Scrum agile project management

This is your go-to guide on scrum, a popular agile project management framework. You’ll learn scrum terminology, how to use the methodology in software and product development projects, and more.

There are so many agile project management frameworks that it can be difficult for newcomers to the field to get a good grasp of each one. Here’s a quick introduction to scrum, which is one of the most popular agile methodologies.

This resource guide is intended to be useful for project managers, business leaders, developers, project and product teams, consultants, stakeholders, and students. We’ll update this primer when new information is available about scrum.

SEE: All of TechRepublic’s smart person’s guides

Executive summary

  • What is scrum agile project management? Scrum is a popular iterative software development framework that is often used to manage product development. It uses short, iterative cycles called sprints to complete work.
  • Why does scrum agile project management matter? This agile framework is highly adaptable due to its simplicity, its flexibility, and the learning opportunities available to leaders and teams, who also benefit from the high degree of customer satisfaction.
  • Who does scrum agile project management affect? Project leaders, teams (made up of a scrum master, a product owner, and a scrum team), developers, stakeholders, end users, the business as a whole, and ultimately clients.
  • When is scrum agile project management happening? Scrum has been applied as a methodology since 2001 and is now one of the most widely used agile frameworks within various companies and industries worldwide.
  • How do I use scrum agile project management? There are numerous online resources, which include the Scrum Alliance founded in 2002 by Ken Schwaber and others; Scrum Guides, which were started by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland; and various organizations, including PMI and Scrum.org, that provide in-depth background information about the framework, as well as training and certification options.

SEE: IT leader’s guide to Agile development (Tech Pro Research)

What is scrum agile project management?

The word scrum originated from a rugby analogy in a 1986 study by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka, and is just one of the many agile frameworks used in project management to improve quality and expedite product development and delivery. There are three key roles in scrum: the scrum master, the product owner, and the development team.

  • The scrum master takes on the role of a coach/team leader who is responsible for overseeing and guiding the process and making sure the team meets its goals and deliverables. Although the team is self-organizing, the scrum master works with the team to ensure there is synergy and alignment in their focus.
  • The product owner is, in essence, a project sponsor who develops the wish list of things to be done and prioritizes it. The product owner interacts with the team and the scrum master throughout the project.
  • The Scrum team is a self-organizing collaborative team that is used across functions and brought together because of their relevant and necessary skills for a project. This team of usually 5 – 10 people has the full capabilities and authority to complete the work and determines their tools and techniques as well as the delegation of work.

There are core terms in scrum you should know.

  • Artifacts: Product backlog, sprint backlog, etc.
  • Burndown chart: Displays the work effort that remains over a timeline.
  • Burnup chart: Displays the increase in a measure against time.
  • Definition of done (DoD): A set of expectations defined by the development team that outlines when a product is releasable.
  • Scrum team: A small team of 5 – 10 members that manages and completes the work within each sprint required to release a product to the customer.
  • Product owner: The person who manages and communicates all requirements for a product to maximize value for the customer.
  • Scrum board: The scrum team uses this physical board to diagram information needed to complete work.
  • Scrum master: A coach/team leader who is responsible for overseeing and guiding the process and making sure the team meets its goals and deliverables.
  • Sprint: A 2- to 4-week time frame increment that teams work within to complete the required work. There are usually iterations within a project.
  • Sprint backlog: A high-level view of work to be done to realize a sprint goal.

Additional resources:

Why scrum agile project management matters

Scrum offers project teams and organizations the following benefits.

  • Because scrum has a predetermined set of role, rules, and processes, it provides teams with an easy to implement process for getting work done, measuring success, and gaining higher levels of customer satisfaction.
  • Teams get to continually hone their skills and enhance their knowledge to maintain quality standards, meet stakeholder requirements, and improve collaboration.
  • Quality is mandated and defined within the DoD as a primary requirement before a product can be released. This increases the likelihood of success.
  • Scrum is highly flexible, as sprints do not impact work that was previously done in project phases, and instead executes only the work in the current sprint, offering teams greater focus.
  • Team collaboration and cohesiveness levels tend to be higher, as teams are self-organizing.
  • Costs are usually more contained.

Additional resources:

Who scrum agile project management affects

More for CXOs

The use of scrum benefits all members of a project team, including developers, project and product managers, testers, engineers, system designers, technical writers, and executives. The largest benefit is passed onto the customer through faster debugging, less frequent defects, and quicker turnaround of high-quality products.

Additional resources:

When scrum agile project management is happening

In the Scrum Alliance’s 2015 State of Scrum Report (PDF), 60% of scrum teams adhere to the 7-person team size and 2-week sprints, while 81% hold daily team meetings and 83% plan before each sprint. Further, 90% make use of some form of scrum artifacts, and approximately 56% say artifacts are widely used. Scrum continues to increase in popularity and practice.

Additional resources:

How to use scrum agile project management

During each sprint, the scrum team works together with the development team, which starts by looking at the wish list that was put together and prioritized by the product owner or backlog and plans how to tackle the tasks within a two- to four-week increment.

  1. The team develops tasks and delegates each of the tasks.
  2. The team identifies all deliverables.
  3. The team updates the backlog status.
  4. The team develops a new burndown chart.

You can achieve even greater benefits when using scrum with other frameworks such as Kanban and lean to create a hybrid solution.

Additional resources:

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ACCEPTANCE CRITERIA

DID WE BUILD THE RIGHT PRODUCT? AND, DID WE BUILD THE PRODUCT RIGHT?

