When thinking of Agile and Microsoft you will instantly think of Visual Studio or Team Foundation Server, tools that are often used for scrum and software development within IT teams. Additionally, there are several lightweight tools within the Office365 platform that support the agile way of working. This blog compares two solutions that have been fully integrated within Project Online: agile in Microsoft Project and the Edison365 Agile App. If you want to know more about how Edison365 works you can watch this video for an impression.
Both solutions have agile functionality that can be used combined with traditional waterfall project plans. These solutions will not meet the needs of agilists and organizations who have completely transitioned to the agile way of working. For organizations that are still mostly driven by traditional waterfall project management this could be a good way to 'get acquainted' with agile or to combine both worlds.
In Microsoft Project it's only possible to create sprints after you have earmarked that the project will be executed in an agile way. The sprints however aren't visible in your project plan.
In the Edison365 Agile App sprints are visible. You define your sprints as tasks in your project plan. Then you define that you want to manage these sprints in the Agile App.
Figure 1: MS Project: defining of sprints in a pop-up
Figure 2: Edison365 Agile App: defining sprints in the Gantt chart
Creating your backlog
Microsoft Project does not enable users to define features and user stories within sprints. You define a list of tasks and those tasks then appear on a backlog. It is possible to assign these tasks to sprints by using drag and drop functionality.
Edison365 Agile allows users to define user stories or features (you can choose your own terminology) and enables users to add more detailed tasks. Through drag and drop functionality you can easily link the tasks to stories.
Figure 3: MS Project: Link detailed tasks to sprints
Figure 4: Edison365 Agile App: Link detailed tasks to user stories and user stories to sprints
This is the part where agile and waterfall methods clash. Story points versus planned hours, t-shirt size versus resource usage. I will not go into detail about these topics in this blog, but below I will detail how they functionally work in the aforementioned solutions.
Now that we have registered the details, we would like to see what the impact is on our project plan. We will use the Project Gantt view for this.
Figure 5: MS Project: the detailed tasks are shown in the Gantt chart
Figure 6: Edison365 Agile App, the sprints are shown in the project plan
What we see here is that the project plan does not change in the Agile App. The tasks that you added in the agile functionality of MS Project have also been added to your project plan. Even though you have linked the tasks to sprints with a start and end date these dates will not be transferred to the tasks.
The Agile Team
Working agile within a traditional project still requires allocating employees to tasks in the project plan. This is done to show the impact on capacity and because usually organizations still require people to register their worked hours. Both agile solutions require you to create a project team.
For the agile functionality of MS Project, you can use Team Resources from Project Online. This works when you know which team will be working on a certain task, but you aren't sure which specific resource. Through the timesheets team members can assign tasks to themselves.
In the Agile App you assign resources to sprints, not tasks. Considering capacity planning and time registration it can also be a good idea to work with Team Resources. If you want to assign tasks to resources, you need to assign individual resources to sprints.
When assigning team resources and/or individual resources you should always consider the impact the assignments have on lead time and planned work.
Execution of work
During the sprint you can see the biggest differences which are summarized in the following table.
Figure 7: MS Project, execution through the Sprint Planning View
Figure 8: Agile App, execution through the Kanban Board
What you see here is that within MS Project the project manager still must make all the changes whereas in the Edison365 Agile App the scrum team can change statuses. In practice this should not lead to any problems seeing as these plans are usually adjusted by a project manager during the daily standups.
Working agile within a waterfall project has many challenges but also presents several opportunities. You should ask yourself whether the projects that aren't working in a waterfall manner are actually being executed in an agile way and whether business agility (high responsiveness to change) is increasing flexibility.
The power of the agile functionality in Microsoft Project is that you can easily create a kanban board which can be used to visually link tasks to sprints and change the status of tasks. It's an easy way to familiarize yourself with certain agile aspects which will be a crowd pleaser for the most avid MS Project users. In the future I would like to see sprints being added to the project plan so linked tasks can adopt the start and end date of a sprint.
The Edison365 Agile App is a more mature agile tool which accommodates stories, issues, bugs and documentation. You plan your sprints in Microsoft Project and all details are added through the separate Agile App. Yes, this leads to having to use two different tools but they both offer functionality which you need to work in a waterfall way and agile.