Untangle the perils from the promises of Agile Project Delivery

Authors: Chris Oxborough, Partner and Dr Andrew Schuster, Director, PwC UK’s Technology Risk practice

Organisations are having to cope with the need to adapt or radically change operating models to meet the demands of a rapidly changing market place. More than ever before, they need to be increasingly flexible to succeed in today’s evolving landscape of digital change.  As a result, many project managers are turning to Agile Project Delivery (APD) methods as a way to deliver the technology-enabled changes that are needed to help their organisations thrive.

What is unique about Agile Project Delivery?
Agile Project Delivery strives to deliver products through disciplined, proven practices and allows for adjustments based on continuous stakeholder and customer feedback, thereby increasing speed to market. It is a value-driven approach that can give organisations the capacity to deliver high-priority, high-quality work and create lasting meaningful relationships with stakeholders. APD differs from traditional project delivery in four fundamental ways (see table). Four values WEB
Embedded into every facet of APD, these four values set the tone for a successful result through a change in cultural mindset, incremental working prototypes, stakeholder collaboration and readiness to respond to change. They shift the emphasis away from delivering the project by following a detailed pre-established plan to working with people to deliver meaningful outputs more gradually.  This approach tends to lower risk as it provides the opportunity to respond early in the delivery lifecycle. Traditional project delivery has high visibility at the beginning and end of a project. Agile, on the other hand, aims to reduce and mitigate risks through its ongoing visibility and continuous improvement approach.

Is Agile right for you? Its perils can outweigh the promises
Although APD can introduce possibilities for improving successful delivery, it can also introduce perils for your organisation. For example:

  • there must be consistently high levels of senior decision maker involvement throughout delivery, which can take time away from other priorities
  • team resources must be highly engaged and available, which may divert resources and funding from other work
  • the APD environment must operate within a mature and stable governance context, otherwise it loses its flexibility and cannot operate as intended.

If your organisation is not able to create an environment where Agile can operate well, you may want to consider alternative project management methodologies. If, however, the promises are compelling and the perils are managed, APD may be right for you. 

Assuring Agile Project Delivery
Achieving the full value from Agile Project Delivery requires continuous planning and a commitment to proactive and embedded assurance as part of an Agile transformation.

Organisations that successfully employ ADP methods ensure they have the right governance and controls in place. You must make your organisation ready before you embark on APD. To do this, leading organisations develop a framework to take into account a number of factors that consider the principles of good project management and Agile methodology practices. This includes:

  • Assurance to management, sponsors, IT, risk teams, and internal audit on Agile governance, controls, culture and change management
  • Safeguards to the delivery team and internal audit so that they can be effective and enable Agile
  • Guidelines for building a corporate Agile Centre of Excellence that reinforces the governance and culture around the methodology
  • Confidence that the fundamentals of Agile are embedded into ways of working such as risk management and training.

Our Agile Delivery Confidence Framework can help organisations make assessments against these essential elements of project management, governance, cost, and measurement of value delivery. Find out more in Agile Project Delivery Confidence: Mitigate project risks and deliver value to your business. The paper explores how you can create value for your organisation by building the right capabilities, unleashing your potential and gaining confidence to deliver the best product to market, while minimising delivery risks.

  Chris OxboroughChris Oxborough is a partner in PwC UK’s Technology Risk practice. In this capacity, he brings together a broad set of technology risk capabilities including data and analytics, cyber, strategy and transformation, technology operations and integration and emerging technology capabilities.

Connect with Chris on LinkedIn



AndrewDr Andrew Schuster is a Director in PwC UK’s Technology Risk practice, a role in which he focuses on providing strategy and transformation assurance to a range of clients. He also drives the development of global and national propositions and capabilities.

Connect with Andrew on LinkedIn
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Great article. Organizations relying on software project delivery for success can use the principles presented here to not only meet changing market demands, but to instill them into their cultural fabric. Change is hard. But if your organization is ready, these suggestions are a great starting point.

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