Agility dancers
Nik Roberts
Nik Roberts
24th Nov 2020

How your development agency manages projects

Interested in how a development agency would manage your project? This post outlines the most common project management styles used by development agencies, including how we manage projects at Versantus. By the end of this article, you’ll understand how different frameworks are more suited to certain projects, and have a better idea of how a development agency could progress your project.

Approaches to project management in development agencies

There are two main frameworks you need to know about when it comes to project management: waterfall and agile. Whilst some industries are slow to change and innovate, the digital world is fast-paced and constantly evolving. This means an agile approach may be preferable due to its flexible nature. However, that’s not to say there’s no place for a waterfall approach, as we’ll discuss further.

What is waterfall project management?

Waterfall is a linear framework where initial discussions between the client and the agency inform the end goal and the roadmap to completion. There aren’t regular milestones as discussions take place early on in the project lifecycle. Waterfall is less flexible by nature, but you won’t need to spend your time in ongoing discussions and can resume business as usual whilst the project progresses.

Benefits of waterfall project management

The waterfall framework allows the agency to focus on the end goal without the need for regular iterations or meetings with the client. When using the waterfall approach, there is a clear goal and method, so both the agency and the client are aware of the specifics at each stage of the project life cycle ahead of time. You’ll have full knowledge of the exact specifications of the solution without any unexpected surprises or costs.

What is agile project management?

Agile project management is a project management methodology based around iterations and feedback. Rather than having a specific goal with a linear method of getting there, agile works in a more fluid manner. Agile project management breaks down a larger project into smaller pieces and tackles those pieces in short bursts called sprints. Sprints typically last 30 days, after which the completed work during that sprint is released to the client for review. Iterations can then be requested and discussed, meaning the solution can evolve through changes and updates.

Benefits of agile project management

With agile project management you have the ability to adapt your desired solution to fit your requirements, even if those requirements change over time. Collaboration is at the heart of agile project management. This allows both you and the agency to work in partnership to provide the desired solution. Regular intervals for iterations means you’ll always have a say in the progression of the project life cycle, and you’ll be aware of where your solution is heading at every stage of development.

What is scrum project management?

The scrum framework is an offshoot of agile project management. It’s an agile approach rather than a stand-alone methodology. Scrum works through sprints, iterative intervals and consistent feedback loops, but the approach is defined by the way the agency handles the project. 

The scrum team isn't led by a typical project manager. Instead, the team is self-organising and works together under a common goal to create the deliverable requested by the client. A scrum-master may be employed to review and act upon any blockers throughout the project, but the team will prioritise their own work in accordance to the goal of the current sprint. 

Benefits of scrum project management

The scrum approach gives the agency scope to start soon after a broad project brief has been discussed. As the sprints are short and regular, there isn’t any need to provide full project life cycle documentation upfront so your project can start sooner. As communication and collaboration are vital to the scrum framework, you’ll have the chance to make iterations after each sprint. You can also rest assured that the feedback you’ve provided will be listened to and acted upon, as it will inform the work completed in the next sprint. 

Using the scrum framework, the team works collaboratively and in-sync with each other’s output. Daily stand-up meetings are held to discuss the previous day’s work, highlight any blockers that are preventing progress, and the schedule for the day ahead. Any feedback that requires your assistance or input will be raised as soon as possible to minimise delays and overspending on budget.

What is kanban project management?

Kanban is a focused project management approach that can be tailored to suit the agile methodology. The kanban framework relies on doing as much as possible in as little time as possible. This means processes and task details are reviewed and streamlined on a granular level. Kanban organises tasks into a workflow consisting of ‘In Progress’ ‘Done’ and ‘Not Done’ to limit the amount of work in progress to a minimum.

Benefits of kanban

With less multi-tasking, each stage of your project will be completed in a dedicated and focused way, which should shorten the time it takes for the solution to be developed. Kanban increases efficiency within the team as every step of the project life cycle has been scrutinised. The focus with Kanban is on lead times, efficient processes and progression of smaller tasks to create a larger deliverable. 

The kanban approach provides opportunities for the client to review completed work once a task has been moved to the ‘Done’ stage of the workflow, rather than after a designated 30 day sprint. This project management style is popular with development agencies because of its transparency, visual nature and spotlight on improved workflow. As a client, you can review the completed work and provide iterations without causing disruption to the rest of the work in progress.

Versantus’ approach to project management

We tailor our project management approach to fit the needs of the client. In many cases, a waterfall approach is preferable. With little need for iterations or excessive communication, this gives us the opportunity to work with our clients through a ‘Discovery phase’ at the start of the project. We work through discussions upfront to understand everything required for the end solution. As a business owner, it means you won’t be hounded with questions every week and you can resume business as usual whilst we create your desired finished product. 

In other instances, where the solution is more dynamic, we use an agile approach. This collaborative method means we can regularly review output with our clients to ensure the individual elements are meeting expectations. Consistent intervals for iterations provides our clients with the opportunity to amend, update and alter different parts of the project.

On balance, our most-used approach is wagile. A smirk-inducing name that combines the upfront discussions and specifications from the waterfall approach, with the regular sprints and collaboration from the agile approach. Our clients know where the project is headed from the start, but can take comfort in the knowledge that individual parts can be evaluated and re-invented to suit milestones throughout the project.

How should your project be managed?

Whether it’s agile, waterfall or a blended wagile approach, the project management framework used to deliver your project should always be in line with your requirements. 

Each project requires its own individualised process to suit your requirements, specifications and preferred-collaboration style. Here at Versantus, wagile provides the perfect framework for us and our clients to work together to produce high-quality solutions. Whether it’s a complex website, an innovative mobile app or something completely different, we approach all our projects with client requirements at the forefront.

If you have an upcoming project, or you’re in the process of looking for a reputable agency to deliver on your requirements, leave us a message or give us a call to see how our expert team can help. 

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