Acceptance Criteria are important.  Unfortunately, we often overlook or undervalue it as an aspect of the iterative planning process. It is super important because projects succeed or fail based on the ability of the team to meet their customers documented and perceivedacceptance criteria. When we clearly define the criteria up front, we avoid surprises at the end of a sprint, or release, and ensure a higher level of customer satisfaction.  In other words we’re able to answer these two important questions: Did we build the right product? And, Did we build the product right?

WHAT ARE ACCEPTANCE CRITERIA?

They are the conditions that a software product must satisfy to be accepted by a user, customer, or in the case of system level functionality, the consuming system.

Acceptance Criteria are a set of statements, each with a clear pass/fail result, that specify both functional and non-functional requirements, and are applicable at the Epic, Feature, and Story Level. Acceptance criteria constitute our “Definition of Done”, and by done I mean well done.

We’re not talking about horseshoes here, and there is no partial acceptance: either the acceptance criteria is met or it is not.

WHEN TO DEFINE OUR ACCEPTANCE CRITERIA?

A trap that I encourage my teams to avoid is writing acceptance criteria after development has started. This leads to merely verifying that the functionality built works rather than verifying that the functionality meets user needs and expectations. If we write and review the criteria before implementation begins, we’re more likely to capture the customer intent rather than the development reality.

WHAT MAKES GOOD ACCEPTANCE CRITERIA?

Acceptance criteria define when a work item is complete and working as expected. Express criteria clearly, in simple language the customer would use, without ambiguity regarding the expected outcome. This sets our testers up for success, since they will be taking our criteria and translating them into automated test cases to run as part of our continuous integration build.

WHAT. NOT HOW.

Another trap that I coach my teams to avoid is the how trap. Criteria should state intent, but not a solution. (e.g., “User can approve or reject an invoice” rather than “User can click a checkbox to approve an invoice”). The criteria should be independent of the implementation, and discuss WHAT to expect, and not HOW to implement the functionality.

FORMATS

The Given/When/Then format is helpful way to specify criteria:

Given some precondition When I do some action Then I expect some result

When writing acceptance criteria in this format, it provides a consistent structure. Additionally, it helps testers determine when to begin and end testing for that specific work item.

Sometimes it’s difficult to construct criteria using the given, when, then, format. Particularly when dealing with system level user stories. In those cases, I’ve found that using a verification checklist works well.

Another advantage to verification checklists is that they are also simple to individually mark as complete as we implement functionality.

SIMPLE CHEAT SHEET TO SPRINT PLANNING MEETING

WHAT IS SPRINT PLANNING?

Sprint planning is a timeboxed working session that lasts roughly 1 hour for every week of a sprint.  In sprint planning, the entire team agrees to complete a set of product backlog items.  This agreement defines the sprint backlog and is based on the team’s velocity or capacity and the length of the sprint.

WHO DOES IT?

Sprint planning is a collaborative effort involving a ScrumMaster, who facilitates the meeting, a Product Owner, who clarifies the details of the product backlog items and their respective acceptance criteria, and the Entire Agile Team, who define the work and effort necessary to meet their sprint commitment.

HOW DO WE PREPARE?

Ensure all sprint candidates meet the team’s definition of ready.  In the days and weeks leading up to sprint planning, the Product Owner identify the items with the greatest value and works towards getting them to a ready state.

  • Assign a relative story point value
  • Remove dependencies
  • Create testable examples
  • Define acceptance criteria
  • Meets INVEST criteria

WHAT IS THE BACKLOG?

The product backlog can address just about anything, to include new functionality, bugs, and risks. Product backlog items (PBI’s) must be small enough to complete during a sprint and should be small enough to complete within a few days. All stories must be verified that they are implemented to the satisfaction of the Product Owner. 

ENSURE RIGHT SIZING BACKLOG ITEMS

Based on historical data of the team, first determine if product backlog items are too large to complete in a sprint.  In these cases, do not consider these stories as valid sprint backlog candidates. Rather, in order to consider for sprint planning, split the stories into smaller pieces. Additionally, each story must be able to stand on its own as a vertical slice.  Therefore, stories should not be incomplete or process-based as a horizontal slice.

CALCULATING A COMMITMENT

To calculate a commitment, mature teams may use a combination of both team availability and velocity.  However, new teams may not know their velocity or they may not be stable enough to use velocity as a basis for sprint planning.  In these cases, new teams may need to make forecasts based solely on the their capacity.

DETERMINING VELOCITY

First of all, as velocity is unique to every team, never use another team’s velocity to plan your sprint.  Derive team velocity by summing the story point estimates of all completed and accepted work from the previous sprint.  By tracking team velocity over time, teams will begin to focus less on utilization and consequently more on throughput.

DETERMINING CAPACITY

For teams without a stable velocity, each team member should provide three simple measures to determine capacity.  First, what are the number of ideal hours in their work day?  Second, how many days in the sprint will that person be available?  Third, what percentage of time will that person dedicate to this team?

THE PLANNING STEPS

  1. Remind the team of the big picture or goal
  2. Discuss any new information that may impact the plan
  3. Present the velocity to be used for this release
  4. Confirm team capacity
  5. Confirm any currently known issues and concerns and record as appropriate
  6. Review the definition of DONE and make any appropriate updates based on technology, skill, or team member changes since the last sprint
  7. Present proposed product backlog items to consider for the sprint backlog
  8. Determine the needs, sign up for work, and estimate the work owned
  9. Product Owner answers clarifying questions and elaborates acceptance criteria
  10. Confirm any new issues and concerns raised during meeting and record
  11. Confirm any assumptions or dependencies discovered during planning and record
  12. ScrumMaster calls for a group consensus on the plan
  13. Team and Product Owner signal if this is the best plan they can make given what they know right now
  14. Get back to work

Scrum

What is Scrum?

