Since its inception, project management has been a critical part of any business organization, and has been used in different forms to achieve business objectives. A project’s success depends on various factors such as budget, proper management, time, and feasibility. If you’re new to project management, there are many unfamiliar terminologies that can make everything feel more daunting than it actually is. Projects these days, especially ones that involve building complex systems are now being implemented using agile techniques, and Scrum is the most popular.
How project management is conducted using agile techniques has really changed the paradigm in regards to effective planning, measuring progress, identify and manage risks and continuous improvement. However, before you can dig deeper into those details, you need to choose an agile method to guide your efforts and manage your project successfully.
What is Project Management?
Project management includes applying different skills, processes, tools, and resources to achieve the project’s objectives. It is typically applied through several stages:
- Monitoring and controlling
- Project closure
Simply put, project management methodologies are different ways of applying project management. A methodology is the system of methods that are universally accepted to perform an activity. Each of them has its own specialties and differs from each other in terms of achieving project goals and execution. Some of the agile approaches to project management most commonly used today are:
The most frequently used methodology is Scrum. Scrum and Agile are two different concepts, so let’s find out what they mean in project management, how they are different, and which one would best suit your projects.
What is the Difference between Agile and Scrum?
Agile Principles and Values
The Agile principles and values are an iterative and incremental approach used mostly for software development and backlog refinement. It aims to break large and complex projects into small units that Agile software development teams can achieve in a shorter time frame. Pay attention to these key factors related to the Agile principles and values:
- Software development and software testing are always performed parallelly.
- Agile promotes cross-functional collaboration and face-to-face communication between team members and groups of project teams.
- Agile also promotes customer feedback and uses it to continuously improve each subsequent iteration of the product, making the product more useful. Due to its iterative nature, continuous involvement with the client is necessary to ensure the expectations are aligned.
- Agile brings greater flexibility to the table – product development is done as separate blocks, so it is possible to change the requirement along the way.
- The business owners, stakeholders, project managers, and Agile developers frequently meet to update on any changes required and discuss the progress.
Agile is a project management philosophy that centers on specific values and principles, and you should think of it broadly as a guiding orientation of how to approach project work. The hallmark of the approach are the 4 values and 12 principles that can be applied across different methodologies. According to the Agile Manifesto (conceptualized and published in 2001 by 13 industry leaders), the key Agile values are:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
Considered as the prime process, Agile processes have paved the way for the development of other incremental and iterative approaches. As for frameworks that were created out of Agile, the most popular ones include Scrum, Kanban, Feature-Driven Development (FDD), and Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM).
Rather than inspecting the product for quality once the project is implemented, Agile focuses on building quality product iterations (parts) into production.
The Scrum framework is among the most popular in Agile projects. Scrum project management promotes teamwork, accountability, and function in an incremental and iterative approach, just like Agile does. But unlike Agile, which is an orientation or philosophy, Scrum is a specific project management framework that specifies how one manages a project. It provides a specified process of how to identify the work, how it will be done, who will do it, and the deadlines for completion.
Scrum Masters are the ones that drive Scrum projects, along with product developers and managers. The time frame for each version released into production is called a sprint (a short phase when project work occurs). The process starts with sprint planning – team members discuss the work that will be performed in the upcoming sprint. Once the work begins, team members hold daily meetings (called Daily Scrum) to discuss the project’s progress and development. Once the sprint is completed, there will be a sprint retrospective and review to check the work efficiency and develop a better plan for the next sprint. This cycle is repeated throughout the entire project development life cycle until the finished product has been delivered.
Agile vs. Scrum
Scrum is always a part of Agile, but Agile is an umbrella concept which consists of other project management technologies. Now that we’ve clearly defined both Scrum and Agile, we should delve deeper into their differences. The obvious difference is distinguishing the framework versus the value set. Agile is a philosophy (a broader concept), while Scrum is a specific framework that specifies how a project management philosophy should be implemented. Something like a diet and a recipe. Because of that relationship, Scrum highlights various values that are embedded in Agile, such as using problem-solving to respond to change, continuous learning, and collaboration.
- Agile success requires collaboration and interaction between all departments within an organization. Even though Scrum teams receive external input during daily meetings, they are mostly self-organizing and operate autonomously.
- To set the tone within an organization, Agile relies on leadership. This is especially true when it comes to digital transformation efforts or larger projects. On the other hand, Scrum teams are autonomous.
- Once a given sprint ends, Scrum developers get feedback on their deliverables. Agile encourages continuous feedback from clients to drive improvements to customer experience.
- Agile transformation means that you are introducing significant changes in how your enterprise operates across all departments. Once you set those Agile norms, Scrum cannot deviate from them.
- Agile projects are driven by long-term business objectives that stay intact (more or less). On the other hand, Scrum projects are more short-term focused, which makes them more subject to rapid changes.
- Agile’s primary goal is the continuous and iterative improvement of a product, while Scrum teams aim to deliver maximum value with each new deliverable.
- All Agile frameworks focus on regular update deliveries for a product. Scrum teams move on to the next sprint only when a current sprint is completed.
Agile was developed because of the issues in software development caused by the use of waterfall methodology. The traditional waterfall methodology is too sequential, while Agile enjoys adapting the changing requirements and more flexibility. Agile always includes the end-user in the development process by asking for continuous feedback, which reduces the risk of low product acceptance at the final stage of product development. Because it doesn’t have a structure, Agile is shapeless, and all team members in Agile teams are equally responsible for sharing both successes and failures. The Agile methodology emphasizes the collective effort.
Scrum can be perceived as an improved way of Agile because it shares the same values and principles but adds its unique features. Scrum Master and Scrum Product Owner are the two mandatory roles in Scrum methodology. Scrum Master is the person responsible for the coordination of team activities. The Product Owner is the person who always communicates with the client to get the feedback and requirements, which helps in turning the client’s wishes into product features. Such an approach has proven to be very successful and is widely used because of its benefits.
Choosing the Right Approach
The question is not whether you should choose one approach over the other. If you realize that Agile is the approach right for your project, you should ask yourself which of its methodologies you should use.
To decide whether Agile is the right methodology for you, you’ll have to look within the context of software development because Agile is quite effective in that area. If your project has a strict scope and development requirements, then an Agile approach won’t be effective.
But if Agile is right for your project, then you’ll have to decide if Scrum is the best methodology for your specific project or not. Scrum is an excellent way to go for projects that are likely to experience change and don’t have clear requirements.
It is very important to remember that choosing the right methodology is only one step in your decision-making process. Skillfully executing the methodology is also important, and that requires a professional who understands the methodology you choose to the last detail. Project managers will need to receive proper certification training to be successful in their roles – they need to know how to lead a team, communicate and collaborate effectively, apply problem-solving skills and critical thinking, and be adaptable to the complexities and dynamics around you.
We can conclude from this discussion on differences between Scrum and Agile that both methodologies are formed from the same business values – providing a seamless and flawless experience to the customer. But when it comes to choosing the right approach for your project, you need to consider factors such as the type of project, time, budget, and feasibility. Agile and Scrum cannot be substituted with each other as they are known for their differences.
Reach out to the i4 Group and explore our Agile training services to find out more about how we can help your team. We are a transformation consulting and training firm with decades of experience in Agile. We can seamlessly guide your staff through Agile education and corporate training.