Success Factors in Agile Project Management

The following paper provides the success factors and predictors of successful agile project management in IT projects. The paper aims to yield insights into the success factors of agile project management that enable IT software developers to complete their projects with ease, efficiency, and expertise. The paper argues that successful agile project management depends on agile projects and organizational environment, agile engineering techniques, the presence of a high-caliber agile project team, a good and efficient agile project management process, and strong customer involvement.

Key words: Agile development, success factors, IT software development, people dimension, process dimension, technical dimension, project dimension.



Agile project management refers to a software engineering conceptual framework that allows developed software to be built over a shorter period, and which has iterations that yield a stable release of software. Over the past years, agile project management has proven that it has capabilities to overcome many challenges presented by the traditional software development methodologies. According to Doherty (2012), agile project management is handled and driven by self-organizing groups with abilities and capabilities to coordinate tasks by themselves. Unlike the traditional software development process, where work was coordinated by managers and clear separation of roles was specified, agile project management has teams that are self-organizing and where team members are free and can innovate whatever they require. Agile project management is organized around competent teams with much power and influence over small parts of their software development processes. Lee and Baby (2013) explain that agile teams have complete control over the project development processes and can control additional new features.

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However, many information technology organizations still base their processes of software development around component teams or plans. Sometimes team members become frustrated, skeptic, and feel denied (Wan & Wang, 2010). All the same, several successful agile software solutions have been developed due to their capability to emphasize the value of individuals working through a software process over comprehensive documentation. Agile project management process also underscores the importance of customer involvement over contract negotiation. It means, therefore, that there are specific success factors that lead to successful agile software development in IT projects. 

Following the above introduction, the paper is organized as follows: First, research questions are provided to guide discussions about the success factors of agile project management. The following sections consist of discussions of the factors considered to be contributing to success in agile project management. The discussed factors include the impact of project environment, the impact of team or people capabilities, the impact of management processes, the impact of technical aspects of the project, and the impact of project aspects. The paper comes to an end by providing a conclusion and pinpointing areas of further research.

Research Questions

The following paper will aim to answer the following questions:

  1. What is the impact of organizational environment on the success of agile project management?
  2. What is the impact of team (people) capabilities on the success of agile project management?
  3. What is the impact of project management processes on agile project management?
  4. What is the impact of software engineering (technical aspect) on agile project management?
  5. What is the impact of scheduler (project aspects) on agile project management?


In most cases, failures of agile projects have been attributed to organizational factors, processes, people factors, and technical factors. Organizational factors involve variables such as culture, training, resources, and rewards. People factors include the interaction between team members, suppliers, and customers and how these interactions directly affect performances of teams. Process factors involve the information on how a project team can follow the agile-oriented needs as well as agile-based configuration management. According to Wan and Wang (2010), the effectiveness of these factors can determine the success or failure of agile software development in IT projects.

The Impact of Organizational Environment

The major factor in the organizational aspect is team environment. The team climate should promote sharing of perceptions, objectives, and organizational goals among team members. Top management can improve agile project management environment by providing support and showing commitment to the project. The project leader’s behavior should demonstrate less micro-environment, more focus on people and facilitating.

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Successful agile projects require a complete cultural move from plan based approaches to management strategies. Agile project management does not encourage overtime work because it is contrary to the principle of offering employees sustainable development. Agile project management helps leaders to develop a high level of trust and avoid doubting the capabilities and professionalism of their staff (Stankovic, Nikolic, Djordjevic, & Cao, 2013). IT organizations involved in agile project management should foster a spirit of cooperation and pay much attention to the spirit of a team. The stakeholders involved should show a consolidation and value requirements. Agile project management environment requires frequent and more intense communication. The environment should be the one that allows for management of software development expectations to avoid issues with customers.

The Agile Manifesto encourages customer collaboration as an essential requirement for successful agile project management. Agile project management provides the highest priority towards achieving high customer satisfaction through continuous delivery of software (Wan & Wang, 2010). To accomplish this, customers must always be available on site together with the software development team. Customers must be highly active and motivated and should consider themselves an important element of project development. Therefore, customer commitment is an important agile project management success factor.

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Successful agile software development teams are always left on their own, and this allows them to take control of their decisions and success. Agile methodologies also highly encourage customer proximity and collaboration during critical decision-making processes.  In agile project management, important decisions are usually made within a very short time, and this does not encourage hierarchical decision making or over-reliance on a single person, like the manager, to settle much-needed issues.

According to Lalsing et al. (2012), the centralized location of agile software development team members is one of the factors that lead to high performances of agile project management. Co-located teams provide an important means of successful communication, thereby making it one of the most important success factors.

The nature of organizational project planning and control is also one of the advantages of agile project management. Internalized plans, as well as qualitative control, are important success factors in IT organizations undertaking agile project management (Stankovic, Nikolic, Djordjevic, & Cao, 2013).

The Impact of People Factors or Team Capabilities

The success of any agile project management depends on the people factors. According to Lee and Baby (2013), human resources are important for agile software development success. Matalonga et al. (2013) suggest that team diversity is an important determinant of a favorable agile project management. The variations of team member qualifications, skills, race, gender, and level of experience may lead to successful agile project management.