In the agile Scrum world, instead of providing complete, detailed descriptions of how everything is to be done on a project, much of it is left up to the Scrum software development team. This is because the team will know best how to solve the problem they are presented.

This is why in Scrum development, for example, a sprint planning meeting is described in terms of the desired outcome (a commitment to a set of features to be developed in the next sprint) instead of a set of Entry criteria, Task definitions, Validation criteria, Exit criteria (ETVX) and so on, as would be provided in most methodologies.

Scrum relies on a self-organizing, cross-functional team. The scrum team is self-organizing in that there is no overall team leader who decides which person will do which task or how a problem will be solved. Those are issues that are decided by the team as a whole.

And in Scrum, a team is cross functional, meaning everyone is needed to take a feature from idea to implementation.

Within agile development, Scrum teams are supported by two specific roles. The first is a ScrumMaster, who can be thought of as a coach for the team, helping team members use the Scrum process to perform at the highest level.

The product owner (PO) is the other role, and in Scrum software development, represents the business, customers or users, and guides the team toward building the right product.

Scrum Development: What’s Involved?

The Scrum model suggests that projects progress via a series of sprints. In keeping with an agile methodology, sprints are timeboxed to no more than a month long, most commonly two weeks.

Scrum methodology advocates for a planning meeting at the start of the sprint, where team members figure out how many items they can commit to, and then create a sprint backlog – a list of the tasks to perform during the sprint.

During an agile Scrum sprint, the Scrum team takes a small set of features from idea to coded and tested functionality. At the end, these features are done, meaning coded, tested and integrated into the evolving product or system.

On each day of the sprint, all team members should attend a daily Scrum meeting, including the ScrumMaster and the product owner. This meeting is timeboxed to no more than 15 minutes. During that time, team members share what they worked on the prior day, will work on that day, and identify any impediments to progress.

The Scrum model sees daily scrums as a way to synchronize the work of team members as they discuss the work of the sprint.

At the end of a sprint, the team conducts a sprint review during which the team demonstrates the new functionality to the PO or any other stakeholder who wishes to provide feedback that could influence the next sprint.

This feedback loop within Scrum software development may result in changes to the freshly delivered functionality, but it may just as likely result in revising or adding items to the product backlog.

Another activity in Scrum project management is the sprint retrospective at the end of each sprint. The whole team participates in this meeting, including the ScrumMaster and PO. The meeting is an opportunity to reflect on the sprint that has ended, and identify opportunities to improve.

Scrum Process: The Main Artifacts

The primary artifact in Scrum development is, of course, the product itself. The Scrum model expects the team to bring the product or system to a potentially shippable state at the end of each Scrum sprint.

The product backlog is another artifact of Scrum. This is the complete list of the functionality that remains to be added to the product. The product owner prioritizes the backlog so the team always works on the most valuable features first.

The most popular and successful way to create a product backlog using Scrum methodology is to populate it with user stories, which are short descriptions of functionality described from the perspective of a user or customer.

In Scrum project management, on the first day of a sprint and during the planning meeting, team members create the sprint backlog. The sprint backlog can be thought of as the team’s to-do list for the sprint, whereas a product backlog is a list of features to be built (written in the form of user stories).

The sprint backlog is the list of tasks the team needs to perform in order to deliver the functionality it committed to deliver during the sprint.

Additional artifacts resulting from the Scrum agile methodology is the sprint burndown chart and release burndown chart. Burndown charts show the amount of work remaining either in a sprint or a release, and are an effective tool in Scrum software development to determine whether a sprint or release is on schedule to have all planned work finished by the desired date.

The Agile Scrum Project: Main Roles

Even if you are new to Scrum, you may have heard of a role called the ScrumMaster. The ScrumMaster is the team’s coach, and helps Scrum practitioners achieve their highest level of performance.

In the Scrum process, a ScrumMaster differs from a traditional project manager in many ways, including that this role does not provide day-to-day direction to the team and does not assign tasks to individuals.

A good ScrumMaster shelters the team from outside distractions, allowing team members to focus maniacally during the sprint on the goal they have selected.

While the ScrumMaster focuses on helping the team be the best that it can be, the product owner works to direct the team to the right goal. The product owner does this by creating a compelling vision of the product, and then conveying that vision to the team through the product backlog.

The product owner is responsible for prioritizing the backlog during Scrum development, to ensure it’s up to par as more is learned about the system being built, its users, the team and so on.

The third and final role in Scrum project management is the Scrum team itself. Although individuals may join the team with various job titles, in Scrum, those titles are insignificant. Scrum methodology states that each person contributes in whatever way they can to complete the work of each sprint.

This does not mean that a tester will be expected to re-architect the system; individuals will spend most (and sometimes all) of their time working in whatever discipline they worked before adopting the agile Scrum model. But with Scrum, individuals are expected to work beyond their preferred disciplines whenever doing so would be for the good of the team.

One way to think of the interlocking nature of these three roles in this agile methodology is as a racecar.

The Scrum team is the car itself, ready to speed along in whatever direction it is pointed. The product owner is the driver, making sure that the car is always going in the right direction. And the ScrumMaster is the chief mechanic, keeping the car well tuned and performing at its best.

Project Life Cycle Vs Project Management Life Cycle – Detailed Analysis

Are you confused about the difference between project life cycle and project management life cycle?

Many PMP aspirants have this confusion, while preparing for the PMP exam. So I thought of clarifying with a post on the differences between project life cycle and project management life cycle.

