Agile Project Management in Nigeria

AGILE PROJECT MANAGEMENT IN NIGERIA

Agile management or agile project management is an iterative method of determining requirements for engineering development projects in a highly flexible and interactive manner.  The iterative nature allows cross functional teams to move back and forth through the development life cycle until the development is complete. 


Agile techniques are beneficial in environments where it is difficult to plan ahead due to organizational processes and environmental factors, projects that require constant feedback and are too complex for the customer to understand and specify before testing prototypes. 
   
Agile techniques allow for deliverables to be submitted in stages giving time for testing and validation with internal and external stakeholders before proceeding to the next phase.  It is pertinent to note that there is a difference between agile and waterfall development; the delivery time in agile is shorter due to the phase delivery approach.  This is because a fully developed and tested feature and functionality is completed and deployed one or two at a time rather than deploying all the functionality at the same time. In fact, agile development makes the entire development cycle much more like a maintenance phase by providing short, focused iterations.

Agile versus waterfall methodology – Pros and Cons
Agile allows for iterative development process where business requirements and design need not be adequate before development can begin.  With a solution framework in mind, software developers can begin work on pieces of the puzzle that are clear until the rest of the requirements are properly defined.  In waterfall methodology, the next phase of the development life cycle cannot continue unless the prior phase is complete.  Therefore, changes or iterations are difficult to make especially when business requirements are modified midway through the development cycle.  For example, if a bug or issue comes up with a module during development, it is easily identified and can be resolved before completing the entire work packet.

Evolution of Agile Project Management in Nigeria
Agile Project Management is gaining momentum and acceptance in the Nigerian IT sector.  Though relatively new, software solution providers are realizing increasingly that adopting the agile approach enables them to diversify their risk, increase value to customers, and reduce costs from abandoned projects.  Implementing software application services in the public sector can be challenging because most times the customer or software application provider doesn’t fully understand the requirements for the application.  Also processes are not clear and fully defined making it difficult to automate.
Another huge challenge in the adoption of agile management is promoting the advantage of a phased delivery approach to clients or customers who want the entire solution at a go.  In my experience particularly working with the public sector, clients demand fully functional solutions are tested once and then proceed to go live.  Clients don’t want to go through the process of validating each functionality independently and deploying in phases.
While the Software development sector is still in infancy, international best practices aren’t widely adopted.  Organizations focus mainly on delivering a working solution devoid of important functionality and rigorous testing.  When issues and bugs present during the implementation, it becomes difficult to address and correct.  This can lead to entirely scrapping the application and starting afresh or abandonment of the solution.

How can it be used to handle projects in the Nigerian environment?
Agile technique may or may not work for your organization.  You have to monitor your processes closely to observe best practices, lessons learned, and outcomes (positive and negative).  Document all traditional and proposed processes and analyze which ones to adopt, ignore or merge. 
Organizations who adopt agile technique have to watch out for scope creep, schedule and cost overruns.  There is a tendency that subjecting the project management to constant iterations and changes can have impact on scope, schedule and overall costs.  It is the responsibility of the Project Manager to monitor changes closely and manage the project through a defined project management process.  While risks are less reduced in the agile process, there could be other impacts to other aspects of the project which PMs cannot afford to ignore.
Ensure your customers or clients are properly educated on the impact of the agile approach in their deliverables.  Project plans, performance/milestone reports, stakeholder meetings need to clearly state and explain all impact of the scope on deliverables.  Kick off meetings present a good opportunity to educate clients on your organization’s approach and ensure they fully understand the expectations. Ensure clients are fully informed and on board with the product roll-out plan based on priority functionality.
Start using them on small scale projects first before transitioning to complex ones or a hybrid of traditional and agile methods for pilot or low risk projects.  Implement agile processes that support organization priorities and existing processes.  Communicate the agile language and the value of the methodology effectively with Executives, clients and non-technical staff.

About the Author
Uloma Jacob is a Program Manager, consultant and trainer on project management, strategic and operation planning, and PMO set up and management.  She blogs about her experience managing projects in Nigeria on her blog - www.bespokemgmtconsult.blogspot.com.






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