Saturday, 2 March 2013

11 areas an Agile Project Manager needs to focus on

In my previous posts I focused on the Attitudes of a Great Software Developer and the Attitudes of a Great Software Tester.  

An Agile project's success also depends a lot on the Agile Project Manager.  The decisions he takes and the emphasis he provides on certain areas will pave the way for a successful Agile Project.  In this post, I provide some key points that an Agile Project Manager should focus on, for the betterment of an Agile Project

  • Employee hiring
    • First and foremost, an Agile Project Manager needs to hire the right people for the project.  Apart from the technical skills and non-technical skills required of Agile teams, it is imperative that the chosen candidates adopt to the Agile practices and are themselves Agile.
  • Technical and Non-technical grooming
    • Once into the project, the candidates needs to be groomed to meet the project needs and also grow further.
  • Employee motivation
    • I always believed that Employee motivation is one of the Critical Success Factor of an Agile Project, for that matter any project.  Motivated employees can do wonders if provided with the right environment.  Motivated employees go that extra mile to achieve the common goals.  Hence an Agile Project Manager needs to put high emphasis on this point.
  • Engineering Practices
    • There are a lot of engineering practices that make an Agile project successful.  An Agile Project Manager should focus on putting the right Engineering Practices to place. He/She should not forget that there is an overhead in following certain practices, but once fully functional, they start to provide high returns on the investment.  For ex. following Automated Unit tests and TDD can be very difficult to start with, but over time, developers get into that practice and the results start to follow.  
  • Be open for feedback
    • An Agile Project Manager needs to be open for feedback from the team, as they might contain vital clues to what is going wrong or what can be made better.
  • Team empowerment
    • An Agile Project Manager should empower his team to a great extent so that everyone feels that they own a piece of the entire show.
  • Retrospection
    • An Agile Project Manager should focus on the retrospection meetings and provide active inputs, listen to others inputs and provide suggestions for improving anything that bothers the velocity of the team.
  • Team morale
    • This is very important.  A team with high morale can achieve significantly higher output than a team with lower morale.  Morale is contagious and an Agile Project Manager should always focus on keeping the Team morale high at all times.  
  • Continuous Process Improvement
    • This is to look at the current process from a neutral perspective and suggest improvements and empower the team to suggest and implement improvements. An Agile Project Manager will continuously monitor the processes followed and improve the processes.
  • Stakeholder Management
    • An Agile Project Manager should be good in stakeholder management.  Stakeholders might include Customers, Upper Management and his/her job is to make the stakeholders understand the realistic expectations of an Agile Project and then shield the team from the external pressures of the management and allow the team to focus on the most important stuff of building the product/application.
  • Continuous Learning & Knowledge Sharing
    • An Agile Project Manager should provide a mechanism for continuous learning and have a good forum wherein continuously knowledge gets shared among the different team members.

Even though Agile is the buzzword in the market for quite a long time, not every manager is good at managing/guiding a good Agile Project.  But as I pointed out, if focus is put on the mentioned points, I believe that will pave the way for a good Agile Project.

Do you think there are other things that an Agile Project Manager needs to focus on? Please feel free to comment/debate.  Thanks for the read.

About the Author

Rajaraman Raghuraman has nearly 8 years of experience in the Information Technology industry focusing on Product Development, R&D, Test Data Management and Automation Testing.  He has architected a TDM product from scratch and currently leads the TDM Product Development team in Cognizant.  He is passionate about Agile Methodologies and is a huge fan of Agile Development and Agile Testing.  He blogs at Test Data Management Blog & Agile Blog.  Connect with him on Google+