If you are leading a team using agile methodologies, you have probably already encountered situations where you had to improvise using feeling to provide responses to customers or supervisors. Allow me to explain:

Let’s suppose you are involved with development of a new product, which has various parts that are to be developed by different teams. The project is already ongoing, each team’s backlogs have already been assembled and some sprints were already finished. One fine day, the manager in one of these areas says that their line will need to stop for a one-week period within one month and this means that the manager needs to know when the part being developed by their team will be necessary.

How can these and other questions be answered without a timeline?

You’re probably wondering: Aren’t timelines traditional methodology instruments? Doesn’t their use go against agile principles?

The dosage is what distinguishes remedy from poison

Agile principles encourage a variety of customer-focused attitudes, improved communication and constant deliveries. A timeline that integrates all parties in a large project will surely help in achieving these goals. At any rate, this doesn’t mean your timeline will need to have every task and interdependency that a traditional timeline would have. Details on what should be done will still be on the cards representing the details of stories. Your Gantt will only need to have project milestones, release, sprints and stories.  Don’t give into the desire to want to “see” your post-its in the timeline; this will only make your project more confusing and frequently out of date.

 

Likewise, we will not have details down to the level of activities; it doesn’t make sense to try to assign people responsibility for execution of tasks. Resolve this by informing the team responsible for that delivery and only establish priorities and predecessors if they actually exist. The rule is to make the timeline as flexible as possible, registering only what is truly essential.

Defining times based on the number of sprints

Once your sprints have a predefined and established size (two weeks, for instance), you just need to verify how many sprints will be necessary to finish a given delivery in order to estimate when major milestones will be reached and the project will consequently be finalized. The Release Plan contains the information needed for this task. 

Facilitate communication and synchronization between teams

Timelines are especially useful in large and complex projects. They make it much easier and efficient to communicate the project’s progress and synchronize work involving multiple teams, as we saw above.

 

Managing the project with a timeline makes it easier to predict when an external resource will be necessary or when another team will need to make their delivery.

From macro to micro

The idea of the timeline in this type of approach is to supply an “overview” that provides an idea of the object as a whole. Operational details, team’s day-to-day and the progress of stories is still on Kanban cards and in burndown reports. This means that the team still has the self-determination and flexibility proposed by the agile method, and at the end of these phases, registration is done on the timeline.

Transparency and credibility for stakeholders

Agile tools are excellent for controlling execution of activities at the local level, within teams. The focus for them is usually in a relatively short horizon, aimed at future deliveries, which is perfectly correct. This is the agile spirit: delivering value for the customer as quickly as possible and constantly.

Yet a comprehensive view is missing, which shows the general progress of the project, helping to control costs and with predictability in joint projects. Timelines that have a suitable level of detail add to this tool insofar as they provide stakeholders with a broad view of the project’s progress, conveying credibility to the team.

Benefits of using timelines

1. Strategic focus

In addition to the more apparent and practical benefits already mentioned throughout the article, there is one more that is less obvious, yet very important. By providing the team with a broader view of the project, the timeline helps members to understand the objective of the work they are performing and how it fits into the company’s strategy. It also improves visibility for the project and the team in relation to the company.

2. Budgetary and cost control

When a project’s resources are planned over time, it allows for more enhanced budgetary and cost control. And this can be even easier by using a specialized project management tool, such as SoftExpert Project.

3. Greater predictability in procurement and contracts

By knowing ahead of time when a given resource will be necessary, you will be able to plan ahead to make an acquisition or schedule a reservation, if you have a shared resource.

4. Improved productivity

By using timelines, you gain automatic control over times and this offers a range of possibilities to extract indicators and improve productivity. The tip here is once again not to want to play sheriff and monitor everything. Choose some relevant indicators and use them to improve productivity.

5. Improve articulation and synchronization with other teams

Another aspect that it is important to highlight is improved articulation between areas and teams. With better predictability of the need for a certain resource or product part, there are fewer conflicts and urgent delivery needs.

Now that you’ve seen how to best take advantage of agile methodologies with the support of traditional project management tools, I would like to invite you to learn about SoftExpert Kanban, Agile management software that lets you plan, organize, prioritize and monitor activities and workflows in a collaborative space implementing SCRUM framework.  Take advantage of the versatility of SoftExpert Project, a 100% web-based software solution that allows you to easily manage projects, products, people, services and finances.

 

Laurides Dozol

Author

Laurides Dozol

MBA in Enterprise Management from FGV. Business and market analyst at SoftExpert, a software provider for enterprise-wide business processes automation, improvement, compliance management and corporate governance.

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