Case Study

Agile Values and Project Management Work to Success

Are project managers really obsolete in the lean agile environment?


This global aviation client had been using agile practices for software development with a dedicated development team lead by a Scrum Master. On the business side, the Product Owner and Product Manager worked with the client’s customers to identify software features and enhancements. While the client embraced agile values, due to the regulatory nature of its business they had to meet required  internal gates and standards. Even in a lean agile workspace they found they needed a singular focused project manager to facilitate the creation of a repeatable process that covered their regulatory gates and facilitated a successful product release to market.

The Story

Over several years, this global aviation client had developed multiple versions of iOS software for commercial use. With the help of the Product Manager, existing and new customers now requested additional features and enhancements. The development team was doing a good job completing the enhancements, but the team lacked project management  processes and ownership for the release of the product enhancements to market.

Because of the lack of project management process, sometimes steps were missed, and communication to update stakeholders was inconsistent. Upper management often wasn’t sure of the project’s status. And critically, no repeatable processes had been documented and validated.

The lack of a repeatable processes put the company at risk of failing compliance to the many exacting regulations [for aviation software]. By adding a team member focused on compliance and practices repeatable processes were established.

Project Manager and agile values

The Project Manager’s first task was to identify and catalog all the activities after feature development. Things considered were:

  • Code build and established steps for release to testing
  • Testing Timeline including test case automation
  • Communication of updates to the timeline across teams and up the management chain
  • Regulatory review
  • Release steps and checklists

If you can't figure out what is causing a specific issue, let a consultant analyze the process.

The addition of a Project Manager helped the team define all tasks, risks, issues, and dependencies to keep the team focused on delivering value to the market. The Project Manager helped with the organization of processes and testing plans, communication across teams including executive management, and clearly documenting a repeatable system for release management. A plan was developed and refined over iterations, resulting in smoother releases to market.

So how did project management exhibit agile values?

Individuals and interactions, over processes and tools

The Project Manager was closely aligned with both the business and development teams, working with them to make sure what was being discussed during program increment planning was reflected in the release project plan. The Project Manager attended the daily standups in order to capture  discussion items that needed to be incorporated into the project plan.

Working software, over comprehensive documentation

The Project Manager worked with the business team and a technical writer to make sure there was sufficient detail in the release notes. This allowed the development team to focus on executing clean working code, and gave the release notes the focused attention of others.

Customer collaboration, over contract negotiation

For this project, the Product Owner collaborated with customers. The Project Manager was in a consultative role to make sure any features were shared early (prior to formal release) for customer review and feedback.

Responding to change, rather than following a plan

Yes, there was a project plan for each release. It contained all the known activities but only the high-level dates were published and always with the caveat that they were tentative. Once dates were published, the stakeholders were notified of changes. The project plan was incrementally developed, and dates were adjusted as code was ready for testing and release.

Transparency and an improved release

The Project Manager became the calm but driving force in making sure the team stayed on track. The development team gained a reputation for meeting all internal gates and generated trust by maximizing transparency supported by their improved communication with stakeholders. Senior leaders grew confident the team would take ownership of all tasks and provide a smooth release to market. And, due to the establishment of repeatable process, the development team was able to repeat and continue to improve on those processes, resulting in greater success in the market.

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