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The Agile Manifesto was published in 20011 as a method for software development. For nearly twenty years, project managers have engaged in debates regarding the practical application of a true Agile approach in a space that has been dominated by the Traditional approach, also known as waterfall. Agile challenges the linear, governance-focused tenants of Traditional project management theory by driving product speed-to-market through empowered teams. Agile is light on documentation, tools and processes. There is certainly an appeal to dynamic and interactive scrum calls, empowered project teams and quick release schedules. Unfortunately, this approach has the potential to fall short within highly regulated, complex corporate environments that are bound by rigorous risk and audit requirements. The Hybrid approach finds its strengths in promoting the best of both Agile and Traditional approaches.

Project Elements Agile Hybrid Traditional
Approach Iterative Hybrid leverages key concepts of both Agile and Traditional approaches. Initiate, Plan and Close phases lean Traditional while Execute and Release phases lean Agile. Linear
Release Schedules Incremental releases Incremental Hybrid releases are likely to be bound by broad corporate release schedules. Hybrid releases may be larger and more complex than standard Agile releases, but not as large and complex as those of the Traditional approach. Large, singular releases
Documentation Governance Minimal documentation and process Hybrid leans Traditional regarding project documentation and governance to ensure risk, compliance and audit requirements are met. High level of formality, paperwork, governance
Decision Making Federated, organic decision making Hybrid leans Traditional regarding decision making, deliberately involving the non-core team and executives in decision making. Consolidated, top-down decision making

Realistically, it may not be feasible for organizations to implement an authentic, enterprise Agile framework. A 2019 Gartner study2 found that nearly 85 percent of companies surveyed had planned to adopt a product-centric, Agile approach to application delivery, yet only 15 percent of companies surveyed had been successful at full adoption. There are several obstacles that can hinder Agile implementation. Many obstacles are tied to soft shifts in culture and approach. Conversely, there are tactical obstacles that hinder Agile implementation. These tactical obstacles include project governance and resource optimization. While project governance and resource optimization may require time and forethought, these processes encourage well-informed, controlled appropriation of a company’s limited resources. Within a Hybrid framework, organizations can maximize the best of both Traditional and Agile approaches with the goal of accelerating performance while meeting project governance and resource optimization demands.

Project Governance

The Agile approach is very deliberate in its attempt to reduce the burden of planning and governance. The Agile Manifesto1 espouses “responding to change over following a plan.” One of the core principles3 states that Agile teams should “welcome changing requirements, even late in development.” These concepts are difficult to reconcile with rigorous strategic planning and project governance routines that occur in most organizations.

Project governance and controls are critical to ensuring that projects align to the strategic goals of the organization. Executive sponsorship is a critical initial step of the project governance process. Once sponsorship is established, project governance typically requires a preliminary business case. The business case will document the project scope, key deliverables, risks, financial impacts and required resources. The business case is intended to aid management in decision making, prioritizing, planning and budgeting project impacts. Requirements do change, but in a Traditional project management environment, these changes are rarely welcome as they often negatively impact the business case and project dependencies.

Should changes be required, most organizations enforce a formal change management process. Change management processes that involve executive, non-core team approvals serve to protect the organization and steer the strategic course. Agile frameworks rely heavily on the subject matter expertise and the empowered decision-making capability of the core team. Conceptually, the core team is the body of experts that is most capable of making decisions regarding prioritization, execution and potential changes to scope, timelines and cost. Realistically, the core team may not have visibility into broader organizational goals and may not fully understand how the project fits into the enterprise strategy. What is best for the project may not be best for the organization.

Within a Hybrid framework, there are levers that can reduce the burden of project governance. Well-constructed, federated project and change management tools such as approval processes and standard templates can be simplified. Simplification will drive efficiencies by eliminating variability and ensuring completeness. Project teams are often too large, and meetings are often too long. The Hybrid approach can leverage key Agile concepts of time-boxing4 and sprint-like releases. Time-boxing is a process whereby the project team schedules a fifteen to thirty-minute meeting and limits the agenda to a single topic or goal. Sprint-like releases are ongoing smaller releases that incrementally move deliverables into production versus single, large releases in which all deliverables are moved into production at one point. Organizations opting for a Hybrid approach benefit from focusing on the execution while consciously working to simplify project management and governance processes and core change management principles.

Resource Optimization

Agile theory does not address the strategic allocation of valuable and finite resources whether human, financial, technical or environmental. Per Agile Principles,5 organizations should, “Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done.”

This principle assumes an idyllic environment of project altruism. In this space, project managers are available and properly trained, subject matter experts can freely step away from responsibilities to serve the project team, test environments are limitless, release dates are flexible and the cost overruns are simply a by-product of delivery.

Project Management, whether Agile or not, is a support function. Projects are not built around people; projects are built around strategic and tactical decisions within dynamic environments. The organization’s interest is best served by creating constructive and healthy challenge in the project management space to ensure that expensive excess capacity is kept to a minimum and resources are allocated to projects that reap the highest reward for the organization.

Within a Hybrid environment, organizations are encouraged to engage in thoughtful resource planning at a program or enterprise level. Yes, resource allocation does take time, it may slow down delivery. However, high level resource planning mitigates the risk of project over-runs, encourages the identification of project dependencies, and focuses on optimizing limited resources. DHG’s Project Management methodology focuses on bringing strategic resource optimization and other Hybrid concepts to our clients. Our Hybrid approach strikes the ideal balance of Agile and Traditional approaches to optimize project results.

DHG's Approach to Hybrid Methodology

As noted above, DHG’s Hybrid methodology leverages the best practices of both Agile and Traditional methodologies to provide an accelerated, risk-based Hybrid approach to project management. Our Hybrid approach promotes both analytical rigor and flexibility, providing the tools to quickly respond to changing market conditions and customer preferences with a disciplined approach.

Benefits of the Hybrid approach include:

  • Robust initial resource and capacity planning analysis
  • Thorough project risk review and assessment
  • Detailed reporting and tracking throughout the project lifecycle
  • Governance framework, including change management and budgetary controls
  • Enhanced product speed-to-market through efficient feedback loops, iterative development and incremental release schedules
  • Flexible incremental delivery coupled with discipline to meet larger project timelines

The DHG Hybrid methodology can be leveraged in many project scenarios. It is most beneficial when an organization desires to increase speed and efficiency of project delivery while maintaining governance and controls. Consider the Hybrid approach for the following:

  • Cloud migration
  • Software development
  • Regulatory reporting transformation
  • General ledger conversions
  • Process improvement and automation
  • Data management

How We Can Help

FORVIS professionals bring a wealth of project management experience and accelerators. Our team thinks strategically while keeping a laser focus on execution. If your organization is interested in talking more about the transition to the Hybrid approach.

Sources
  1. www.agilemanifesto.org
  2. https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2019-02-19-gartner-survey-finds-85-percent-of-organizations-favor-a-product
  3. www.agilemanifesto.org/principles.html
  4. www.agilemanifesto.org/principles.html
  5. www.agilealliance.org
  6. www.agilemanifesto.org/principles.html

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