What are the the pros/cons of agile project management?

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Ty Kiisel
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The pros and cons of the agile methodology versus the waterfall methodology is a question to ask if you want to generate an animated conversation among project managers. The truth is, both methodologies have value depending upon the type of project being executed. Unfortunately, there are many adherents who dogmatically cling to either methodology regardless of the project needs. Scrum has proven itself to be an excellent way for software development teams to manage the development process with a minimum of governance requirements. Traditional waterfall methodologies offer more governance and oversight options for government, financial services and similar projects that require a verifiable audit trail. Project managers who are able to work in both environments are able to choose the best methodology for any given project depending upon the needs of the project.

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To be sure, if you ask me, the pros of an Agile methodology greatly outweigh the cons. An agile method can produce business value right off the bat with deliverables that arrive sooner and Agile project management, if properly implemented, can result in a product, price and timeline that are better matched to customer input and expectations. Agile is certainly the way to go when it comes to custom software development (or, for that matter, with any other project in which the end state is unknown and achieved through a constant state of flux).

Overall, the pros to an Agile methodology are the ability to more quickly produce deliverables, the ability to eliminate the need for substantial revision and rework (thanks to Agile’s JIT design), the ability to show more flex than standard waterfall methods and the ability to, completing tasks in small doses, substantially increase responsiveness and estimation accuracy (and, with the latter, all but avoid the kinds of big surprises that can strain customer relations). Agile Project Management is also likely to greatly increase overall quality – as deliverables will be subject to testing at an earlier stage in the game, improve team chemistry and, with the luxury of constantly viable software, lessen the inherent risks involved…

The cons, for the most part, related to an Agile methodology result almost exclusively from misunderstanding and perception. Agile, for instance, if not completely grasped can lead to weighty expectations that can be hard to achieve. Although Agile is proven to be an effective methodology, we all know the Fountain of Youth does not exist. Agile can also prove to wear a bit on product owners (who carry most of the responsibility) and can result, if not properly implemented, in a pressure-cooker arena that can melt team morale.

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