Controlling a stage and Managing product delivery
Stages are likely to be made up of sprints or time boxes culminating in one or more releases, with the focus on delivering sets of features into operational use and therefore enabling their respective benefits.
When using PRINCE2 And agile, the project manager should empower delivery teams to deliver in the best way possible, by being collaborative with work assignment that is based on features and making full use of visual communication channels.
The regular reviews and retrospectives during a Sprint could be used by the project manager to glean progress information rather than waiting for it to be reported.
In agile projects, the project manager of the team manager might facilitate regular stand-up meetings together with progress information and examine project issues.
Information radiators are easy-to-read wall charts that show in a visual and pictorial way, information about the project’s progress, issues, risks, and goals.
Common components of an information radiator are a Kanban board and a burn-down chart. The former tracks the work that has been assigned to each person and the status of each task. A burn-down chart tracks how much work remains against time.
In an agile project, each work package might contain several sprints each one delivering a number of releasable products. The sign-off and acceptance of such products might be done by giving reviews and demonstrations to the customer at the end of each Sprint.
At the end of each Sprint, the project manager or team manager might run Sprint retrospectives which are like lessons learned meetings allowing the team to learn useful experiences for future work.
Managing product delivery provides the interface between the project manager and the delivery team who will be working in an agile way. This interface should be collaborative and transparent with a collective agreement on what is to be produced and how this would be achieved.
In agile, delivery is done iteratively while progress information would be visible on an information radiator updated frequently by the team as this provides the information for the project manager to manage the project at the stage level by having clear and regular information at the project delivery level.
There are many agile-related techniques that are used for the team to track work progress, notably the use of story points, planning poker, velocity, burn up and burn down charts, and the use of Kanban.
Managing a stage boundary
With PRINCE2 Agile it is important that the stage boundaries do not interrupt the work of a Sprint, it would therefore be best practice to rely on the stage boundaries at the end of either one Sprint, a group of sprints, or a release.
During the managing a stage boundary process the project management team would want to evaluate the product backlog to ensure that the next stage delivered provides the highest value product features. This will ensure that high-value/most beneficial work from the product backlog is undertaken in preference to lower-value work.
Throughout the current management stage, the frequent delivery of products in an iterative and incremental style shows clearly how many features have been delivered, the level of quality and value-added, and which of those remain to be covered in the next or later management stages.
The stage boundary provides an opportunity to review how much is being delivered compared to what had been planned which would include comparing the amount of value being delivered and the amount of cost incurred to create that value.
In this way, it can be determined if the project is still on track and is still viable.
It might be worth carrying out a formal workshop, perhaps as part of a release review, and then planning the next management stage.
Questions asked may include – would it be a good idea to increase the frequency of releases or to alter the number of sprints or their lengths inside each release?
Closing a project
When using agile, project closure is still likely to be a formal event. However, due to the iterative and incremental nature of the agile way of working much of the information is already known and most of the work is already done.
Many, if not all of the products created during the project may have already been passed into the operational area (business as usual – BAU) Over a number of iterations.
For this reason, planning post-project benefit reviews may not be needed.
Due to Sprint retrospectives, lessons may have already been reviewed so there is no need to write a lessons report. It is good practice however to hold some sort of formal project closure event.
There may be a final product demonstration health to achieve sign-off from the customer and agreement on any follow on actions and who is responsible for carrying them out.
Some form of a review should be held to assess how well PRINCE2 and agile were blended and to determine lessons about the use of agile on this project.
The project may have been closed prematurely – triggered by fail fast/learn fast situation itself triggered by the use of management by exception, where it is seen that the project was no longer viable. If a project is going to fail it is best that failure arrives as quickly as possible.
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