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Agile Project Sponsorship – A Light Hand for Effective Results

| by Shane Hastie Follow 28 Followers on Jun 19, 2009. Estimated reading time: 2 minutes |

Organisations embracing Agile methods need to reassess their approach to project governance and sponsorship. Project decisions need to be made rapidly, responding to changes in the organisational ecosystem while keeping a clear eye on the project’s and organisation’s goals.

Author and consultant Rob Thomsett , author of Radical Project Management  provided some guidelines regarding the changes in project sponsorship and governance in a recent Cutter Edge  He identifies key concepts behind Agile project sponsorship:
  • Making time in the sponsor's diary, at least one to three hours per week for meeting project managers, stakeholders, and team members to review project status
  • Recognizing that simpler is better than complex
  • Paying attention to projects and the key decisions that must be made and managed throughout the project.
  • Using face-to-face meetings wherever possible
  • Recognizing that delays in decisions cause larger delays in your projects
Thomsett emphasises that in Agile projects the business case needs to add up, just as in traditional project management, but that the processes of many organisations result in delays and problems:
 
The need for a business case is not the problem. The processes and bureaucracy we have allowed to build up around the business case are the problems. In most organizations we have worked with, the use of a business case for project approval has subverted the need for a business case to manage the project.
 
The agile principles of simplicity, speed, and transparency create an environment where the sponsor, project manager, team, and stakeholders collaborate to ensure that the right project is done correctly and delivered faster. In the new economic environment, this will be a critical survival strategy.
 
 
Thomsett is far from the only commentator talking about Agile sponsorship and governance. 
 
In a paper on Agile Project Management by Sempre Avanti Consulting they identify four key questions of Agile Project Management:
 
  1. Who needs what and why?
  2. What will it take to do it?
  3. Can we get what it takes?
  4. Is it worth it?
 These are continually reviewed and if, at any stage, question 4 cannot be answered positively, the project is stopped and only recommences when the answer is positive.
 
Agile Alliance board member Mike Griffiths offers advice on some simple but key metrics that enable Agile project sponsors to monitor the health of their projects, and provides a simple spreadsheet tool for tracking them. The important metrics which Griffiths identifies are:
  • Projected and actual project spend rate.
  • Iteration velocity.
  • Sponsor confidence.
  • User satisfaction.
  • Cycle time.

What changes does Agile project management bring about in the way projects work and sponsor relationships?

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