it really means to be Agile. Can you imagine that by simply changing our job offer title from Project Manager to Agile Project Manager we triggered hundreds of percentage points of growth in the number of applications? Isn’t this just a name that, without details, doesn’t mean much?

The most important thing to remember is that methodology is never the end goal of your projects. Building products is! This is why, if you want to be successful in managing Agile projects, avoid wearing any methodology blinkers, and focus on the products and people instead.

Feedback

Do you have similar thoughts? Maybe you disagree? Let us know in the comments.

If you want to show us (and prove) your way of being an Agile PM, we’re hiring!

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