What is agile project management?

Mind map depicting agile project management with post-it notes
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Feb 13, 2023

Agile project management is an incremental, iterative approach to managing and delivering projects.

Initially designed with software development projects in mind, the agile methodology has since been adopted by other industries because of its adaptable, non-linear approach, as well as the fact that it typically delivers benefits sooner than other project management methods. 

Agile project management: how it works

Agile projects are managed at a brisk pace, often with several strands or increments of work occurring concurrently. The project will first be broken down into smaller pieces, and each of these pieces of work will be completed during a dedicated period of time called a sprint.

A sprint typically lasts a few weeks, and once the sprint is finished, its segment of work is released. For example, if the sprint was dedicated to creating a feature within a piece of software, that feature should now be ready for live users, even if the wider software project is still ongoing. 

As the next sprint begins, stakeholders’ or customer feedback can also be collected about previous iterations of work. This ensures the project is always moving in the right direction – and if it’s not, it has time to re-evaluate, adapt, and correct course in real-time.

Examples of agile project management tools and agile frameworks


Scrum is the framework that’s used to manage sprints. It’s a collaborative process that considers all of the work that needs to be done – called the backlog – then prioritises it and moves work through the sprint workflow.

Scrums are typically led by a scrum master, and will also include the relevant product owner or owners, as well as the rest of a dedicated scrum team of people who are tasked with completing the work. This might include the development team, project teams, and others involved in the development lifecycle.

Scrums also have four regular meetings, often called ceremonies:

  1. Sprint planning. The sprint planning meeting considers the product backlog and determines what work items will be completed during the next sprint.
  2. Sprint demo. The sprint demo meeting is an opportunity for the scrum team members to give a progress update, show off their work, and get feedback.
  3. Daily stand-ups. The daily stand-up meeting is typically about 15 minutes long and includes progress reports and updates. These are also sometimes called the daily scrum.
  4. Retrospective. The sprint retrospective review meeting happens at the end of each sprint to review what happened, determine what went well, and consider opportunities for improvements in future sprints.   


Kanban is the agile project management framework that’s used to manage capacity and continuous process improvements. It relies on what’s called a Kanban board – a dedicated area that showcases all tasks – and has six core practices:

  1. Visualise work
  2. Limit work-in-progress.
  3. Manage flow.
  4. Make process policies explicit.
  5. Implement feedback loops.
  6. Improve collaboratively.

User stories

A user story is the tool that translates customer requirements into development or technical requirements. When considering a piece of work in agile project management, user stories help to explain – in plain, non-technical language – what the customer or end users need, and why they need it. 

What are the four core values of agile?

The agile approach started with what’s known as the Agile Manifesto, created by software developers in the early 2000s. This agile software development manifesto has four core values:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation.
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
  4. Responding to change over following a plan.

The manifesto also includes 12 key agile principles:

  1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  10. Simplicity – the art of maximising the amount of work not done – is essential.
  11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organising teams.
  12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.

What are the five phases of agile project management?

Agile project management has five phases that are commonly cited as essential for agile teams and agile teamwork:

  1. Envision. The first phase involves conceptualising the project, the overall product, and the project team.
  2. Speculate. The second phase is a collaborative effort to list product development requirements, features, a roadmap of project milestones, and so on. 
  3. Explore. The third phase allows the team to explore alternative ideas that fall within project constraints.
  4. Adapt. The fourth phase reviews results delivered so far, and adapts as necessary, with a focus on continuous improvement during development cycles. 
  5. Close. The fifth and final phase measures the final product against requirements. 

What is the difference between agile methodology and other project management methodologies?

There is an ever-growing number of potential project management methodologies to choose from when project planning, but agile has become one of the most popular in the past couple of decades.

Choosing the right project management methodology or project management approach requires an understanding of the project’s requirements, as well as the differences between agile and other forms of project management.

What is the difference between agile and waterfall project management?

Waterfall is a more traditional project management methodology than agile. It favours sequential, linear work, and a single product launch. Agile, on the other hand, allows for work and deliverables to be completed – and launched – in a non-linear fashion.

Learn how to apply agile methods

Explore project management in greater depth and progress into leadership roles within project management teams with the flexible MBA with Project Management at Abertay University. This flexible, 100% online MBA will equip you with the ability to build business cases for change projects, manage resources and risks associated with these projects, and become adept at bringing projects to a successful conclusion.

Project management is one of the key modules on this programme, enabling you to use various tools and techniques to help understand what is going on in your project and to ensure that you develop a quality product, service, or process that is delivered on time, within budget, and to specification.