In a very simple language a life cycle means, everything that happens from introduction to the demise.

For example a product life cycle refers to everything that happens from introduction of the product till the demise of the product.

Similarly a project life cycle refers to everything that happens from initiation of the project to its closure.

Project Life Cycle Vs Project Management Life Cycle

PROJECT LIFE CYCLE MANAGEMENT

Essentially a project life cycle is the logical break down of what to do “to deliver” the output of the project.

For example in a software development project the project life cycle refers to the following stages…

Project Life Cycle

  • Analysis/Requirements analysis,
  • Design
  • Coding
  • Testing
  • Deployment and handover

Essentially these are different stages in the life of a software development project from start to end.

Though there are many types of project life cycles available, the following are some of the popular project life cycles in practice. They are

  • Predictive project life cycle
  • Iterative Project life cycle
  • Adaptive life cycle

If a project is divided into multiple phases, each phase goes through all the SDLC stages (Requirements, design, coding, testing, deployment and support), irrespective of project life cycle.

Project Life cycles

PREDICTIVE PROJECT LIFE CYCLE

First of all, this is traditional project life cycle used commonly.

Project scope, time and cost are fixed and will be determined as early as possible in the life cycle of the project.

Projects divide into multiple phases. Each phase runs sequentially or in  a overlapping fashion based on the dependencies.

The current project life cycle stage must complete, before starting the next project life cycle stage.

Certainly changes are expensive in this project life cycle.

If the changes occur in the later stages, it will become even more expensive due to rework that will increase.

Product or the final result will deliver at the end of the project after completing all the phases.

Most importantly defects only found during testing phase or after producing the end result. Hence they may become expensive to the project.

Customer engagement in this case would be very limited. Especially, customer would be engaged more during requirements phase (in the beginning) and in the testing/acceptance phase (in the end).

This makes the predictive life cycle inefficient, as the projects and changes are becoming very dynamic in nature.

The best example of the predictive life cycle that we all have heard is water fall model.

ITERATIVE PROJECT LIFE CYCLE

Unlike in the predictive life cycle, in the iterative project life cycle, projects run in multiple iterations.

The project divides into multiple phases. Every phase can be run sequentially or overlapping fashion based on the dependencies. Each phase can run through multiple iterations.

Each iteration goes through all software development life cycle (Requirements, design, coding, testing, deployment and support) phases.

Every iteration produce output for that iteration. In case, if there a change in any of the iteration, the change will move in to the next iteration depending on its priority.

Customer will receive the value early in the project, as the partial output is produced at the end of iteration. Customer will have more confidence by looking at the completed part of the output.

And if there are any gaps, customer can provide his feedback, which can be considered for any required changes in the subsequent iterations.

Customer involvement is more here, as every iteration goes through the entire SDLC.

ADAPTIVE LIFE CYCLE

Furthermore, Adaptive life cycle is also similar to iterative life cycle, except that

  • When you expect high number of changes, adaptive life cycle is best to use
  • And scope is not clear in the beginning of the project.

Compared to iterative, adaptive life cycle have more iterations.

In adaptive project life cycle, every iteration may produce a usable product (with partial features). So customer can also work in parallel to test and accept the work packages after every iteration, so as to save huge amount of project lead time.

So adaptive life cycle is more agile in nature and is more responsive to changes.

Changes handle naturally as they occur. Hence it is very less risky.

Customer involvement is there all the time, during the course of the complete project.

 

PROJECT MANAGEMENT LIFE CYCLE

The project management life cycle is about the stages in the life of project management for any project.

Project Management Life Cycle

Project management life cycle is what to do to manage the project work. Project management life cycle follows the project management process groups namely

  • Initiating
  • Planning
  • Executing
  • Monitoring and Controlling and
  • Closing

The project management life cycle also passes through a logical order of the process groups starting from initiating to closing.

 

CONCLUSION

Though the terms both project life cycle and project management life cycle are confusing and some people misuse the terminology, the concepts are clear now.

Project life cycle is to deal with project methodology and stages.

Also we have seen what predictive, iterative and adaptive life cycles are.

Finally we understand that project management life cycle about the life cycle to manage the project work.

Project Management

The primary challenge of project management is to achieve all of the project goals and objectives while honoring the preconceived constraints. The primary constraints are scope, time, quality and budget. The secondary —and more ambitious— challenge is tooptimize the allocation of necessary inputs and integrate them to meet pre-defined objectives.

History

Roman soldiers building a fortress, Trajan’s Column113 AD

Until 1900 civil engineering projects were generally managed by creative architects, engineers, and master builders themselves, for example Vitruvius (first century BC), Christopher Wren (1632–1723), Thomas Telford (1757–1834) andIsambard Kingdom Brunel (1806–1859). It was in the 1950s that organizations started to systematically apply project management tools and techniques to complex engineering projects.

Henry Gantt (1861–1919), the father of planning and control techniques

As a discipline, project management developed from several fields of application including civil construction, engineering, and heavy defense activity. Two forefathers of project management are Henry Gantt, called the father of planning and control techniques, who is famous for his use of the Gantt chart as a project management tool (alternatively Harmonogram first proposed by Karol Adamiecki); and Henri Fayol for his creation of the five management functions that form the foundation of the body of knowledge associated with project and program management. Both Gantt and Fayol were students of Frederick Winslow Taylor‘s theories of scientific management. His work is the forerunner to modern project management tools including work breakdown structure (WBS) and resource allocation.

