How To Use Agile For Engineering Project Management: A Step-by-step Guide
For almost two decades, agile planning tools have maintained their prevalence in project management. Today, they extend beyond their software development roots to factor in other non-software sectors that must react promptly to market and ecological changes. The engineering industry is no exception.
With several new products being launched in the marketplace each year, engineering businesses must innovate and continuously offer superior value to their clients. As such, they need to embrace more flexible processes to change the course efficiently when needed. Else, they risk losing their market competitiveness.
Deploying Agile methods in engineering and project management improves organizations' adaptivity. With the correct mindset and frameworks, companies experience enhanced productivity with better alignment with the larger corporate goals, while managing resources and time constraints.
This blog will list the steps to drive agile engineering to provide top-quality deliverables with consistency and predictability.
Steps to Drive Agile Engineering
Divide a Project into Releases and Sprints
A release - engineering work packages (EWP) - involves creating a new product feature or updating an existing one. Engineering teams and other stakeholders must split these EWPs into multiple iterations called sprints. Moreover, the engineering project management team should create a predefined list of work items (user stories) in each sprint.
Team leaders must provide weightage to the EWPs based on the effort required to accomplish them. In addition, they need to rank these EWPs based on their importance and urgency.
Plan the Sprints during Team Meeting
Sprints are one of the most fundamental building blocks in agile project management. Each sprint has a specified time frame, generally 2-4 weeks, and a set number of tasks. During the sprint, the project delivery engineers work to complete each task before the sprint ends.
Sprints often kick-start with a sprint planning discussion. In this meeting, project leaders pick tasks for the sprint and determine the EWPs scheduled within the sprint by assigning points based on the amount of effort involved. Then, project engineers, alongside other contributors, divide the EWPs into deliverables and decide the activities (with process flow) for these deliverables.
Finally, team leaders analyze the sprints and assign them to relevant individuals. They should identify the resource requirements based on the roles. Each sprint planning meeting consists of the following stakeholders:
- Project managers: They are the primary medium between engineering teams and customers. Hence, they have a firm understanding of different business priorities, and pick tasks accordingly.
- Project delivery engineers: They work in sync to anticipate the effort involved in each task and distribute the work uniformly among the team.
- Scrum masters: They facilitate the sprint planning meeting.
An effective sprint planning meeting offers engineering project management teams a clear idea of the sprint objectives and the tasks that they are assigned.
Implement Various Estimation Methods
To plan a foolproof sprint, engineering and project management teams must gauge the backlog tasks appropriately. Project teams must follow multiple estimation methods to size a task:
- Story points: They refer to work complexity or a day of work, which could be half a day or even an hour. Ideal sprints incorporate all engineers having enough story points for the whole sprint. For instance, teams can assign one point to a simple user story and 3-5 points for a highly complex story - based on the work involved.
- T-shirt sizes: As with story points, project delivery engineers can define each T-shirt size and refine this allocation with time. Case in point, an L T-shirt-sized work can consume an entire 2-week sprint, while an S T-shirt-sized task can take at most half a day.
- Planning poker: In planning poker, each project team member reveals their own estimate for a particular task to other stakeholders. This levels up the collaboration between engineering teams and ensures that the estimates do not overlap with each other.
Conduct Regular Stand-ups
Agile project management teams must organize daily stand-ups (also called daily scrum) throughout sprints. These meetings must happen every day at the same time and should not stretch over 15 minutes. The main intentions behind daily stand-ups are to keep all engineering project contributors updated regarding the sprint's status and detect any existing obstacles.
During stand-ups, each stakeholder provides a quick status update on their work items, emphasizing the following three points:
- What work they accomplished yesterday
- What task will they perform today
- What challenges, if any, are currently disrupting their progress
Agile engineers should shift their sprint items through multiple progress phases (in progress, testing, pending, and complete) while giving updates. Besides, stand-up updates should be accurate and quick. If any topic requires further brainstorming, teams can reassemble on the dashboard of the engineering project management software after everybody has delivered their work updates.
Hold Retrospectives for Continuous Monitoring
At the end of a sprint, agile engineering teams must organize retrospectives, wherein they inspect the sprint and discusses the following aspects:
- The upsides: Each team member should share their achievements and applaud their colleagues for accomplishing the same.
- The obstacles: Identifying potential risks or hurdles is indisputably crucial to determine whether engineering project management timelines are still reasonable.
- The opportunities: To ensure the success of future sprints, engineering project planning teams must share feasible techniques to optimize the operations and the project as a whole.
In today's fast-paced economy, where product innovations go obsolete quickly, a methodology that helps maintain flexibility throughout the development journey is the need of the hour. Although engineering project planning is a linear process, a great project management software helps it become more robust and dynamic to the evolving requirements.
From tackling late value delivery to filling communication gaps to optimizing project operations, agile project management software's incremental and iterative approach to work makes it the ideal complement to project management for engineers.
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