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Governing Agile
the changing role of project controls in an ‘agile’ environment

Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men.
Douglas Bader

Keywords: Governance, Agile. 

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Governing Agile – the changing role of project controls in an ‘agile’ environment   [P177]

You cannot manage things you cannot control, and you cannot control things you cannot measure but how can these tried and tested mantras be applied to an inherently unpredictable process such as agile? It is no longer acceptable for ‘agile anarchists’ to advocate ‘trust us, we are all above average and because we are all above average you will get great outcomes’ (their limited mathematics is frightening enough). Similarly the ‘water-scrum-fall’ approach of trying to fit agile/scrum development inside a predetermined plan leading to the inevitable fall failure has been discredited by major disasters in the UK.

A better approach is needed to eliminate the biggest risk to agile as a project delivery strategy, the increasing number of high profile failures. This requires the development of effective governance and controls systems that actively support successful agile implementations – the focus of this presentation.

Governance is the system by which organisations are directed and controlled. The governance structure specifies the distribution of rights and responsibilities among different participants in the organisation, and spells out the rules and procedures for making decisions. It also provides the structure through which the organisation’s objectives are set, and the means of attaining those objectives and monitoring performance. Project governance is a key subset of organizational governance and project controls provide the means by which project performance is monitored and controlled.

These concepts are relatively easy to implement when the project’s scope, cost and time objectives are baselined and variations are managed through a structured change control process – the realm of traditional project management. They become more important, but also much harder to implement when the project is a journey of exploration being developed iteratively – the realm of agile. A new paradigm is needed to allow effective governance oversight within the evolving agile framework.

This paper will describe situations where Agile offers a clear advantage and then describe how the overall governance structure and project controls systems need to adapt to provide valuable support to the Agile processes whilst still generating accurate information for use at the higher levels of management and in the organisation’s governance systems.  This paper will suggest an appropriate framework for the overall governance of agile projects (including the role of a steering committee) and outline the controls framework needed to support both the management and the governance of the project

Author:  Patrick Weaver

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