The 1950s marked the beginning of the modern project management era where core engineering fields come together to work as one. Project management became recognized as a distinct discipline arising from the management discipline with engineering model. In the United States, prior to the 1950s, projects were managed on an ad-hoc basis, using mostly Gantt charts and informal techniques and tools. At that time, two mathematical project-scheduling models were developed. The “Critical Path Method” (CPM) was developed as a joint venture between DuPont Corporation andRemington Rand Corporation for managing plant maintenance projects. And the “Program Evaluation and Review Technique” or PERT, was developed by Booz Allen Hamilton as part of the United States Navy‘s (in conjunction with the Lockheed CorporationPolaris missile submarine program; These mathematical techniques quickly spread into many private enterprises.

PERT network chart for a seven-month project with five milestones

At the same time, as project-scheduling models were being developed, technology for project cost estimating, cost management, and engineering economics was evolving, with pioneering work by Hans Lang and others. In 1956, the American Association of Cost Engineers (now AACE International; the Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering) was formed by early practitioners of project management and the associated specialties of planning and scheduling, cost estimating, and cost/schedule control (project control). AACE continued its pioneering work and in 2006 released the first integrated process for portfolio, program and project management (Total Cost Management Framework).

The International Project Management Association (IPMA) was founded in Europe in 1967, as a federation of several national project management associations. IPMA maintains its federal structure today and now includes member associations on every continent except Antarctica. IPMA offers a Four Level Certification program based on the IPMA Competence Baseline (ICB). The ICB covers technical, contextual, and behavioral competencies.

In 1969, the Project Management Institute (PMI) was formed in the USA. PMI publishes A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), which describes project management practices that are common to “most projects, most of the time.” PMI also offers multiple certifications.

Approaches

There are a number of approaches to managing project activities including lean, iterative, incremental, and phased approaches.

Regardless of the methodology employed, careful consideration must be given to the overall project objectives, timeline, and cost, as well as the roles and responsibilities of all participants and stakeholders.

The traditional approach

A traditional phased approach identifies a sequence of steps to be completed. In the “traditional approach”, five developmental components of a project can be distinguished (four stages plus control):

Typical development phases of an engineering project
  1. initiation
  2. planning and design
  3. execution and construction
  4. monitoring and controlling systems
  5. completion

Not all projects will have every stage, as projects can be terminated before they reach completion. Some projects do not follow a structured planning and/or monitoring process. And some projects will go through steps 2, 3 and 4 multiple times.

Many industries use variations of these project stages. For example, when working on a brick-and-mortar design and construction, projects will typically progress through stages like pre-planning, conceptual design, schematic design, design development, construction drawings (or contract documents), and construction administration. In software development, this approach is often known as the waterfall model,[18] i.e., one series of tasks after another in linear sequence. In software development many organizations have adapted the Rational Unified Process (RUP) to fit this methodology, although RUP does not require or explicitly recommend this practice. Waterfall development works well for small, well defined projects, but often fails in larger projects of undefined and ambiguous nature. The Cone of Uncertainty explains some of this as the planning made on the initial phase of the project suffers from a high degree of uncertainty. This becomes especially true as software development is often the realization of a new or novel product. In projects where requirements have not been finalized and can change, requirements management is used to develop an accurate and complete definition of the behavior of software that can serve as the basis for software development. While the terms may differ from industry to industry, the actual stages typically follow common steps to problem solving—”defining the problem, weighing options, choosing a path, implementation and evaluation.”

PRINCE2

The PRINCE2 process model
The PRINCE2 process model (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The PRINCE2 process model

PRINCE2 is a structured approach to project management, released in 1996 as a generic project management method. It combined the original PROMPT methodology (which evolved into the PRINCE methodology) with IBM’s MITP (managing the implementation of the total project) methodology. PRINCE2 provides a method for managing projects within a clearly defined framework. PRINCE2 describes procedures to coordinate people and activities in a project, how to design and supervise the project, and what to do if the project has to be adjusted if it does not develop as planned.

In the method, each process is specified with its key inputs and outputs and with specific goals and activities to be carried out. This allows for automatic control of any deviations from the plan. Divided into manageable stages, the method enables an efficient control of resources. On the basis of close monitoring, the project can be carried out in a controlled and organized way.

PRINCE2 provides a common language for all participants in the project. The various management roles and responsibilities involved in a project are fully described and are adaptable to suit the complexity of the project and skills of the organization.

PRiSM (Projects integrating Sustainable Methods)

PRiSM is a structured project management method developed to align organizational sustainability initiatives with project delivery. By design, PRiSM is a repeatable, practical and proactive methodology that ensures project success while decreasing an organization’s negative environmental impact.

The methodology encompasses the management, control and organization of a project with consideration and emphasis beyond the project life-cycle and on the five aspects of sustainability. PRiSM is also used to refer to the training and accreditation of authorized practitioners of the methodology who must undertake accredited qualifications based on competency to obtain the GPM certification.

Critical chain project management

Critical chain project management (CCPM) is a method of planning and managing project execution designed to deal with uncertainties inherent in managing projects, while taking into consideration limited availability of resources (physical, human skills, as well as management & support capacity) needed to execute projects.

CCPM is an application of the Theory of Constraints (TOC) to projects. The goal is to increase the flow of projects in an organization (throughput). Applying the first three of the five focusing steps of TOC, the system constraint for all projects is identified as are the resources. To exploit the constraint, tasks on the critical chain are given priority over all other activities. Finally, projects are planned and managed to ensure that the resources are ready when the critical chain tasks must start, subordinating all other resources to the critical chain.

The project plan should typically undergo resource leveling, and the longest sequence of resource-constrained tasks should be identified as the critical chain. In some cases, such as managing contracted sub-projects, it is advisable to use a simplified approach without resource leveling.

