Is The Need For Projects Dead?

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On BAU (Business As Usual) development, an agile approach makes a lot of sense.

Moving through iterations, working on features from the Product Backlog, collaborating with stakeholders about the requirements for each feature, delivering working software incrementally.

But what about Projects? (that’s Projects with a capital P). In an agile environment, do we still need Projects?

Or is everything literally broken down into small incremental pieces. And Projects, as we knew them, cease to exist?

Imagine life without Projects… Bliss! Or would teams just slip into a treadmill of ongoing Sprints and lack any real purpose.


One thing Projects definitely do provide, usually in abundance, is focus. And a real sense of pressure to deliver. With that pressure, often comes intellectual challenge, motivation, team spirit, and a bunch of other positive things too.

Unfortunately, with that pressure Projects also often come with a lot of hassle, over-spending, late delivery, features that don’t meet expectations, and a lot of disappointment.

But the reality is, Projects are still necessary in an agile environment.

If for no other reason, they are necessary because the people funding the Project (whether that’s external customers or internal sponsors) expect to know what the outcome will be, if they invest their hard-earned money in your Project.

What, exactly, will I get? Exactly how long will it take? What exactly will it cost? How can you assure me the project will be a success?

Obviously in traditional software development projects, people have known these details precisely, because they’ve specified everything up-front and planned everything in detail πŸ™‚ And of course things are always then delivered to those expectations, right? πŸ™‚

Of course not.

Of course we all know it’s a false sense of security, and in reality there is little that will really assure the people funding the Project that they will actually get everything they wished for, on time and in budget. According to independent research, 75% of projects fail to meet expectations. Fact.

But still, Board members and customers continue to expect the impossible. Expecting development teams to predict, up-front, the outcome of their Project in terms of cost, time and quality/scope/features. Fixing all three dimensions.

Unfortunately, however, this is the culture in which most companies operate. It’s what they are used to.

Until the 2nd or 3rd generation of agile teams is coming through, and the 1st generation of agilists are in senior positions of influence with customers or the Board, this false expectation will continue to exist.

So Projects are necessary. A necessary evil, maybe? But necessary.