Key takeaways

  • Agile methodology divides projects into iterations or sprints, focusing on continuous value delivery and integrating customer feedback with each cycle.
  • This project management approach is most effective for dynamic, evolving projects where regular feedback is beneficial to align deliverables with customer needs.
  • Agile project methodology emphasizes quality assurance and reduces the chance of large-scale failure because constant improvements have occurred throughout the project’s life cycle.

Jun. 3, 2024: Silvana Peters revised the page to provide a clearer, more thorough explanation of Agile project management concepts. She also reorganized the structure of the page to improve the flow of information.

What is Agile project management, and why is it important?    

Agile methodology is a collaborative, iterative approach incorporating continuous testing and change responsiveness. Each iteration involves planning, execution, testing, and constant feedback from the client, allowing for adaptation and course correction throughout the project’s lifecycle. This model is highly flexible because the course of action is regularly updated to meet the changing demands. 

Agile project management, or APM, is founded on agility—the ability to move, think, and understand quickly. An Agile process helps teams manage work more efficiently, improve communication, and streamline workflows to deliver the highest-quality product. 

A wide array of software solutions are available to support Agile teams. Read our guide on essential APM software features to consider when deciding.

History of Agile project management

To better understand what Agile project management is, you must appreciate its history and purpose. Before Agile came along, the Waterfall methodology was the gold standard for software development. This approach identifies problems, plans solutions, and delivers the final product. However, it required long and detailed initial documents, causing a significant lag between an application’s need and delivery. 

Agile’s roots began in the 1990s when software teams explored new methods with less overhead planning, flexibility, and efficient product turnover. In 2001, 17 experienced developers discussed their beliefs about how software development should be done. 

The software practitioners developed the Agile Manifesto, which outlines the four values and 12 principles of the Agile philosophical mindset for software development. The Manifesto is not prescriptive and doesn’t include specific processes, procedures, or best practices for Agile software development.

Comparing Agile and Waterfall is not a one-size-fits-all decision

Choosing between these approaches depends on various factors, including project size, company specialization, team skills, clients, and regulatory requirements. Our in-depth comparison of Agile vs Waterfall outlines the similarities and differences between the two methodologies.

How does APM work?

APM breaks down projects into small, manageable, repeatable sections called sprints. Agile teams move projects forward in short cycles with planning, testing, development, and result review steps. When a cycle ends, feedback is gathered and utilized to plan for the new iteration within a few weeks. 

Throughout the project lifestyle, APM encourages customers to interact and work with the product, particularly at the end of each iteration, and provide feedback. This allows developers to refine processes to produce higher-quality results and saves time and resources by focusing on prioritization and iterative delivery.

The Agile way of working enables teams to concentrate on delivering valuable features based on demand, leading to quicker time to market. APM fosters unit empowerment by creating a culture of autonomy, ownership, and self-organization, resulting in greater motivation, creativity, and productivity. 

If you’re considering using APM software or seeking more information on maximizing your chosen solution, check out our detailed guide on using Agile project management software for client work.

Phases of the APM framework

The APM framework aims to deliver quality and value, and offers a cohesive method of effective project management. Implementers divide the project into smaller, achievable milestones completed in iterations. Teams have built-in quality control segments to check the progress of their milestones after each cycle. 

APM has five phases, forming a seamless, cyclical process that allows teams to iterate and refine their work while aligning with stakeholders’ expectations. Agile’s five phases create a cohesive and dynamic process that is applicable and essential for navigating the complexities of modern projects. Read about the APM framework phases below.

This phase sets the stage for the entire project and involves defining the project’s vision and objectives. It also includes identifying stakeholders, determining project scope, and initiating initial planning. The envision phase lays the groundwork for success by aligning teams and stakeholders regarding direction, strategy, and expectations.

This phase aims to create a prioritized product backlog, which includes a list of features or user stories. Teams develop detailed roadmaps, outlining the plans for each iteration or sprint, including task breakdown, estimation, and resource allocation. It’s the time to think creatively and explore different solutions for project progression.