In multi-project environments, resource leveling should be performed across projects. However, it is often enough to identify (or simply select) a single “drum”. The drum can be a resource that acts as a constraint across projects, which are staggered based on the availability of that single resource.

One can also use a “virtual drum” by selecting a task or group of tasks (typically integration points) and limiting the number of projects in execution at that stage.

Event chain methodology

Event chain methodology is another method that complements critical path method and critical chain project management methodologies.

Event chain methodology is an uncertainty modeling and schedule network analysis technique that is focused on identifying and managing events and event chains that affect project schedules. Event chain methodology helps to mitigate the negative impact of psychological heuristics and biases, as well as to allow for easy modeling of uncertainties in the project schedules. Event chain methodology is based on the following principles.

  • Probabilistic moment of risk: An activity (task) in most real-life processes is not a continuous uniform process. Tasks are affected by external events, which can occur at some point in the middle of the task.
  • Event chains: Events can cause other events, which will create event chains. These event chains can significantly affect the course of the project. Quantitative analysis is used to determine a cumulative effect of these event chains on the project schedule.
  • Critical events or event chains: The single events or the event chains that have the most potential to affect the projects are the “critical events” or “critical chains of events.” They can be determined by the analysis.
  • Project tracking with events: Even if a project is partially completed and data about the project duration, cost, and events occurred is available, it is still possible to refine information about future potential events and helps to forecast future project performance.
  • Event chain visualization: Events and event chains can be visualized using event chain diagrams on a Gantt chart.

Process-based management

Also furthering the concept of project control is the incorporation of process-based management. This area has been driven by the use of Maturity models such as the CMMI (capability maturity model integration; see this example of a predecessor) and ISO/IEC15504(SPICE – software process improvement and capability estimation).

Agile project management

The iteration cycle in agile project management

Agile project management approaches based on the principles of human interaction management are founded on a process view of human collaboration. It is “most typically used in software, website, technology, creative and marketing industries.” This contrasts sharply with the traditional approach. In the agile software development or flexible product development approach, the project is seen as a series of relatively small tasks conceived and executed as the situation demands in an adaptive manner, rather than as a completely pre-planned process.

Lean project management

Lean project management uses principles from lean manufacturing to focus on delivering value with less waste.

Extreme project management

Planning and feedback loops inExtreme programming (XP) with the time frames of the multiple loops.

In critical studies of project management it has been noted that several PERT based models are not well suited for the multi-project company environment of today. Most of them are aimed at very large-scale, one-time, non-routine projects, and currently all kinds of management are expressed in terms of projects.

Using complex models for “projects” (or rather “tasks”) spanning a few weeks has been proven to cause unnecessary costs and low maneuverability in several cases. Instead, project management experts try to identify different “lightweight” models, such as Extreme Programmingand Scrum.

The generalization of Extreme Programming to other kinds of projects is extreme project management, which may be used in combination with the process modeling and management principles of human interaction management.

Benefits realisation management

Benefits realization management (BRM) enhances normal project management techniques through a focus on agreeing what outcomes should change (the benefits) during the project, and then measuring to see if that is happening to help keep a project on track. This can help to reduce the risk of a completed project being a failure as instead of attempting to deliver agreed requirements the aim is to deliver the benefit of those requirements.

An example of delivering a project to requirements could be agreeing on a project to deliver a computer system to process staff data with the requirement to manage payroll, holiday and staff personnel records. Under BRM the agreement would be to use the suppliers suggested staff data system to see an agreed reduction in staff hours processing and maintaining staff data (benefit reduce HR headcount).

Processes

The project development stages

Traditionally, project management includes a number of elements: four to five process groups, and a control system. Regardless of the methodology or terminology used, the same basic project management processes will be used. Major process groups generally include:

  • initiation
  • planning or development
  • production or execution
  • monitoring and controlling
  • closing

In project environments with a significant exploratory element (e.g., research and development), these stages may be supplemented with decision points (go/no go decisions) at which the project’s continuation is debated and decided. An example is the Phase–gate model.

Initiating

Initiating process group processes

The initiating processes determine the nature and scope of the project. If this stage is not performed well, it is unlikely that the project will be successful in meeting the business’ needs. The key project controls needed here are an understanding of the business environment and making sure that all necessary controls are incorporated into the project. Any deficiencies should be reported and a recommendation should be made to fix them.

The initiating stage should include a plan that encompasses the following areas:

Planning and design

After the initiation stage, the project is planned to an appropriate level of detail (see example of a flow-chart). The main purpose is to plan time, cost and resources adequately to estimate the work needed and to effectively manage risk during project execution. As with the Initiation process group, a failure to adequately plan greatly reduces the project’s chances of successfully accomplishing its goals.

Project planning generally consists of

  • determining how to plan (e.g. by level of detail or rolling wave);
  • developing the scope statement;
  • selecting the planning team;
  • identifying deliverables and creating the work breakdown structure;
  • identifying the activities needed to complete those deliverables and networking the activities in their logical sequence;
  • estimating the resource requirements for the activities;
  • estimating time and cost for activities;
  • developing the schedule;
  • developing the budget;
  • risk planning;
  • gaining formal approval to begin work.

Additional processes, such as planning for communications and for scope management, identifying roles and responsibilities, determining what to purchase for the project and holding a kick-off meeting are also generally advisable.

For new product development projects, conceptual design of the operation of the final product may be performed concurrent with the project planning activities, and may help to inform the planning team when identifying deliverables and planning activities.

