7 min read
Mar 17, 2020
IT Project Management

Steer Clear of These 3 Project Management Pitfalls in Your Agile IT Projects

The Agile project management methodology solves many problems for IT project managers, but can also create more if these three pitfalls are not avoided.

Ankita SinghContent Analyst

The Agile methodology seems like the solution for all kinds of project management challenges but it’s especially helpful in managing IT projects. 

That’s because IT projects are prone to rapid (and possibly several) iterations. Agile methodology enables project managers to swiftly and continuously amend stakeholder feedback, which ensures successful project delivery in the least possible time. 

Regardless of the benefits, there are certain pitfalls that Agile IT projects may experience. Read on to learn about three common ones, and how you can prevent and cure them.

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How to prevent and cure 3 common Agile project management pitfalls

1. Confusing following Agile with being agile

There is a difference between using Agile methods and tools to manage IT projects and being agile. If your IT team is putting an Agile framework into action but is unaware of why it’s implementing this method, you’re not getting anywhere close to delivering the project to client satisfaction. 

This confusion can manifest in a few ways, such as:

  • Sprint meetings that turn into reports of completed work instead of being spaces to discuss iterations and next steps to ensure product quality.

  • Your IT project might get stuck due to delayed input from other departments (such as marketing or business analytics) that don't understand or adhere to Agile principles.  

Pro tips to prevent this: 

  • Start conversations on agility as a concept across departments to ensure buy-in from all employees. 

  • Present a case study about successful IT projects that used Agile methodologies to get everyone on board with a shared purpose.

Pro tips to cure this:

  • Develop coaching and mentoring plans for teams to help them embrace agility as a mindset, not just a framework.

  • Hold forum discussions to help team members understand their level of ownership within the Agile environment, and focus on employee realization that their empowerment and ownership is necessary for IT project success.

2.  Making speed paramount to achieve sprint goals

Working on time-sensitive sprints can make IT teams hyper-focused on timelines. This can lead to rushing product-testing cycles, endangering overall product quality and customer satisfaction.

This hyper-focusing can manifest in a few ways, such as:

  • Clients frequently reporting bugs and defects in final products. 

  • Fewer missed deadlines but mounting technical debt due to growing revisions and rework.

Pro tips to prevent this: 

  • Use sprint burndown charts to forecast the scope of work within set timeframes to avoid chaos and suboptimal quality. 

  • Track completion of sprint targets and enable teams to identify gaps and challenges in meeting those targets. Optimize available resources and add on a few more if necessary to achieve concurrent quality and timely delivery. 

Pro tips to cure this:

  • Hold retrospectives to reflect on where the team could have done better but wasn’t able to specifically due to a lack of time during sprints.

  • Speak to team members one-on-one to identify any skills development required (at either technical or non-technical levels) to help them improve performance, then arrange training. 

3.  Ambiguity over the role and importance of IT product owner vs project manager

Small and midsize businesses getting started with Agile may not have complete clarity about the roles and responsibilities of a product owner versus a project manager. As a result, they may either have the wrong person doing the job or have multiple people accountable for the same role.

Not having the right product owner could look like:

  • Multiple people being responsible for and acting as the spokesperson for one IT product, sometimes presenting different perspectives and opinions about a single issue.

  • A non-technical employee donning the hat of an IT project manager as well as a product manager, constantly reaching out to technical stakeholders for guidance on technical matters and risk mitigation. 

Pro tips to prevent this: 

  • Leaders must clearly define the roles and responsibilities of a product owner within an Agile IT project before setting out to hire one.

  • Conduct a technical evaluation of in-house resources if you intend to create an Agile IT project team from your existing resources.

Pro tips to cure this:

  • Invest in resources on a per-project basis to gauge the impact of hiring a specialized product owner. Demonstrate the importance and impact of the role to management to obtain resources for onboarding an expert. 

  • Invest in technical training of accidental IT project managers to help them rise to the occasion and aid successful project delivery.

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Wondering what next? 

With this knowledge about common pitfalls, prevention, and solutions, you're ready to:

  • Gauge the suitability of an Agile methodology for your IT projects: blindly applying Agile to every IT project can lead to chaos and irrational expectations, causing wasted time and effort. Certain IT projects may require a hybrid project management methodology, where one stage of the project can be better managed using an Agile approach while another stage needs a Waterfall approach. 

  • Ensure that communication channels are open and convenient for all team members: Agility can’t be practiced in silos. Multi-disciplinary teams need to communicate constantly to ensure project success. Having the right communication tool is crucial, but be sure your chosen tool doesn’t end up replacing face-to-face sprints. And remember: communication tools should boost productivity, not hinder it.

  • Make your workplace Agile-friendly for onsite team members: Design and transform your workplace into a highly connected environments to facilitate agility, but don’t compromise on employee experience. Balance collaborative and individual spaces in your move to Agile project management, ensuring employees have enough quiet zones to help them stay productive. For globally dispersed and remote team members, IT project managers can devise specialized management plans

Use this infographic to remember the pitfalls you want to avoid, and how to avoid them:

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