The Explore phase focuses on iterative development, where teams turn ideas into action. The team works in short sprints or iterations, delivering working increments of the project. This phase is the heart of Agile, embodying regular collaboration, feedback, and customer involvement.

This is when teams take a step back and reflect on their progress. In this phase, the team reviews the completed work, gathers feedback, and adapts the project plan or backlog accordingly. This phase enables continuous improvement and flexibility to meet changing requirements.

APM’s fifth and final phase involves releasing the project deliverables, conducting a post-project review, capturing lessons learned, and completing necessary closure activities. As the project journey ends, results and successes set the stage for continuous product development.

Types of Agile methodologies

Agile methodologies are far more fluid than traditional project management approaches. There are five distinct adaptations of the Agile methodology: Scrum, Kanban, Lean, XP, and DSDM. The right choice or blend depends on your project’s characteristics, team dynamics, and organizational context.

Scrum is one of the most widely used Agile methodologies and excels at helping teams work in short cycles. This framework is prescriptive, with defined team workflows, events, and structures. Scrum teams collaborate to deliver product increments using backlogs, daily stand-up meetings, and regular evaluations and retrospectives.

Work occurs in time-boxed iterations called sprints, typically lasting one to four weeks. Scrum is best for businesses that follow a routine. It offers a balanced level of structure and predictability while still allowing for adjustments based on user feedback. 

Learn more: What Is Scrum?

Kanban is a visual Agile methodology for managing work in progress (WIP). It employs a Kanban board to visualize the flow of tasks through various stages. Kanban methods track team progress and communicate project results transparently. They are easy to use and focus on team capacity, continuous delivery, and workflow optimization.

This Agile method lets users see all project tasks simultaneously, based on category (done, processing, testing, etc.). Kanban is an excellent option for projects with a constant flow of work requiring continuous product or service improvement. 

Learn more: What Is Kanban?

The Lean methodology can be traced to the Toyota Production System, which began between the 1940s and the 1970s, before the formation of Agile methods in the 1990s. The Toyota system centered around two concepts: jidoka (“automation with a human touch”) and “just-in-time” processes (producing only what is needed). Lean Agile methodology was developed in the manufacturing sector, and Toyota Production System-derived Lean principles were applied to software development. 

Lean emphasizes delivering customer value by eliminating waste, maximizing flow, and continuously enhancing processes. Applying Lean methods minimizes over-engineering risk while creating knowledge through valuable documentation. Lean is often used with other Agile methodologies, particularly Scrum or Kanban. It’s the method of choice for projects needing process improvement with minimal resource waste.

XP strongly emphasizes teamwork, feedback, and ongoing development. It uses methodologies such as test-driven development, pair programming, frequent releases, and continuous integration to ensure product quality and integrity.

This method focuses on collaboration and transparency to discover the simplest way to do something. Use this Agile development project approach if you require quick, high-quality delivery and close cooperation between stakeholders and development teams. Typically, small, co-located and close-knit teams benefit from using XP. 

Learn more: What Is Extreme Programming (XP)?

DSDM is an Agile methodology specifically designed for larger and more complex projects. It provides a framework that facilitates iterative development while maintaining a strong concentration on business requirements and delivering value. It has distinct project management phases, from reviewing feasibility to prototyping and implementation. 

The underlying philosophy of DSDM is that projects must be aligned to clearly defined strategic goals and focus on the early delivery of tangible benefits to the business. Unlike other Agile methods, DSDM is a more rigid option designed to maintain the team’s focus on defined project goals.

Core values and principles of Agile projects 

The Agile Manifesto outlines a total of four core values and 12 guiding principles for teams adopting the Agile methodology. Originally, Agile methods were strictly for software development practitioners, but its core values and principles showcase how the methodology applies to any organization. 

