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Refactor Your PMP: Time Management

Mike Cottmeyer Chief Executive Officer
Reading: Refactor Your PMP: Time Management

The first knowledge area we are going to tackle is Time Management. According to PMI, time management involves those processes that contribute to the on-time completion of the project. This knowledge area includes six project management processes designed to accomplish this goal. We’ll explore all six and see how we can adapt these processes to make them a little more Agile.

Activity Definition

PMI Definition: Identifying the specific schedule activities that need to be performed to produce the various project deliverables.

To make this process more agile, you first need to think in terms of defining the features of the system, not the activities. Up front we want to know how the system is going to behave. These feature specifications need to be small and independent of each other. Agile teams usually call these features a user story or a backlog item. Collectively the list of product features is called the product backlog. The backlog represents the scope of an agile project.

Activity Sequencing

PMI Definition: Identifying and documenting dependencies among schedule activities

While discussing activity definition, we stated that the backlog items need to be independent of each other. The reason they need to be independent is because we want to have the ability to change requirements as our understanding of the evolving system changes. By definition we are seeking to minimize the dependencies between the work items on our project. Sequencing on an agile project is based less on dependencies and more on risk and business value. We want to focus on sequencing based on which features are going to reduce the most risk and deliver the most value as early in the project as possible.

Activity Resource Estimating

PMI Definition: Estimating the type and quantities of resources required to perform each schedule activity.

In traditional project management approaches, we are usually trying to determine the type and quantities of resources when we know the least about what it is we are going to build. Spending time and money to get a better understanding of these variables is not going to yield a substantial return. Agile approaches use a technique of estimating that relies on the collective understanding of the team to determine a relative size estimate of the feature, often measured in units such as story points or ideal engineering hours. These units only asses the size of the feature relative to the other features in the backlog.

Activity Duration Estimating

PMI Definition: Estimating the number of work periods that will be needed to complete individual schedule activities

We’ve discussed that each feature in the backlog needs to be small. Our goal is to have every backlog item small enough that it can be delivered within a single iteration. Agile teams build in this constraint and then measure how many features they are able to complete in a given iteration. By measuring how many story points, or ideal hours, they are able to complete each iteration, the team can predict how many iterations it will take to complete the backlog.

Schedule Development

PMI Definition: Analyzing activity sequences, durations, resource requirements, and schedule constraints to create the project schedule

Typical agile projects begin with a time constraint, iterations are fixed periods of time and release schedules are usually established at some fixed interval. Each of these are set by the team and the product owner, but once set do not change. That language might sound a little strong but agile is about building trust with your customer. Good agile teams can always make their date, it is the scope that will vary.

Schedule Control

PMI Definition: Controlling changes to the project schedule

Because the iteration and release timeframes are fixed, it all comes down to a discussion around scope. These discussions are a constant collaborative effort between the product owner and the team. The product owner always has the option of adding additional iterations to include more features. Because the features are discrete, and the team is always working on the highest priority features first, the product owner also has the option of calling the project complete at the end of any iteration.

As always, if you think there is anything I left out, or should have dealt with in more detail, please let me know via response to this post. I speak on this subject quite a bit so anything you have to contribute to make this brief explanation more understandable would be really appreciated.

Next up we’ll deal with cost management processes.

Next Agile Managers?

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