What's agile project management and why do you need it?

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7 min read

Agile project management is best practice for many digital projects since it allows for flexibility, collaboration, early and constant testing, as well as the inclusion of different stakeholders.


  1. Putting the 'Agile' in Project Management
  2. Advantages of agile methodologies
  3. Agile methodology in 2022
    1. Which agile methods are popular?
    2. A fully agile company can be a challenge
    3. Tracking success in an agile project

Putting the "agile" in project management

Agile project management describes projects that are split up into different stages or "sprints" which allows for different parts of the project to be released when they are completed instead of working towards one linear completion goal. That way, the different parts can be tested earlier, feedback will be received during development stages, and changes can be made throughout, which reduces errors after the full roll-out.

Instead of seeing the project as one whole "block", for example with the classic "waterfall development", it is divided into phases and sub-goals, to always stay "agile" and be ready for potential changes without losing resources. Inbetween, results will be looked and tested, and optimized by different stakeholders, which will decrease the amount of testing and error management at the end of the project.

Waterfall approach: the project follows a very clear path that is linear, meaning that specific project phases need to be finished before the next phase can start.

Agile approach: the project is divided into sprints, and different phases can be developed parallel. The project itself is developed more horizontal, with teams working parallel on different tasks with a high level of communication and collaboration.

GIF: A watering can waters a red rose, subtext: Waterfall > Stages, Linear, Sequential. On the right are bees tending to different flowers. Subtitle: Agile > Cycles, Iterative, Rapid Delivery

Advantages of agile methodologies

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The "15th Annual State of Agile Report" (source: digital.ai) has surveyed companies about their use, adoption, and acceptance of agile methodologies for years and offers a clear overview on the many advantages that also include a social component to the approach. In fact, agile methods can strengthen communication, collaboration and motivation.

  • Better managing of changing priorities (70%)
  • More Visibility (70%)
  • Business & IT alignment (66%)
  • Increased delivery speed & time-to-market (64%)
  • Increased team productivity (60%)
  • Increased team morale (60%)
  • Better management of distributed teams (52%)
  • Higher predictability of outcomes (51%)
  • Decrease of risks (49%)
  • Increase of software quality (45%)

Many basics of the agile methodology were founded on "The Manifesto for Agile Software Development", which was released in 2001, although ideas for iterative and incremental software development is around 70 years old.

According to the manifesto, there are twelve principles that ensure that a software project is not just there to be finished but to actually help users, be flexible, and collaborate in an open, learning and teaching environment.

At DIGITALL, we work fully agile and implement our projects in a way that will also help increase your employees agile know-how and expertise.

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Agile methodology in 2022

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Nowadays, the agile approach also usually includes more modern and innovative ways to collaborate. Remote work and teams distributed over several locations who work together via digital channels, are often part of a typical agile project. In fact, during the pandemic, many of our DIGITALL colleagues managed to pull off projects almost entirely digital via video meetings, collaboration platforms, and phone calls.

According to the Agile Report, survey participants have adopted agile methodologies increasingly from 2020 to 2021. Whereas in 2020, agile adoption grew by 37%, it grew 86% in 2021. Remarkable is a growth in agile methods not just in but also outside of the IT sector.

Which agile methods are popular?

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When it comes to the "How", every company and organization needs to decide for themselves, which methods work best for their projects, systems, and company culture. But the Agile Report still has identified some trends that are more popular than others.

(You find a comprehensive glossary of the terminology here).

Scrum is the preferred methodology

Two out of three companies use Scrum methods. Other methods such as ScrumBan, Scrum / XP Hybrid, iterative, Extreme Programming and Lean Startup being used rather seldomly. However, most teams make use of daily standups, retrospectives, sprints, Kanban boards, task boards and spreadsheets to support their documentation, planning and collaboration. Additionally, SAFe® (scaled agile framework) is by far the most popular framework with 37% of respondents using it.

Value Stream Management gains traction

More than 56% of surveyed companies make use of Value Stream Management (VSM). 23% are considering it for the future. VSM is used to decide which values a (software) project offers. It also helps to track all resources and efforts from beginning to end of the project cycle. An important basis for successful VSM is therefore the ability to track all processes and resources from the idea to the release (and beyond).

DevOps become a standard

Another popular theme for agile development is the planning or using of DevOps initiatives.

DevOps is the idea to connect software development and IT operations by using methods, processes, tools and technology to strengthen collaboration and make it more transparent. 

75% of surveyed companies define DevOps as important or very important for their company.

Most companies mainly use agile principles and practices for their software development (86%) and IT (63%) but also for operations (29%). However, quite a few also use it for other business areas such as marketing, security, sales, and HR.

This implies that software projects are not just a relevant topic for a company's IT. It also shows that agile methods can be used for projects that are not tied to software development.

Personally, I've worked with my colleagues on campaigns and events in a rather agile way and can only confirm the advantages. It is much easier to share results and information, correct the course and do a thorough quality assurance throughout the whole process.

A fully agile company can be a challenge

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However, there are still some challenges that keep companies and organizations from adopting the agile approach. However, four of the top five challenges are mainly due to lack of organization and overall cultural barriers when it comes to both working with different work cultures as well as accepting the change.

An unfortunate result is the lack of representation of agile methods by the upper management. In almost all companies and organizations, the priorities of the leadership team impact the acceptance and motivation of employees to adapt to change.

  • Inconsistencies in processes and practices (46%)
  • Cultural Clashes (43%)
  • General organizational resistance to change (46%)
  • Lack of skills and experience (42%)
  • Absence of leadership participation (41%)

Another interesting study result shows that in companies that practice agile methods, not all teams are actually using them. Only 18% state that all their teams use agile practices and in 34% more than half of their teams do. 46% have less than half of their teams use agile methodologies. This could be a main reason for the main challenges that companies face in their agile adoption. If different teams work with different, very opposing methodologies, it is almost impossible to collaborate.

Tracking success in an agile project

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KPI to measure the success of agile projects are important to not only rate the overall success of the project but also control measures during and after the project to optimize the processes.  

Some of the main KPI were

  1. Customer / user satisfaction

Usually, these KPI are generated via surveys or the Net Promoter Score after finalizing the project. User satisfaction can also be measured by the adoption and actual use of the new technology (unless the use is mandatory, in that case, a survey might result in more transparent answers).

  1. Business value & objectives achieved

Depending on the goals and values, this can be higher conversion rates, higher revenue, higher awareness, etc. Usually, business goals also include user and / or customer satisfaction (see point 1.).

  1. Quality, productivity and on-time delivery of the project

These are easily measured by setting clear goals for the project and compare them to the final results. The KPI can include planned and actual costs, resources, time frames, etc. Elements such as the number of defects or errors that needed to be corrected, as well as planned and actual release dates can also help measure how successfully the project was executed.

  1. Moral and cultural impact

41% of all companies measure culture and morale of their agile projects, which shows how much impact agile methods have on the social and cultural level.

In my conversations with project leads, I often heard how closely good collaboration and a respectful environment are related to the results and acceptance of a (software) project. An open collaboration culture also helps to weather crisis and be more motivated for future projects.

See how manufacturer Komax managed to learn and adopt the agile project approach by realizing a fully agile harmonization and implementation of their global sales processes.

Komax Use Case

by Juliane Waack

Juliane Waack is Editor in Chief at DIGITALL and writes about the digital transformation, megatrends and why a healthy culture is essential for a successful business.

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