Agile core values

Agile processes underscore the importance of client communications and involvement, starkly contrasting traditional project management methods. The four core values of Agile are the following:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools: The human element is crucial to project management, and over-reliance on processes and tools results in an inability to adapt to dynamic circumstances.  
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation: Give developers what they need to complete development without overloading them with documentary requirements. 
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation: Capitalize on your customers and involve them in the process, ensuring they meet their end product effectively. 
  4. Responding to change over following a plan: Change is seen not as an expense, but as an opportunity for review and timely course correction. 

Agile principles

Agile’s four core values are supported by 12 key principles that promote flexibility and process experimentation. The 12 principles of Agile methodology include:

  1. Customer satisfaction is the highest priority through early and continuous launching of the deliverable.
  2. Welcome changing requirements even late in the development process. Harness change and use it for a competitive advantage.
  3. Frequently deliver or deploy a working software, product, or service for quick adaptation.
  4. Business owners, clients, and other project stakeholders must collaborate daily throughout the project.
  5. Make motivated individuals the cornerstone of your project and give them the support and tools they need to complete the job.
  6. Face-to-face interaction is the most effective way to convey information.
  7. The final deliverable is the primary measure of progress.
  8. Project stakeholders, such as sponsors, developers, and users, must maintain a constant and sustainable work pace.
  9. Enhance agility by paying continuous attention to technical excellence and good design.
  10. Simplicity—the art of maximizing the amount of work done—is crucial to success.
  11. The best requirements and solutions emerge from self-organizing teams.
  12. Teams must reflect regularly on how to become more effective and adjust their behavior accordingly. 

Pros and cons of Agile project management 

Agile project management promotes effective communication, shared comprehension, and collaborative problem-solving among team members, stakeholders, and customers. However, despite its advantages, it may not suit teams requiring heavy documentation and definite resource planning.

Analyzing the positive and negative aspects of APM can help gain a comprehensive understanding of this method’s potential benefits and drawbacks. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of Agile project tracking:

Advantages of Agile

  1. Flexibility: Agile methodologies allow for changes and iterations throughout the project, accommodating evolving requirements and market conditions.
  2. Faster time to market: Enable faster product release by delivering working solutions in short iterations, allowing organizations to respond quickly to market opportunities.
  3. Customer-centric approach: Emphasize collaboration with customers and stakeholders, ensuring that the delivered product meets their needs and expectations.
  4. Enhanced communication and collaboration: Promote frequent and transparent communication, fostering collaboration among team members, stakeholders, and customers.
  5. Continuous improvement: Encourage regular retrospectives, enabling teams to reflect on their performance. Implementers can identify areas for improvement and make changes to enhance productivity and product quality.

Disadvantages of Agile 

  1. Lack of predictability: The methodology’s adaptability makes it challenging to estimate timelines and budgets accurately, especially in complex and dynamic projects.
  2. Requirement volatility: Agile’s iterative nature may lead to evolving requirements, requiring significant adjustments that potentially impact the project’s scope and timelines. 
  3. Resource management: The approach requires dedicated and cross-functional team members, which can be challenging in organizations with competing responsibilities or limited resources. 
  4. Cultural and organizational alignment: Implementing Agile methodologies may require a cultural shift and buy-in from stakeholders, which can be challenging in organizations with a hierarchical or rigid structure. 
  5. Documentation and reporting: Focusing on delivering working software may result in less emphasis on comprehensive documentation and reporting. This may be necessary for certain regulatory or compliance purposes.

Examples of Agile project management

Agile is no longer limited to software development and is now used in different industries, including IT, manufacturing, and marketing. To better appreciate what Agile project management is, here are some examples of the Agile process applied in business.

Agile’s adaptability is great for startups and small IT businesses because it can help teams quickly deliver a prototype instead of waiting months for a solution that may not address market needs. Agile projects often entail frequent, short project timelines, with each sprint or project interval ending in product delivery.

If you’re looking for powerful project tracking software, ClickUp is an excellent option for productivity and collaboration because of its customizable workflow. Software development teams can use its intake forms to streamline issues and bug-tracking processes. Visualize your progress using its custom dashboard and add sprint widgets to showcase Agile metrics.