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Team members should also have the necessary personal and technical competencies that may impact collaboration and familiarity. Success in bigger software development teams relies heavily on good people. However, having highly qualified personnel may not necessarily mean that the agile project team consists of experienced members (Matalonga, Solari, & Matturro (2013). At the same time, experienced team members may not necessarily provide necessary skills. The implication here is that team members in the case of successful agile project management must show higher levels of collaboration, attitude, honesty, readiness to learn, and sense of responsibility (Stankovic, Nikolic, Djordjevic, & Cao, 2013). The customers should be presented with appropriate, skilled staff that is representative, authorized, knowledgeable, committed, and collaborative. Within agile teams, individuals should possess characteristics such as excellent communication, talent, skill, and amicability.

Team members must also be highly motivated, and the team leaders must be highly knowledgeable concerning agile processes. Project team managers and leaders should have high-touch, adaptive management styles that encourage instant change rather than relying excessively on processes. The people involved in agile project management must also have a good customer relationship (Matalonga, Solari, & Matturro, 2013). The agile project management team must show high levels of coherence and self-organizing teamwork. The team members of a successful agile project should show high levels of competency and must possess experience in the real-world technological domain.

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The number of software development experts is an important consideration for a successful agile software development project. Team members must be composed of experts with capabilities to build teams. According to Bhoola et al. (2013), the composition of experts in agile project management teams should be between 25 percent and 33 percent. For teams undertaking pair programing lower number of experts may suffice.

Training and learning is an important requirement for a successful agile software development project. One of the fundamental differences between traditional project management and agile project management is that agile software development encourages ‘continued learning’. In agile project management teams, team members should show eagerness to share important information with others and be ready to learn from others and the project.

The Impact of Project Management Processes

A successful agile project should have such well-designed quality management processes as process quality assurance, quality assurance program, product testing, product quality evaluation and assurance, and defect management (Matalonga, Solari, & Matturro (2013).

Successful agile project management requires that software development processes should follow agile-oriented requirements. The projects must also follow agile-oriented configuration and management processes (Matalonga, Solari, & Matturro, 2013). The customers must also have full authority.

Successful agile project management involves incremental delivery processes. Project managers can reduce the levels of risk and record increased returns on investment by planning and executing software development projects using incremental approach processes. An incremental process allows organizations to separate its solutions in manageable parts and chunks, and this leads to short feedback loops (Matalonga, Solari, & Matturro, 2013). Other process requirements for a successful agile project include a stronger communication process with possible daily face-to-face meetings, stronger presence and commitment by the project team, full customer authority, and processes to honor regular working schedule.

The Impact of Technical Aspects or Software Engineering

A successful agile project management involves well-defined, upfront coding standards, pursues simple designs, and involves rigorous refactoring activities. A successful agile project also requires just the right amount of documentation, regular software delivery, proper integration testing, and appropriate technical training of software development staff.

Agile project management, regardless of the developmental stage, encourages changing processes. By way of contrast, traditional project management methods rely heavily on plans and are mainly successful in environments that have a low rate of change and change management (Nasehi, 2013). Agile software development is successful in both low and high changing conditions. While traditional project management methods are only successful in formalized project requirements, interface, quality, and requirements capability, agile software development projects are successful in environments with conditions undergoing unexpected changes.

The Impact of Project Aspects (Scheduler)

The agile project nature should be non-life-critical. Agile development also requires the project to be variable according to scope requirements. Agile projects should also have smaller teams for easy management and communication within the team. Misra et al. (2006) illustrate that the higher the number of individuals in a software development team, the more difficult it becomes to exercise effective communication.

The fit or alignment between project environment, project characteristics, and project management methodology is an important aspect of successful agile project management. According to Stankovic et al. (2013), the appropriate choice of methodology can help in successful completion of a software development project. According to Ahimbisibwe et al. (2015), six alternative approaches can be used to measure the fit. The perspectives include fit as mediation, fit as moderation, fit as profile deviation, fit as a variation, fit as gestalts, and fit as matching. Each of the perspectives can be classified regarding the number of variables being considered, the absence of presence of a criterion variable, and the degree of specificity involving the functional form of fit.  A successful agile project should, therefore, fit one of the mentioned fit perspectives.

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Conclusion and Future Research

The primary aim of this paper was to determine the factors that ascertain the success of agile project management in large IT firms. The project was set to answer five main questions regarding the success factors of agile project management. The research questions acted as the principal hypothesis for this paper. Agile project management thrives majorly in highly pliable and flexible environments and, in turn, requires a rigorous approach that encourages continuous process improvement. There are five primary agile software development factors that make it a success over traditional software development and project management: organizational, people, process, technical, and project aspects.

Organizational aspects require effective communication, reliable sponsors and managers, adequate management support, collocation of project teams, enabling work environment, and effective rewards system. People aspects require that project team members to show a high level of competence, motivation, coherence, expertise, self-organizing teamwork, customer relationships, and knowledgeable managers. The process aspect of a successful agile project management requires adherence to management requirements, project management processes, face-to-face meetings, commitment, authority, and the presence of customers.  The technical aspects require that successful agile project management should have coding systems and standards up front, simple design, documentation, timely delivery of software, cost effective integration testing, and adequate technical training. The project-specific aspects that determine the success of agile project management include the nature of the project regarding fit perspectives, variable scope requirements, up-front risk evaluation, up-front cost evaluation, multiple independent teams, and accelerated schedule.

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Future studies should aim to validate the critical and dominant factors that affect the adoption of agile project management in large and small IT companies. Although previous studies have indicated that technology is the most dominant determinant of agile project management, it is not clear whether technology features will be the most dominant determinant of successful agile project management in the future. Therefore, empirical studies should be conducted to determine the weight that IT organizations should place on different factors that determine the success of agile project management.


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