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Embracing Agile

Coming from retail management at Dixons into project management was quite an acute learning curve, especially since KPIs, sales targets and stock reporting changed to stage/phase management, deliverables and RAG reporting. After completing my Prince2 qualification, I applied for work experience as a Project Manager at a large bank in London. There I worked in 3 different departments shadowing Project Managers and a COO to get an overview and hands on experience with what I learned in Prince2.

I mainly expected that I would be building on my gained knowledge of Prince2, but since it’s a very large organisation, it was difficult to have a clear view of the hierarchy of power/control. They have different departments interlinked and working together on the same projects so my experience of their style of Project Management was very different from what I’d seen of the ‘Project Board’ in Prince2, as they had tailored things according to their needs. Most of the projects are run with a Prince2/PMP approach, but projects in the IT department in particular follow an ITIL service delivery approach. Being a big organisation they have more communication and handover work, as every department does its bit and passes it on to the next department to proceed.

After completing my work experience, I joined as a Junior Digital Project Manager at Siteset, who practice Agile project delivery methodologies. It is quite compatible with Prince2 in a way. After my experience at the bank in London, Siteset seems to have a very visible hierarchy and the process of work seems clearer, being a smaller company. I feel Siteset has more control overall on the projects and the focus on making sure the job is done perfectly seems higher with less risk of failure. It can also be because the use of Agile (in particular, Scrum) is done in a very effective way. The two-week Sprint makes it more controlled and ultimately organised; it doesn’t only mitigate risk but you can prioritise tasks according to changing requirements.

Initially, I found it hard to have so many meetings in a week, as I felt it’s not very productive to commit too much time to meetings, especially given that it’s hard to be productive with the remaining time and building focus again. I guess, like every change, you have to wait to see the results for yourself or just faithfully embrace it. Now I think it’s very controlled, organised and efficient as an approach as you can monitor the progress of tasks as you are closely following them on a day-to-day basis. Any ups or downs are very easily monitored and can be dealt with as they arise, rather than with the waterfall approach to Project Management in which sometimes it can be a bit too late to react.

In the Agile Scrum environment, the whole team works as one towards a common goal while in Prince2 the project structure is designed in a way that makes someone responsible/accountable. So ultimate accountability is hard to justify sometimes in Agile Scrum, as, in a way, everyone has ownership of the work. But in the end, the most weight of responsibility falls on the Product Owner.

So the learning/tailoring of my Prince2 understanding alongside the Agile methodology has been somewhat challenging at times, but I’ve learned a lot in the process and will learn a lot more I’m sure.

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