ClickUp dashboard interface with analytics and widgets.
Track Agile sprints with widgets in ClickUp. (Source: ClickUp)

The Agile approach requires collaboration to quickly deliver value and produce products that meet needs and expectations. When developing a new application, regular team reviews and validation before each sprint allow developers, analysts, testers, and product owners to keep everyone on the same page. To help manage workflows, Jira is an excellent PM platform for issue management and Agile testing. 

This cloud-based platform allows teams to assign, prioritize, and resolve tickets using key features like capturing, assigning, and priority setting. Use Jira’s built-in templates and drag-and-drop automation to speed up task completion.

Jira's issue statistics gadget.
Jira’s issue statistics gadget lets you spot bottlenecks immediately. (Source: Atlassian)

Consider Trello if you’re looking for an alternative to Jira for software development. The platform helps project managers progress vis-a-vis goals and deadlines by providing a centralized workspace for your engineers and developers to collaborate. Read our Trello vs Jira comparison to learn more about each solution’s key differences and best use cases.

Agile projects do not require teams to develop all features simultaneously. Instead, continuous sprints allow technical teams to test issues daily and address them immediately. Working in increments ensures sprint results in a fully tested and viable product. 

For quality control, consider Wrike. It’s a cloud-based project management software with Agile tools. It’s great for tracking multiple facets of project operations. Wrike has several out-of-the-box templates, such as sprint planning and Kanban projects.

Wrike's Sprint Board for tracking priority tasks.
Use the custom dashboard to track progress within your Agile workflow. (Source: Wrike)

Teams looking to produce a lean, efficient development process and respond quicker to change and uncertainty will find Agile’s methods valuable. Read our Agile project management software guide for more information.


Several popular and recognized APM certifications exist, some of which include PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP), Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), and Certified ScrumMaster. Certifications enhance an individual’s skills and abilities to manage projects in an Agile environment.

The difference lies in their leadership and project execution styles. Conventional project managers focus on command tasks like task distribution, detailed activity planning, and progress tracking. Agile managers minimize heavy upfront planning and rigid structures and focus on collaboration and adaptability to deliver efficient client value.

Agile methodology is a project management philosophy with core values and principles emphasizing collaboration and iterative development. Scrum is an adapted Agile methodology and a process framework focused on self-management, experiential learning, and change adaptation.

We’ve compiled this list of the most commonly used Agile terminology and their definition to give you a better understanding of this methodology:

  1. Agile: An iterative approach to project management emphasizing efficient turnover and continuous collaboration and feedback.
  2. Agile Manifesto: A document describing the four core values and 12 principles of Agile development.
  3. Backlog: A list of prioritized work to be completed.
  4. Cadence: The length of a team’s iteration cycle or sprint.
  5. Ceremonies: Planning meetings, often daily, that identify what has been accomplished, what is in the pipeline, and strategies to address barriers to success.
  6. Epic: A large volume of work or broader objectives consisting of several related user stories for team completion.
  7. Initiatives: Groups of epics aimed at the same goal.
  8. Kanban: An Agile framework for managing work, emphasizing visualization of workflow and just-in-time product delivery.
  9. Kanban board: A visual representation of workflow in the form of cards that summarizes tasks based on status (to do, doing, done).
  10. Requirements: Written as stories collaged into a prioritized list called the “backlog.”
  11. Scrum: An Agile framework commonly used in product development, wherein teams work in short bursts ranging from two to four weeks, called sprints.
  12. Scrum Master: The leader of the Scrum is responsible for coordinating tasks, removing impediments, and ensuring that the product backlog is updated. 
  13. Sprints: The name for iteration cycles in Scrum.
  14. Stand-up meetings: Short daily meetings where teams discuss a project’s broad strokes, recent milestones, and immediate goals.
  15. User stories: The smallest units of work delivering value to the end-user.
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