Agile project management: the fast, flexible way to focus on customer benefits
Executive Education / 4 November 2019
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Project Management Product Manager
Barbara Rave (M.A.) is a product manager in Frankfurt School’s Professional & Executive Education department. She designs continuing education programmes covering Strategy & Change Management and Technology & Operations.

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Workplaces are changing. Companies are rethinking and transforming existing organisation structures, time management models and collaborative methods. In fact, ongoing digital transformation is currently posing major new challenges to entire industries. At a time when product lifecycles are becoming shorter and shorter, and the pressure to innovate is higher than ever, businesses have no option but to respond and adapt flexibly to market changes.

Modern methods to meet modern needs

In any search for new solutions, the term “agility” invariably crops up. Agile means mobile, fast and flexible. Agile working in companies happens at all kinds of levels, from individual project teams collaborating as agile workgroups, to agile management cultures that give individual employees a high degree of personal responsibility and organisational autonomy, right through to corporate management concepts based on end-to-end agility.

When choosing ideal methods, differentiate by project

Traditional project management tends to take a plan-driven linear approach. Projects that start by exhaustively defining an explicit objective require high levels of intensive management and leadership. Ultimately, any miscalculation of timetables or cost schedules will cause the project to wildly exceed its budget – the media is full of embarrassingly high-profile examples. Another shortcoming of traditional project management: It is surprisingly difficult to make retrospective changes to a project plan based on the well-established waterfall model. If a single end-product specification or requirement changes in the course of the project, initiating the requisite change processes can prove costly. Traditional project management is most successful when it is possible to define a clear objective and unequivocal requirements in advance.

Agile project management is considered to be value-driven, with the aim of delivering the greatest possible benefit to the customer. An agile project starts by asking a question: how do we solve our customer’s problem? The ultimate objective is only roughly defined, in broad terms. As a rule, you start with a set budget and timeframe, but when the project first launches, you focus primarily on the broad direction of travel; you may need to redefine the actual objective after each iteration. You review the progress and outcomes of the previous cycle, analyse it in terms of resources consumed, and decide on the most appropriate way forward. This makes it easier to guide complex development projects into controlled trajectories, with active input from the customer. Although this kind of joint decision-making inevitably increases the communication overhead, it also improves transparency, ultimately delivering the greatest benefit to the customer.

Users interested in putting agile project management into practice have a very broad range of process models to choose from. Whenever the agile approach is discussed, you’ll hear mention of buzzwords such as “scrum”, “Kanban” or “design thinking”.

Only things that move can improve

For many modern product managers, establishing an agile mindset in their company is a challenge. In most businesses, a culture of trust in new approaches is rarely evolved enough to cope with the introduction of agile project management principles.

Our new Agile Project Management certification course trains you to tackle these tasks. During the course, you learn the principles of agile working, starting with the basics. You become intimately acquainted with the various tools and methods used in agile project management and learn how to plan your projects in line with your customers’ future needs.

We also offer two additional concentration modules as options, covering “Agile Finance” and “Agile Leadership” respectively. The first focuses in depth on agile working in the finance industry; the second on how to optimise management approaches in agile organisations.