Agile in Project Management


A Brief Overview

By Laurence Nicholson, PMP, MBCS, FPMA, ACQI 


1.   History

Incremental Development Methodologies

Incremental software development methods have been traced back to 1957at IBM’s ServiceBureau Corporation

In 1974, a paper by E. A. Edmonds introduced an adaptive software development process.[3]. Concurrently and independently the same methods were developed and deployed by the New York Telephone Company’s Systems Development Center under the direction of Dan Gielan.

During the mid to late 1970s Mr. Gielan lectured extensively throughout the U.S. on this methodology, its practices, and its benefits.

So-called lightweight software development methods evolved in the mid-1990s as a reaction against heavyweight methods, which were characterized by their critics as a heavily regulated, regimented, micromanaged, waterfall model of development. Proponents of lightweight methods (and now agile methods) contend that they are a return to development practices from early in the history of software development.

Early implementations of lightweight methods include Scrum (1995), Crystal Clear, Extreme Programming (1996), Adaptive Software Development, Feature Driven Development, and Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM) (1995). These are now typically referred to as agile methodologies, after the Agile Manifesto published in 2001

Waterfall vs Agile

When project management became popular in the 1980’s, the traditional approach of most project managers was what was known as a waterfall. A strict, rigid stepping from one stage to another in the process for gathering requirements, building the solution, testing the solution built and then putting this live. Whilst this was a successful method for delivering benefit to the business, it soon came under scrutiny as businesses became more dynamic, reacting rapidly to changing needs. The limitations of the waterfall design were based ironically in its very strength; The strict control of the stages of a project.

What was needed was a way of ‘trying out’ solutions on the fly and making changes throughout the process. Prototyping became the way forward for many, but this was difficult for the traditional project methodology to manage.

Prototyping became a series of small waterfalls, which worked for a while but still had the inherent limitations associated with it.

Something new had to be designed, and the profession turned to the software development and engineering industries, and discovered Agile. A cyclical set of activities called Sprints, during which an agreed set of requirements were designed, built and tested in a short time frame.


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About the Author

laurence-nicholasonflag-ukLaurence Nicholson


Laurence Nicholson has over 25 years Project and Programme Managment experience across a wide variety of industries and all sectors, including private, public and voluntary. He has penned many articles over the years and had some translated into numerous languages.

He has been responsible for leading change and improvement through strategic reviews and the introduction of methods and processes in project management and quality systems, including Programme management office processes and governance. He has also managed risk and communications management of project portfolios and the development of training and coaching in project management techniques for a number of leading world class organisations.

Has previously been divisional head with WarnerBros IT and with ProcServe, operating at the CxO level both internally and externally. Passionate about continuous improvement, constantly strives for process and operational efficiencies. Laurence comes from a PA Consulting background that drives a desire for efficiency, innovation and best practice through alignment of strategic objectives.

Specialties: Project and Programme Management, Change Management, Quality Assurance, Software Development Managment, Development Programme Management, Procurement, Resource Management and Divisional Management.

Contact email: [email protected]