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SPOCE top tips for the agile project manager

Agile project management has grown in popularity in recent years and for good reason. At no other time has there been a need to be responsive to the wider environment.

AgilePM is an agile approach in its own right and gives us a sound set of principles and roles to adhere to when trying to manage projects in an agile way. In this blog we outline what these are and give some essential tips for implementing them effectively.


There are 8 AgilePM principles and they are paramount to the success of the project. They provide the guidance on how things are done and, more importantly, the ‘way in which they are done.’ Giving the project team a set of expectations on how the project and their roles within it will be managed. This way, they know consistently what to expect and what communication style is appropriate. If these principles are broken then it leaves the project integrity open to being broken also.

So what are these all important principles and what are the top tips for making the team live and breathe these for the duration of your project?

The 8 principles are:

1. Focus on the business need

2. Deliver on time

3. Collaborate

4. Never compromise quality

5. Build incrementally from firm foundations

6. Develop iteratively

7. Communicate continuously and clearly

8. Demonstrate Control

And how does the agile project manager implement these effectively?

1. If the team does not adhere to the above principles then this is a risk to the project and should be treated as such.

2. The principles should not only be made visible to the project team but they need to live and breathe them. In order to do this, they need to be discussed openly at the very start of the project and consistently throughout it, so that ‘everyone ‘ buys into them. For example ‘demonstrate control’ is not just something for the project manager to follow.

3. Make them visible! Whiteboard them at team huddles for example.

4. When conducting an incremental review consider how the principles have been applied and assess whether any behaviours need to be changed as a result.

Roles and responsibilities

This is how the agile team fits together. Business personnel, project management personnel, solution and technical roles (which contribute to the technical development of the solution) and finally, any process roles.

The project level roles:

Directors, managers and coordinators of the work for the project, such as the business sponsor, business visionary, business analyst, technical coordinator and of course, the project manager.

The solution development team

These roles are the “engine room” of the project. They shape and build the solution and are collectively responsible for its day to day development and for assuring its fitness for business purpose. The ‘solution development team’ is made up of team leader, business ambassador, business analyst, solution developer and solution tester. The ‘business analyst’ facilitates the relationship between the business and technical roles ensuring the business needs are understood by the solution development team.

The supporting roles are made up of the ‘business advisors, technical advisors, workshop facilitator and DSDM coach. to the project on a more ad-hoc basis throughout the lifecycle.

Roles – Top Tips

1. Make sure that the ‘solution development team’ know what their scope and boundaries are and give them the autonomy in order to get on with their job.

2. Good communication and a good relationship with team members is essential in any project so that people will feel they can approach you with risks, issues or escalate concerns when necessary.

3. Teams need clarity in their roles and responsibilities from the very start. Make sure your team not only knows what is expected of them but that they are also ‘happy’ with these expectations from the start. No one gets 100% from a disgruntled team member.

Business roles within the project

4. The ‘business ambassador’ role and their on-going commitment is critical for successful agile projects. Make sure you check that the business has confidence in the person taking this role. They are your link to the wider business and will bring the business knowledge to the team.

5. Build a good relationship with the ‘business sponsor.’ The business sponsor provides the overall strategic direction and controls the funding/budget for the project. Having someone of this calibre to champion your success is essential.

6. Ideally there should be a single ‘business sponsor’ and single ‘business visionary.’

7. If there is a need for multiple sponsors make sure the ‘project manager’ has agreed an escalation path and direct contact with an empowered decision maker so that there is no confusion about who is making the decisions and who people need to go to.

8. Multiple business visionaries can cause problems with lack of clarity. This is often driven by politics of the organisation. The steering group needs to ensure all views are represented and the solution meets the needs of the organisation.

9. On a small project, roles will be combined. 

10. Project manager and team leader role is often the same person, unless the PM is managing multiple teams. Always be aware of what role you are in at a point in time as the behaviours are different

11. On a large multi-team project there might be a need for a ‘technical coordination team'.

12. Keep team size small, (ideally team will be 7 +/-2), this encourages face-to- face, less-formal communication.

And finally some general tips for our agile project manager…

1. Trust the team and build an environment of honesty, openness and no-blame.

2. A team that shares location is ideal but not always possible. If total co-location is impossible, plan for how communication will be done effectively. It doesn’t just happen by itself, everyone needs to be clear about how they need to be communicating and when and there also needs to be a goal of complete transparency.

3. Protect the team from unnecessary external impacts. Let them focus on the task at hand without getting bogged down with other concerns.

4. Ensure the team have the right equipment and environment to do the job – Be the bridge between the team and other stakeholders but encourage communication between them.

5. Take responsibility for keeping stakeholders informed. Be open and honest with them. Constant communication avoids problems and misled assumptions.

6. Steer but don't interfere! Empower the team and they will be motivated to do a good job for you. The team still looks to the project manager for guidance but doesn’t want to be directed. Tell them that you have confidence in the job they are doing and the decisions they make!

For more information on AgilePM please take a look at our AgilePM training page.

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