Project Manager: An agile approach is easier to work with

Business Project Manager Søren Bech has employed the agile methodology in connection with two complex SAP implementations in a large Danish food company. He was supported by Lasse Sørensen in his capacity as an agile coach. The methodology was unfamiliar to everyone working at the company, and even though the first attempt was a great success, Hansen found that the project work became even easier the second time.

“When we worked with an agile approach on the first SAP project, none of us here in the company had any experience with agile project management,” Hansen explained. “The second time, approximately half of the project staff had some familiarity with it, which meant that we could draw upon a lot of prior experience in the new project. For example, we now knew how to go about making a product breakdown structure and had a much better idea of what our objectives were.”

Physical presence is an advantage

“In many ways it’s really helpful to have people who have tried it before,” Hansen continued. “You don’t have to repeat as many things, and those who are unfamiliar with the methodology can ask the others for advice. Things have run more smoothly with this second project because of that. I particularly think that those who were physically present throughout the project found it easy to adapt, because they could see that the agile work approach gave the project a logical structure. When all sub-tasks are written on a single whiteboard, it’s easier to understand what needs to happen, but it does require you to be physically present, of course.”

Important that everyone stays true to the methodology

“On the other hand, there have been some subcontractors who have not found as easy to understand why they had to work in accordance with an agile approach, as they were perhaps used to working in a completely different way. However, we realised after the first project that it was important for everyone to stay true to the methodology, so we have made sure no one strays from it. Eventually – and fortunately – it became a process that ran itself, not least internally.”

Well-prepared after the first project

Lasse Sørensen was attached to both projects as an agile coach, but he was less present on the second one. As Hansen explained: “In the first project we needed Lasse’s help quite often as we had no prior experience with agile project management, but in the second project we felt we were capable of handling things more independently. So we mostly used Lasse at the very beginning of the project and when we moved between sprints. One of the things he was excellent at was helping each of the teams make the plans they had to, after which the rest of us with prior agile experience from the first project could take over. It’s been a really good mix.”

Many advantages to agile project management

Hansen has found many advantages to agile project management, particularly in relation to the big picture and planning. As he explained: “Thanks to the product breakdown structure, you get a much better sense of how the solution works. It’s all visualised on a shared wall, which makes it very easy to see what kind of solution you are about to deliver and what is needed to deliver it. In other words, the agile methodology gives you a good short-term plan which you can constantly re-evaluate as the work progresses. It works really well!”

A methodology nerd with an infectious enthusiasm

Although they did not require as much specialist advice in the second project, Hansen is still pleased to have had Sørensen along for the ride both times.

“Lasse is great at what he does – a real methodology nerd, and I mean that in a good way. He made sure we got off to a good start and that we got an overview and shared understanding of what we had to do. Furthermore, he always shows up in high spirits. That’s how he gets people on board, even though they sometimes want to cut corners. So he definitely had a knock-on effect that has been beneficial for the project,” Hansen said.

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