Executing

Executing process group processes

Executing consists of the processes used to complete the work defined in the project plan to accomplish the project’s requirements. Execution process involves coordinating people and resources, as well as integrating and performing the activities of the project in accordance with the project management plan. The deliverables are produced as outputs from the processes performed as defined in the project management plan and other frameworks that might be applicable to the type of project at hand.

Monitoring and controlling

Monitoring and controlling process group processes

Monitoring and controlling consists of those processes performed to observe project execution so that potential problems can be identified in a timely manner and corrective action can be taken, when necessary, to control the execution of the project. The key benefit is that project performance is observed and measured regularly to identify variances from the project management plan.

Monitoring and controlling includes:

  • Measuring the ongoing project activities (‘where we are’);
  • Monitoring the project variables (cost, effort, scope, etc.) against the project management plan and the project performance baseline (where we should be);
  • Identify corrective actions to address issues and risks properly (How can we get on track again);
  • Influencing the factors that could circumvent integrated change control so only approved changes are implemented.

In multi-phase projects, the monitoring and control process also provides feedback between project phases, in order to implement corrective or preventive actions to bring the project into compliance with the project management plan.

Project maintenance is an ongoing process, and it includes:

  • Continuing support of end-users
  • Correction of errors
  • Updates of the software over time

Monitoring and controlling cycle

In this stage, auditors should pay attention to how effectively and quickly user problems are resolved.

Over the course of any construction project, the work scope may change. Change is a normal and expected part of the construction process. Changes can be the result of necessary design modifications, differing site conditions, material availability, contractor-requested changes, value engineering and impacts from third parties, to name a few. Beyond executing the change in the field, the change normally needs to be documented to show what was actually constructed. This is referred to as change management. Hence, the owner usually requires a final record to show all changes or, more specifically, any change that modifies the tangible portions of the finished work. The record is made on the contract documents – usually, but not necessarily limited to, the design drawings. The end product of this effort is what the industry terms as-built drawings, or more simply, “as built.” The requirement for providing them is a norm in construction contracts.

When changes are introduced to the project, the viability of the project has to be re-assessed. It is important not to lose sight of the initial goals and targets of the projects. When the changes accumulate, the forecasted result may not justify the original proposed investment in the project.

Closing

Closing process group processes.

Closing includes the formal acceptance of the project and the ending thereof. Administrative activities include the archiving of the files and documenting lessons learned.

This phase consists of:

  • Project close: Finalize all activities across all of the process groups to formally close the project or a project phase
  • Contract closure: Complete and settle each contract (including the resolution of any open items) and close each contract applicable to the project or project phase.

Project controlling and project control systems

Project controlling should be established as an independent function in project management. It implements verification and controlling function during the processing of a project in order to reinforce the defined performance and formal goals. The tasks of project controlling are also:

  • the creation of infrastructure for the supply of the right information and its update
  • the establishment of a way to communicate disparities of project parameters
  • the development of project information technology based on an intranet or the determination of a project key performance index system (KPI)
  • divergence analyses and generation of proposals for potential project regulations
  • the establishment of methods to accomplish an appropriate the project structure, project workflow organization, project control and governance
  • creation of transparency among the project parameters

Fulfillment and implementation of these tasks can be achieved by applying specific methods and instruments of project controlling. The following methods of project controlling can be applied:

  • investment analysis
  • cost–benefit analyses
  • value benefit Analysis
  • expert surveys
  • simulation calculations
  • risk-profile analyses
  • surcharge calculations
  • milestone trend analysis
  • cost trend analysis
  • target/actual-comparison

Project control is that element of a project that keeps it on-track, on-time and within budget. Project control begins early in the project with planning and ends late in the project with post-implementation review, having a thorough involvement of each step in the process. Each project should be assessed for the appropriate level of control needed: too much control is too time consuming, too little control is very risky. If project control is not implemented correctly, the cost to the business should be clarified in terms of errors, fixes, and additional audit fees.

Control systems are needed for cost, risk, quality, communication, time, change, procurement, and human resources. In addition, auditors should consider how important the projects are to the financial statements, how reliant the stakeholders are on controls, and how many controls exist. Auditors should review the development process and procedures for how they are implemented. The process of development and the quality of the final product may also be assessed if needed or requested. A business may want the auditing firm to be involved throughout the process to catch problems earlier on so that they can be fixed more easily. An auditor can serve as a controls consultant as part of the development team or as an independent auditor as part of an audit.

Businesses sometimes use formal systems development processes. These help assure that systems are developed successfully. A formal process is more effective in creating strong controls, and auditors should review this process to confirm that it is well designed and is followed in practice. A good formal systems development plan outlines:

  • strategy to align development with the organization’s broader objectives
  • Standards for new systems
  • Project management policies for timing and budgeting
  • Procedures describing the process
  • Evaluation of quality of change

Topics

Project managers

project manager is a professional in the field of project management. Project managers can have the responsibility of the planning, execution, and closing of any project, typically relating to construction industry, engineering, architecture, computing, and telecommunications. Many other fields in production engineering and design engineering and heavy industrial have project managers.

A project manager is the person accountable for accomplishing the stated project objectives. Key project management responsibilities include creating clear and attainable project objectives, building the project requirements, and managing the triple constraint for projects, which is cost, time, and scope.

A project manager is often a client representative and has to determine and implement the exact needs of the client, based on knowledge of the firm they are representing. The ability to adapt to the various internal procedures of the contracting party, and to form close links with the nominated representatives, is essential in ensuring that the key issues of cost, time, quality and above all, client satisfaction, can be realized.

