Agile exists to answer a highly specific set of project-related questions. What happens when one team finishes working on their part of a project? Where do they pivot to other tasks, seek out additional work on the same project, or call it a day? What’s the answer when a large project runs over budget? Agile grew out of a number of studies in the 1990s and early 2000s that showcased significant flaws with how large IT and software development projects were being managed. These studies showed that traditionally managed IT or software projects:
  • Usually went over budget
  • Usually ran over schedule
  • Had trouble adapting to changing requirements
Unlike traditional project management, Agile uses an iterative process that allows teams to test each version of a program, and make changes accordingly. This allows for greater flexibility and more efficient use of resources. While Agile was designed for software development, organizations such as digital content firms and media can benefit from implementing elements of this methodology.

6 Essential Agile Project Management Software Features

If a team is looking to get started with Agile, they will need the right project management tools. Certain software does lend itself to this methodology, but Agile by nature isn’t rigid, so features from a number of project management products could be used for Agile teams. What are six of the most essential features of agile project management software?

1. Progress visualization

Overlapping with the Kanban methodology, representing progress visually makes it much easier to see where each member of the team is with their individual tasks. Visual progress tools are common in many project management products, and make it easier to preemptively identify bottlenecks. Be sure to vet this feature carefully. Locking a team into a Kanban chart when they have linar projects and limited resources will be a frustrating way to realize that a Gantt chart would have been the better visualization tool a few months after committing to a project management tool.

2. Issue tracking

Working in combination with progress visualization, issue tracking allows the team to easily tell which parts of the project require immediate attention, and which parts have been completed. Issue tracking will be used more often by software development and IT teams than by non-technical teams, but can be helpful for managing any type of revision-related work.

3. Collaboration

Depending on the nature of the team and project, they will want to look for different types of collaborative tools. For example, team wikis serve as a great tool for centralizing any documents attached to specific projects on the board. This eliminates the redundancy of email chains and makes it easier to find relevant information quickly. Strong collaboration tools should be a hallmark of any Agile-specific software. One of the main values of the Agile manifesto is putting “individuals and interactions over processes and tools.” In order to stay agile (pun absolutely intended), a team will need to eliminate barriers to the information they need. Employee collaboration is often used in other project management methodologies but is particularly vital in Agile.

4. Estimation

In order to set accurate requirements and control scope creep, agile project managers need to use estimation tools to calculate how long each iteration (or sprint if utilizing Scrum) will take. Gathering accurate estimations helps project managers create a base of historical data from which to forecast future agile projects. Estimation tools also help in an immediate sense, too. Reacting to change is a central tenet of Agile, so by updating estimates after every release or sprint, PMs can stay on top of deadlines and adjust accordingly.

5. Customer portal

How can development teams receive feedback on their development if customers can’t access the software? Having a customer development portal allows agile project managers to conduct software walkthroughs. They also help customers provide more detailed feedback that can translate directly into actionable tasks. Instead of waiting to receive feedback after weeks of development, teams can ask for feedback with each new release or patch. While Agile is flexible enough to accommodate last-minute requirements changes, it’s always better to adjust priorities as soon as possible.

6. Project portfolio management

Agile’s focus on team collaboration and individual contribution means it can be difficult to scale. It can become cumbersome to respond to change quickly as the amount of moving parts and interdependent skill sets grows. It can also be hard to prioritize individuals over tools, as the very nature of scaling requires organizations to adopt tools that replace individual interactions. The solve for scaling Agile is to break down large teams into smaller groups that focus on specific tasks. Those teams can thus be centrally managed via project portfolio tools. By having quick access to a team’s entire portfolio of projects, they will be better able to jump between projects and ensure estimates are still accurate. A good agile project management software will track concurrent projects down to the most minute user story, enabling simple and intuitive inter-portfolio response.

How to Choose the Right Agile Solution for the Features You Need

Agile seeks to eliminate many of the redundant processes that too often imbed themselves in project workflows. It’s not the right solution for every team or industry, but it can result in higher ROI and faster time-to-market when implemented correctly. Finding the perfect agile software can be a headache if you don’t know where to start. Check out our Project Management software category page to see what suits your needs.
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