Critical Analysis of Traditional and Agile Project Management

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 2 October 2016

Critical Analysis of Traditional and Agile Project Management


Project is an effort taken to build something unique within a specific period. (PMBOK, 2004: 20). This means that a project has a starting and an ending which has to be completed within the specified time. For a project to be completed within time limit and with little or no flaws, a plan has to be put in place so as to get a desired result. Project planning is the determination of the progress of a project to be carried out in a serial manner. (Successful Project Management, 2011: 57). Project planning is very essential in managing a project and will be discussed in detail specifically in traditional and agile project management which is the two major project management approaches. Critical analysis of these two approaches in respect to project planning will be given. That is treating the necessary processes in planning a project. Tools, techniques, and project lifecycle models used in project management will be explored.


Traditional project management

TPM is a set of technique and tools that can be applied to an activity that seeks an end product, outcomes or service. This is a well taught out planning process which has a very strict control method that makes distinguishable stages in a project life cycle (hass, 2007). Requirement such as scope, cost and time are determined upfront, followed plans are also well laid out and once laid out, it cannot be modified. Due to this, life cycles are easily recognizable. Task are completed one after another once completed, it cannot be revisited. In TPM, a lot of importance is attached to documentation of business needs thereby stakeholders needs are already known (Leybourne, 2009).

TPM is based on the fact that situations surrounding project and activities are predictable and manageable (Hass 2007, Yusuf et al 1999). TPM views each project level as a separate process whose outcome or completion has an effect on how and when subsequent levels begin (caddle and Yeates 2008; Thonsett 2012). According to Larman (2004), a well thought out rule on project team members’ responsibilities are determined at the planning phase. This makes team members accountable for the project which ensures control (Saladis and Kezner, 2009). Examples of traditional models are:

2. Waterfall
3. Event chain
4. CA-PPM.
Agile project management

APM is all about incremental iteration, adaptability, agility and collaboration (Scuh, 2005; Larman, 2004). It takes individual and iteration contribution over process and tools. It lays emphasis on short cycles of structure which happen at different levels and also emphasis on feedback (Hass, 2007). All plans are revisited to get certainty of delivery. APM sees the project as product increment. Due to its lack of structure, it requires a considerable amount of discipline and coordination.

APM allows project scope to change rapidly and frequently which is done by constant communication with project stakeholders. APM teams consist of skilled members fully dedicated to the project and are co-located (Hass, 2007; Wysocki). The whole idea of what APM is all about is based on the agile manifesto. It was put forward by Martin Fowler and Jim Highsmith (wysocki,). Its content are given below: “We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value: Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan
That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.”

Types of agile project management approaches are as follows:
1. Agile Unified Process (AUP)
2. Scrum
3. Lean Software Development
4. Extreme Programming (XP)
5. Dynamic Systems Development Method
6. Feature Driven Development

Scope Planning

Scope planning is a process that describes and documents the boundaries of a project and project expectation. TPM is a rigid approach that gives no room to change once the scope plan has been created. Plans are made to prevent change in project scope. It focuses on developing all parts of the scope first. Documentation is very detailed trying to encompass the whole requirement. The project scope statement consists of the objective and boundaries of the project and also product specification.

Work breakdown structure is then created. In TPM, steps are taken that the team sticks to the scope of the project. Scope planning in APM is a high-level activity because little is known of the solution. Change is a key part of APM, making the scope very flexible. The scope is constantly redefined due to the series of iterations. Ideas could be added at stage of the project. Documentations is present but not as detailed as in TPM. APM focuses on developing the most important part of the scope first and then proceed to the next.

Human Resource Planning

In TPM, team is usually large in number and consists of various levels of skilled members. The teams are very organized. The teams don’t make decisions on their own without the approval of senior managers. APM team members are proficient and are highly skilled, they are collocated in order to handle changes in project scope and also performance, communication and more so, interrelation. APM consists of small team, members are mostly between five and nine, and they also are highly productive. Agile teams are self-organizing and disciplined (Hewson, 2006). Agile teams are basically independent.

Risk Planning

TPM assumes that there will be risk in the project. This is put into consideration at the planning of the project and measures are put in place to handle it. Projects in APM are volatile and very unstable because the solutions are not known. Every iteration cycle comes with its own risks. These risks are expected and are handled sequentially when it arises during project (Owen et al, 2006). Proponents of agile approach argue that dealing with real risk is better than preparing for unknown risk (Schuh, 2005).


