A vast majority of IT projects require a multi-vendor approach but often fail in achieving the planned objectives. A multi-vendor environment is very difficult to manage and control in all of its various aspects, which is why most companies nowadays use Agile project management software to improve productivity. In such a versatile business environment, project strategy has to respect contemporary trends in order to get the job done without any additional budget or manpower. Organizations that use Agile tools strengthen team communication by 52% and improve both product quality and project timeframes by 44%. The Agile methodology allows users to establish better communication, follow the same guidelines, and keep in mind the overall company objectives, minimizing possibilities for the lack of focus. In this article, we will analyze what Agile methodology means to multi-vendor IT projects.
Why Go Multi-Vendor in the First Place?
Most IT projects need several teams of experts to make sure that each part of the strategy can be completed successfully: development, design, localization, etc. A multi-vendor approach also contributes to cost-efficiency and higher quality of service. It allows you to hire many different expert groups that fit your budget, while each one of those teams takes a certain portion of the workload, reducing the amount of time needed to complete the entire job. All groups have their own mini-missions, which means that responsibilities are divided strictly, with only a small chance of overlapping. However, as Tim Chebunin noted in his article on the itransition blog, each player is usually obsessed with their part of the deal, with no one taking responsibility for the final decisions and instructions for designers, developers, and testers. This eventually leads to project stagnation or even complete failure in some cases. And this is where Agile methods step in.
Why Use Agile Methods in Multi-Vendor IT Projects?
The Agile methodology boosts cooperation between multiple vendors within the same IT project. It builds up traditional ways of governing projects, connecting all participants with each other in a smooth collaboration environment. Using this kind of project management tool allows organizations to gain benefits through simpler procedures, incremental task-completion, encouraged collaboration, and a better understanding of strategic plans. All vendors respect the same general timeframe, making progress in a step-by-step manner. Each unit solves its own operations in a given period of time, but they all see the full project picture at the same time. Project stages are usually divided into one or two-week periods. Now we will describe crucial elements of multi-vendor IT projects with Agile methods.
As we already noted, multi-vendor projects suffer from lack of collaboration between the teams included, which ruins work ethic and produces small successes that don’t correlate. With Agile software solutions, participants will much more likely establish closer relationships. This will create a unique project atmosphere in which all members will share the same enthusiasm and understand company objectives. This is crucial because various vendors nurture totally different work cultures; establishing common practices creates a powerful synergy. Therefore, it is no surprise that 98% of respondents to the State of Agile report said that their organization has realized success from Agile projects.
An Agile methodology always encourages precise frameworks for each one of the project stages. All parts of the process are subject to a strict timeframe, bearing in mind precise objectives and deliveries within the given period of time. Furthermore, all vendors work on the same features, only from different aspects. This kind of solution, though not always applicable, enables multiple vendors to finish features one by one. Of course, new ideas always come up during the work – some are approved, but the workload remains the same as less important elements get rejected. Small iterations are fundamental with Agile.
One big thing about the Agile methods is that they provide companies with project structure and strategy, so you don’t actually need a genuine project manager – each member of your team controls their duties. However, project leadership is still necessary because there has to be someone to monitor the process from the very beginning to the end. This can be a member of your company, but also a specific vendor that can control all others, acting as the Product Owner (PO). The PO must conduct interviews with all participants, align company objectives with project strategies, set timeframes, and follow budgets. The PO is the anchor of the project.
With so many vendors included, complex IT projects demand some administrative issues to be resolved. Namely, companies have to determine straight and clear plans for delivery, where each vendor gets precise tasks with the list of objectives to be met. This document contains details like the methods of communication, Sprints, project methodology, deliverables, and budgets. Such plans minimize risks and eliminate potential misunderstandings.
Once the project features are completed, proper testing is obligatory. All vendors must conduct tests of their own deliveries to make sure quality requirements are fulfilled. Additionally, test strategy defines quality norms of all planned deliverables, while parallel tests are being conducted to control all project stages and features. The goal is to detect potential bugs, mistakes, and defects. Also, it is important to determine responsibilities according to a project’s chain of command.
Traditional project management is losing steam and it is becoming outpaced by Agile solutions, which really revolutionized the software industry. Many companies embrace Agile methodology to improve business results, a trend that results in higher project success rates, and lower budget-wasting percentages. According to the latest research, organizations today are wasting an average of $97 million for every $1 billion invested — that’s a significant 20% decline compared to last year’s results. If they haven’t done it already, organizations obviously have to consider contemporary trends in project management and strategic planning. Multi-vendor IT projects deliver significantly better results with Agile methods applied, while budget and timeframe planning becomes much easier. And companies still get to preserve their corporate culture in the process.