Using project management tools like MS Project or Primavera in an agile team



  • Do project management tools like MS Project and Primavera make sense in a software team and for a software product, assuming that the team is following agile practices and uses, e.g., Scrum. Are things like product backlog, sprint backlog, etc. replacements for, e.g., work breakdown structures, Gantt charts, etc. or, ideally they should be used together for a successful project management?



  • MS-Project and similar project planning tools mainly focus on on the scheduling of tasks. They excel at managing scheduling dependencies between task, resources assignment, workload and duration of tasks.

    In an agile context, these features are not very useful: the tasks are very dynamic, driven by the backlog, and self-organized by the team during the iteration. Working together on backlog items cannot be predicted months in advance and documenting it on the flow would be a huge overhead. The duration of iteration sets the pace and not the duration of individual tasks/activities/responsibilities. Lastly, the dependencies between tasks is fuzzy and rarely hard-sequential.

    So, project schedulers are not very useful and risk to be an overhead. At best, they can be used to give some visibility on a high level product roadmap and report progress in a corporate way (if required). For larger teams they can also visualize different components in the scope (parallel and overlapping project activities in the scheduler, scheduled by hand: don’t expect a CPM here due to the fuzzy dependencies).

    In an agile context, the time dimension of the project is rather straightforward: you define iterations (very often time-boxed), and the team self-organizes. No need for MS project for documenting this. The key feature that you need is to manage backlogs items. This is more efficiently done with Jira, Trello and similar tools. And these also cope better with story points, which would be very challenging to do with project schedulers 😉



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