Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Transparency – The Magic of Agile

Projects need transparency to ensure clear project communication. Everyone wants to know just what they need to know, when they need to know it. One of the best things about the Agile methodology is the focus on frequent iterative checkpoints between the development team, management, the sponsor and the customer. This form of connection goes a long way to create greater project transparency and helps a team to more organically readjust requirements to react to changing needs, market conditions and financial restrictions.

Communication Over Documentation

The many variants of the Agile methodology have a common desire to value communication over documentation. The scenario of a waterfall project that spends years in the development of project requirements documentation, only to be cancelled prior to development, illustrates the core communication weakness of waterfall. People don’t know what they don’t know. Short iterative touch points allow all stakeholders to see requirements in action, and make adjustments quickly. The communication loop is simple, direct and sometimes painful.

Communicate Up and Down

From a management perspective, it is still important to communicate in both directions on an Agile projects. As everything moves very quickly, there is a temptation to get caught in the weeds of daily issue management and overall project direction. This is particularly true in the early stages of an Agile project when processes, requirements and development may all be happening at the same time. The temptation is to focus on communicating and connecting with the team. However, this is the stage where the Steering Committee must be kept up to speed on their value for money. Once the early iterations starting flowing through the review and approval stages, the wider team will become more aligned on the larger project goals. Overall project transparency will start to emerge as the development team learns early about the needs and quirks of senior management. Similarly, the steering committee will get a real sense of what kind of work can be achieved in realistic timeframes.

Consistent Approach to Iterations

A simple iteration schedule applied consistently is the best way to ensure transparency. A simple two week loop with checkpoints for requirements planning, design, review, development, QA and deployment acts like a mini circular project plan. Everyone knows exactly what to expect every two weeks and the team will establish a rhythm. As unplanned requirements come up in successive iterations, they get reviewed alongside other project priorities in real time. The loop is tight, clear and effective.

Be Flexible

As the name implies, Agile really is all about flexibility. Project transparency means that everyone knows more about what everyone else is doing. If people know you are doing, you need to be prepared to adjust based on their feedback. Change is constant, and change is good. Getting in the groove of a constant feedback loop will allow you to elevate your project management game with creativity and decisiveness.

Embrace Agile as your window to clear project communication.

Dave Ullrich, B.Comm, PMP specializes in IT project management consulting and strategy with his company Cilantra Solutions. He can be reached at

No comments:

Post a Comment