Project management triangle

Like any human undertaking, projects need to be performed and delivered under certain constraints. Traditionally, these constraints have been listed as “scope,” “time,” and “cost”. These are also referred to as the “project management triangle“, where each side represents a constraint. One side of the triangle cannot be changed without affecting the others. A further refinement of the constraints separates product “quality” or “performance” from scope, and turns quality into a fourth constraint.

The time constraint refers to the amount of time available to complete a project. The cost constraint refers to the budgeted amount available for the project. The scope constraint refers to what must be done to produce the project’s end result. These three constraints are often competing constraints: increased scope typically means increased time and increased cost, a tight time constraint could mean increased costs and reduced scope, and a tight budget could mean increased time and reduced scope.

The discipline of project management is about providing the tools and techniques that enable the project team (not just the project manager) to organize their work to meet these constraints.

Work breakdown structure

The work breakdown structure (WBS) is a tree structure that shows a subdivision of effort required to achieve an objective—for example a program, project, and contract. The WBS may be hardware-, product-, service-, or process-oriented (see an example in a NASA reporting structure (2001)).

A WBS(work break down) can be developed by starting with the end objective and successively subdividing it into manageable components in terms of size, duration, and responsibility (e.g., systems, subsystems, components, tasks, sub-tasks, and work packages), which include all steps necessary to achieve the objective.

The work breakdown structure provides a common framework for the natural development of the overall planning and control of a contract and is the basis for dividing work into definable increments from which the statement of work can be developed and technical, schedule, cost, and labor hour reporting can be established.

Project management framework

The Program (Investment) life cycle integrates the project management and system development life cycles with the activities directly associated with system deployment and operation. By design, system operation management and related activities occur after the project is complete and are not documented within this guide (see an example of an IT project management framework).

For example, see figure, in the US United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) the program management life cycle is depicted and describe in the overall VA IT PROJECT MANAGEMENT FRAMEwork to address the integration of OMB Exhibit 300 project (investment) management activities and the overall project budgeting process. The VA IT Project Management Framework diagram illustrates Milestone 4 which occurs following the deployment of a system and the closing of the project. The project closing phase activities at the VA continues through system deployment and into system operation for the purpose of illustrating and describing the system activities the VA considers part of the project. The figure illustrates the actions and associated artifacts of the VA IT Project and Program Management process.

International standards

There have been several attempts to develop project management standards, such as:

Project portfolio management

An increasing number of organizations are using, what is referred to as, project portfolio management (PPM) as a means of selecting the right projects and then using project management techniques as the means for delivering the outcomes in the form of benefits to the performing private or not-for-profit organization.

Project management software

The Install Screen for the Web Project Managem...
The Install Screen for the Web Project Management Software dotProject (Photo credit: Zahlm)

Project management software is a term covering many types of software, including estimation and planning, scheduling, cost control and budget management, resource allocation, collaboration software, communication, decision-making, quality management and documentation or administration systems, which are used to deal with the complexity of large projects.

Tasks or activities of project management software

Scheduling

One of the most common project management software tool types is scheduling tools. Scheduling tools are used to sequence project activities and assign dates and resources to them. The detail and sophistication of a schedule produced by a scheduling tool can vary considerably with the features provided and the scheduling methods supported. Scheduling tools may include support for:

  • Multiple dependency relationship types between activities
  • Resource assignment and leveling
  • The Critical Path and Critical Chain methods
  • Activity duration estimation and probability-based simulation
  • Activity cost accounting

Providing information

Project planning software can be expected to provide information to various people or stakeholders, and can be used to measure and justify the level of effort required to complete the project(s). Typical requirements might include:

  • Overview information on how long tasks will take to complete.
  • Early warning of any risks to the project.
  • Information on workload, for planning holidays.
  • Evidence.
  • Historical information on how projects have progressed, and in particular, how actual and planned performance are related.
  • Optimum utilization of available resource.
  • Cost Maintenance.

Approaches to project management software

Desktop

Project management software has been implemented as a program that runs on the desktop of each user. Project management tools that are implemented as desktop software are typically single-user applications used by the project manager or another subject matter expert, such as a scheduler or risk manager.

Web-based

Project management software has been implemented as a Web application to be accessed using a web browser.

Personal

A personal project management application is one used at home, typically to manage lifestyle or home projects. There is considerable overlap with single user systems, although personal project management software typically involves simpler interfaces. See also non-specialised tools below.

Single user

A single-user system is programmed with the assumption that only one person will ever need to edit the project plan at once. This may be used in small companies, or ones where only a few people are involved in top-down project planning. Desktop applications generally fall into this category.

Collaborative

A collaborative system is designed to support multiple users modifying different sections of the plan at once; for example, updating the areas they personally are responsible for such that those estimates get integrated into the overall plan. Web-based tools, including extranets, generally fall into this category, but have the limitation that they can only be used when the user has live Internet access. To address this limitation, some software tools using client–server architecture provide a rich client that runs on users’ desktop computer and replicate project and task information to other project team members through a central server when users connect periodically to the network. Some tools allow team members to check out their schedules (and others’ as read only) to work on them while not on the network. When reconnecting to the database, all changes are synchronized with the other schedules.

Integrated

An integrated system combines project management or project planning, with many other aspects of company life. For example, projects can have bug tracking issues assigned to each project, the list of project customers becomes a customer relationship management module, and each person on the project plan has their own task lists, calendars, and messaging functionality associated with their projects.

Similarly, specialised tools like SourceForge integrate project management software with source control (CVS) software and bug-tracking software, so that each piece of information can be integrated into the same system.

Non-specialized tools

While specialized software is common, software that is not project management-specific is often used in the management of projects. In particular, office productivity tools are used by most project managers.