Quality in agile is often determined by the regular feedback and acknowledgement of the customer’s view of the quality of the product. Time planning: In traditional approach, time estimation is dependent on the amount of tasks to be executed. Time estimation is done right after the WBS is created. Effort is made in other to complete the project within the required time (Hass, 2007). In agile approach, time estimation is based on features. The numbers of features to be developed determine the amount of time that will be used. Scheduling and workflow are also closely aligned. Management style: In TPM, the project manager is responsible solely for the planning and allocation of responsibilities (Kerzner, 2003).

Traditional project managers focus more on the schedule, scope and budget (Fernandez and Fernandez, 2009). In APM, the project manager works in collaboration with the team (Hass, 2007). Agile managers focus more on the business value and deliverables (Fernandez and Fernandez, 2009). Cost management: Agile projects should be based on either a cost-reimbursable system, or the client accepts scope is a variable based on achieving the maximum improvement possible for a pre-set budget. This is a totally different philosophy to traditional project governance.

Tools, Technique, models, and Project Lifecycle Models

There are numerous tool and technique that can be utilized in the course of planning a project which include: Gantt chart is a graphical representation for scheduling the execution of various project activities. It can be used to make an approximation of time required to complete the project. Brainstorming involves the assembling of idea by a group of people in order to solve problem and to arrive at a conclusion. It is essential in development of new ideas. Work breakdown structure (WBS) is the breaking down of project into smaller more manageable pieces in a hierarchical order. Each level in WBS is a smaller piece of the level above. Fishbone diagram is also known as cause-and-effect diagram. It is used to check the cause of a specific event.

They also help during the collating and analyzing factors phase of project planning. Critical Path Method involves dealing with activities that has to be completed in order for other activities to be completed. It helps in the sequencing and correlating of interdependent processes. PERT Chart is a representation that shows the task to be performed serially in a graphical form. It helps to focus more on the most critical part of the project in order to reduce constriction. Project Charter is a document that formally authorizes a project statement. It contains project justification, business needs and so on. . (PMBOK, 2004) Scope Statement ensures that only the required work is done. That is work is not done out of scope of the project.

Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

WBS is a deliverable-oriented hierarchical decomposition of the work to be done by the project team, to accomplish the project objectives and create the required deliverables. WBS is a tool which focuses on how a project work should be done. It breaks down the work to be done into smaller sections that can be managed by the project team, each section give details of the project work as such giving team understanding of what do(Biafore, 2011). WBS can be depicted as an outline or a diagram (Biafore, 2011). The number of levels present in a WBS should be reasonable as this is determined by how voluminous and complex the project is. WBS helps in d identification of task, brings to light what d project entails and a lot of other tools depend on WBS. It also allows stakeholders have an understanding of the scope of the project (Biafore, 2011).

PERT Chart (Project Evaluation and Review Technique)

It is visual illustration of a project plan task. It document important or critical phases of a project. It helps to identify critical processes and the time that the process will end. It can also help in the documentation of a project. It helps in the organizing and scheduling of interrelated tasks in a complex project (Chinneck, 2009). It does this by using a network description to show parallel relationships between tasks (Chinneck, 2009). It helps in the completion of each task in other of precedence. It is a very important tool for tracking project activities and milestones. PERT enables the project team to handle task in order of importance. It also deal with uncertainty in process completion dates and determines activities start and end dates. Finally, PERT chart can be adjusted at anytime in the duration of the project.

Linear Project Management Lifecycle Model

This is a simple TPM approach which does not allow for returning to a project which has previously been completed. (Effective : 329). This means that once a phase in a project is completed, there will be no room to do any kind of adjustment.

Incremental Project Management Lifecycle Model

It is a traditional TPM in which unlike linear. It releases a solution to each phase of the project and it also emphasis on customer value than the linear approach. (Fernandez, Fernandez).

Iterative Project Management Lifecycle Model

In the iterative PMLC, change is required as it is the important part of the model. It is a learn by doing strategy. (Fernandez, Fernandez). All iteration consists of feedback loop, and it involves more clients and customers than incremental.

Adaptive Project Management Lifecycle Model

This is a PMLC that almost nothing is known about the solution and almost all of it are designed for software development project. It deals with a high level of uncertainty because little is known of the end product.

Extreme Project Management Lifecycle Model

In this model, there is no broad knowledge and solution about the project. The level of uncertainty is high and also that of clients too. CONCLUSION
After looking at the two approaches, it is seen that both approaches are good and can work perfectly well depending on the project at hand. TPM due to its detailed planning is the preferred choice for structured project. It is used in large projects that have well understood features and requirements and which involves large teams. Also, TPM is suitable for project that requires little change. APM is the preferred choice for unstructured projects. These kinds of projects have a high level of uncertainty and unpredictability about them. APM unlike TPM involves smaller projects.


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  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 2 October 2016

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