Welcome to the second of the series on PMI’s 2012 Pulse of the Profession . The previous blog entry focused on Key Finding #1: Tight economic conditions will continue to force the issue of strong project portfolio management. We saw how project portfolio management is supported in OUM by the Envision and Manage Focus Areas. In this blog entry we will take a look at PMI’s Key Finding #2: The desire for organizational agility will also lead to increased use of iterative and/or incremental project management methods such as agile and extreme.
The first thing we need to do is define “organizational agility”. If you do a search on the term, you come up with a wide variety of definitions which essentially boil down to this: the ability an organization to recognize changes (whether they be threats or opportunities), and respond to these changes in a timely, cost-effective, and appropriate manner. Notice there are two parts to the definition: part one is the ability to recognize the need for change; the other part is being effective in the response to the change.
If an organization as a whole is striving to be agile, it makes sense that their IT organization must also be agile. In many cases the IT organization not only supports the overall organization’s agility, but drives it by introducing enabling tools and technologies. On the other hand, IT can also inhibit an organization’s ability to be agile by being late to deliver IT solutions, slow to react to change, and/or not being in tune with the business’s changing requirements.
Agile methods, like OUM, help to enable IT and organizational agility because they are designed to significantly reduce project risk, and deliver value much earlier in the lifecycle than traditional waterfall methods. The time it takes to get working software into users hands can be accelerated by releasing important features first, and pushing off the lower priority items to later releases. This in turn, provides a rapid improvement of an organization’s capabilities and/or competitive position. Agile methodologies also encourage regular involvement by business stakeholders, which helps ensure the IT solutions match the organization’s objectives.
As PMI indicates in Key Finding #2, iterative and incremental development is at the heart of any agile methodology. OUM recognizes the advantages of an iterative and incremental approach to development and deployment of information systems. Any of the tasks within OUM may be iterated. Tasks may be iterated to increase quality of the work products to a desired level, to add sufficient level of detail, or to refine and expand the work products on the basis of user feedback.
In addition to having an agile iterative and incremental development approach, OUM also:
Is flexible and scalable – OUM is designed to support a broad range of project types. As such, it must be flexible and scalable. The appropriate point of balance for a given project will vary based on a number of project risk and scale factors. The method has been developed with the intent that the approach for a given project be “built up” from a core set of activities to implement an appropriate level of discipline, rather than tailored down.
Allows for frequent customer interaction and feedback – OUM encourages regular sessions with stakeholders to review and confirm priorities, and ensure the project continues to meet the overall objectives. Through several prototyping and testing tasks, business stakeholders are given the opportunity to review the development work completed to that point, and provide feedback in time to catch missed requirements and/or possible errors.
Employs a layered planning approach – OUM recognizes that plans need to be scalable for different project sizes and complexity, and contain the right level of detail for the current planning horizon. The layered approach to planning an OUM project allows project teams to take an agile approach to their immediate project tasks, while keeping a focus on the major milestones, controls, and objectives of the project.
Encourages the use of an empowered team – OUM encourages cross-functional and technical team training and knowledge sharing. In addition, the use of OUM’s common language and visual models (use cases and business process models) throughout the project helps ensure the development team and other project stakeholders are on the same page, which promotes team communication and collaborative decision making.
Integrates testing throughout the development lifecycle – Testing in OUM starts early in the project, and developed components are integrated and tested as an integrated set as soon as possible. This allows for early discovery of errors that eventually reduces the risk of project delays that often are caused by heightened error detection at the end of the project.
Promotes an architecture-centric approach – People will sometimes question whether spending time and energy on architecture is compatible with an agile approach. The answer is that a robust architecture is crucial to the project’s success since it is the blueprint upon which requirements are transformed into a working system. Poor architecture decisions can result in software that is not stable, is unable to support business requirements, could require substantial re-work, may not accommodate future development, or could even prevent the application from working properly in a production environment. Nothing about poor architecture sounds too agile, does it?
I could go on for a while about OUM’s agile underpinnings; the bottom line is that OUM supports all kinds of projects – from the very lean and adaptable, to those that require more rigor and discipline. If you want to find out more about how OUM can be applied in an agile manner, check out the Scrum guidance which includes the “Managing an OUM Project Using Scrum” whitepaper, User Story Task and Template, Product Backlog and Sprint Backlog Templates, and Scrum to OUM Mapping. For information on OUM’s layered approach to project planning, the “Planning a Project Using OUM” whitepaper contains guidance on OUM’s layered approach to project planning. The OUM Read Me First is a valuable reference if you want to become familiar with the method’s philosophy, key concepts, and principles. Finally, if you have not already done so I recommend reading an excellent blog entry written by my colleague called Build Up or Tailor Down.
Stay tuned for the next blog entry in the series when we will explore PMI’s Key Finding #3: As organizations continue to strive for agility, change management and project risk management will become even more important.