13 Common Agile Issues Identified and Addressed


By Brian Vanderjack, PMP®, MBA

Agile Project Manager, Scrum Master and Agile Trainer – AT&T


Lisa Clements, Agile Coach 



I work for AT&T as a project manager. In my area we just finished our first IT Agile-Scrum (to be referred to here as simply Agile) Project. While leading this effort some Agile procedural questions came to the surface that causing team confusion.  Some questions I was able to address on my own after giving them some thought. Others I looked to the AT&T Professional Agile Coach, Lisa Clements, for guidance.  What is here represents a blend of what to look out for and solutions that have worked for me.  Lisa and I have invested a lot of time into this material and hope it saves you hours of frustration by illuminating some sticky points of using Agile.  And more importantly, I hope it assists you in implementing Agile with as few issues as possible so you are more likely to adopt this valuable methodology for the long term.  Please note; the reader is assumed to have basic understanding of Agile and its related terms.  Also, this article does not, in any way, represent AT&T’s position.

Brian Vanderjack, PMP, MBA

#1 Question: I hear Agile only works only for small web based projects. 

Answer:  Agile works for large as well as small projects.   There is more work needed and/or investment to keep large Agile projects on track as opposed to small ones.  If a team is tackling a large project:

  • They will need a software tool to keep track of all of it.   It is possible to get by using spread sheets, but the amount of overhead could be tremendous.
  • Significant up-front communication and planning along with continuous communication are needed as product backlog items are added.
  • If multiple projects are being run concurrently, as part of a program, sync points for testing must be determined well before testing actually starts. That is, what each project needs (that is test media or processes) to do testing is to be determined, and schedules are to be set up that allow systems to have access to the test media they need at the time they need it.

A key point in Agile is the overall risk to the business, in terms of not meeting the Product Owner’s expectations on a very large project or program, can be reduced through smaller, more frequent deployments.

#2 Question: In an Agile environment, what is the difference between a Project Manager and a Scrum Master? 

Answer: A Project Manager is charged with driving the project to conclusion with an eye toward keeping the project timeline and money boxed.  The Project Manager tends to support multiple scrum teams and projects at one time.  A Scrum Master is a servant-leader whose focus is to ensure the Scrum Team meets its commitments for each Sprint and ensures constant communication with the Project Manager.

Another way to answer this is hidden in the Agile Manifesto (Agilemanifesto.org, 2001).  These four statements are from the manifesto:


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About the Authors 

brian-vanderjackflag-usaBrian Vanderjack

AT&T Mobility/Home Solutions

Illinois, USA

Brian is blessed to have a wonderful wife, named Terri, and two sons Matt & Marc. Matt, just finished his criminal justice degree at Western Illinois University®.  Matt composes music, on his PC, in his free time.  Marc, our English major at Illinois State University®, is currently away studying in England.  We also have a long haired Wheaton Terrier (Finley) who regularly awakens us at 4 AM because he is board and wants to play outside. Brian’s passion is providing people the skills they need to be better at delivering what their employers need.  And, by being even more valuable, the expectation is they will provide longer service to their home organization.

Brian is honored to have been: appointed Scum Master at AT&T®* for the award winning MyCSP App, point of sale information support application (top-ten design award, worldwide, by the Neilson Norman Group® 2013), MBA with distinction (DePaul®), faculty of the year (University of Phoenix®), Excellence in Project Management Award (AT&T®), and often published (in PMWorldToday® & PMWorldJournal®).

Brian has taught PMP® certification classes for DeVry®/Becker® and AT&T®, he has also taught Agile at AT&T® and for the PMI® Chicago land chapter (Professional Development Day). He also teaches Project Management for the University of California – Irvine®, and University of Phoenix®.  Brian has taught or spoken at many other venues like Microsoft® and Northwestern Kellogg Graduate School of Business®.  He has provided seminars & keynotes on leadership at AT&T®, Toastmasters®, several PMI® chapters, and Abbott Labs®. 

For further background about how Brian continues to drive toward fulfilling his mission, find his 44 written recommendation and hundreds of “referrals” on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/brianvanderjack/ .  Brian offers face-to-face PMP certification training on Saturdays. If your organization, or PMI® Chapter, is interested, reach out to Brian at [email protected] (no-pass = tuition refund, but conditions apply). 

*Note: For the above, endorsement by identified organizations is not implied or to be inferred, their trademarks and brands remain their own.  As Brian is full time employee of AT&T, the following is required per AT&T corporate policy: Information provided in this BIO and the related article in no way represents AT&T, nor its processes. Due to a non-compete agreement, services can’t be provided to organizations that compete with AT&T.

flag-usaLisa Clements

Lisa Clements earned her BS in MIS from the University of Idaho, where she also studied computer science. She then began her career at Digital Systems Int’l as a database programmer. She was soon recruited by AT&T where she took on a management role, managing software development, architecture, and project-management IT teams. She credits her success in these roles to the principle she instilled in each of her staff members: Deliver exceptional value to AT&T’s customers. For her superior efforts, she was named one of AT&T’s top 300 employees and thus awarded the coveted Circle of Excellence award. Her career then moved onto development in the Agile framework. She was selected to be a member of the effort to bring Agile into AT&T, and she worked on one of the first AT&T Agile development teams. She then moved to helping create, then implement a company-wide Agile coaching program as part of the Agile Circle of Excellence program. She also was awarded the Center of Excellence and the Customer Rules awards, from AT&T, for delivering excellent service to the company.