A common question is how to run large agile projects? Answer: You don’t! You break them into multiple small projects.
But that puts greater emphasis on two disciplines that many organisations simply don’t have…
Architecture, and Programme Management.
Admittedly, the discipline of Programme Management is similar to Project Management. Maybe more experienced Project Managers can run programmes. But there is a subtle difference and it requires a different approach.
And the discipline of Programme Architecture is different to Solution Design. Maybe I’ve been unlucky, but in my experience this is a scarce skill.
Programme Architects need the ability to have a deeply technical background, yet also be able to see the bigger picture. The ability to bridge the gap between business vision and technology solution. The ability to distill complex problems into clear solutions, with minimised and clear dependencies. The ability to break a solution into loosely coupled, independent elements that can be developed separately by autonomous agile teams.
For me, having these skills is a critical success factor for major projects – especially with an agile development approach, because of the incremental nature of it. Without these skills, you run the very real risk of failure.