Why Agile Project Management is Not Suitable for Most Projects

Agile Project Management and especially Scrum have become established in many companies, especially for software development projects. In recent years, more and more companies have started an agile transformation, especially in the financial sector, with the goal of developing solutions faster, using resources more efficiently and establishing a new work culture. All projects should be carried out in an agile manner in the future. In this article, you will learn why this is the wrong way to go from my point of view, but traditional projects can still learn a lot from agile methods. Are you curious? Then read on quickly.

Agile Project Management is a Top Topic

Agile project management has been a top topic in the project world for many years. Since the Agile Manifesto in 2001, for example, Scrum has established itself as a process model in many companies, especially for software development projects. In recent years, some companies, especially in the financial services sector, have set themselves the goal of transforming into an agile organization. That means, to carry out all their projects in an agile way, but also to make the organization and management more agile. This with the goal of developing solutions faster, using resources more efficiently and establishing a new agile work culture.

Does it really make sense? There is no doubt that more agility is the right way to go in today’s working world. But I could have made this statement 50 or 100 years ago, because even back then doing business and the way of working changed a lot and became more agile—even if we might not understand exactly the same thing by it today. Just think of the introduction of assembly line work by Henry Ford in car production in 1913 or the Toyota Production System that was introduced in the 1960s. These were major transformations in the world of work and in product development.

Is traditional project management according to the waterfall model and the project manager role dying out? Certainly not! I have been involved in traditional projects for the last 35 years and in the last few years, I have also looked more deeply into agile project management. For most project types, traditional project management is the best approach.

Agile Project Management Only for Certain Projects

Agile project management has its origins in software development. In my article What Does Agile Mean in Project Management? you can read about the principles of agility and agile project management. Agile project management is an ideal approach for projects that have the following characteristics:

  • Not all requirements are known at the beginning of the project, they change and new requirements will be added during the project execution.
  • The project must be able to adapt quickly to a changing market environment, new business needs and new requirements.
  • The product should be developed incrementally and iteratively to quickly deliver a deployable product to the customer. Based on their feedback, the product should then be incrementally developed and enhanced with functionality.

Especially in the software area, where it is necessary to react quickly to market needs and continuously deliver new functionalities, updates, improvement, etc., agile projects are the right way. For all other projects, agile methods are not useful. But that doesn’t mean that certain agile practices might be useful there as well.

Why Agile Project Management is Not Suitable for Most Projects

Wherever physical project deliverables are generated, the above conditions are usually not met, not even for fast-moving consumer products like mobile phones. What are typical traditional waterfall projects? Projects where the project result is only usable at the end of the project time; mechanical and engineering projects, house building projects, reorganization projects, merger & acquisition projects, regulatory projects, etc.

Especially for projects that are very complex and require extensive planning, coordination and documentation, an agile approach is not suitable. If certain parts of such projects contain software, for example, for an electronic control system, then it may still make sense to carry out this sub-project in an agile manner.

I claim, agile project management is not suitable for more than 90% of all projects in business. Ideal for agile development is, for example, software, especially for the Internet or applications with which customers interact or apps for mobile phones, which means mainly for immaterial products. However, traditional waterfall model projects could still benefit a lot from certain agile principles and practices. The following article shows you a few agile practices that have some potential to make your traditional project even more powerful.

How to Make Your Traditional Project Management More Agile

Traditional Project Management Has Not Made Any Progress

Traditional project management has not really made any progress in the last decades. It would be time to adopt some good ideas and practices from agile project management to make it even more powerful and thus bring projects even faster and safer to the finish line. From my point of view, traditional project management is clearly more suitable than the agile approach for most projects. Especially with the agile practices described in this article, it becomes even more effective.

For large projects or programs that consist of extensive hardware and software components, for example, hybrid project management is a useful approach. Here, you manage most of it with traditional project management and the pure software components of the project are developed in an agile way.

I am a fan of agile project management and Scrum, but I know from experience that it is not the ideal method for most projects.

Here is Even More Knowledge

Want to learn more about how to make your projects even more successful with agile project management and Scrum? My book Scrum – Apply Agile Project Management and Scrum Successfully will take you an important step further!

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Posted in Agile Project Management.