Application of Agile in EPC
Application of Agile in EPC
“We are under constant pressure with pleasure, and we are happy” – This is a feedback I cherish from the engineers of a team which adopted Agile. They are happy because of;
- Better inter disciplinary collaboration and ownership
- Higher visibility and predictability of project outcomes
- Enhanced productivity through faster learning and proactive elimination of constraints
Agile projects have shorter incremental plans which are subsets of the master plan. The shorter the planning window, better are the chances of achieving the goals on time. Even if we fail, we learn quickly and the learning gets incorporated into the subsequent planning cycle. These shorter plans are created and executed by self-organizing cross disciplinary teams which has the representatives from all participating disciplines required to deliver the output.
What is Agile Project Management?
Agile is a family of frameworks like;
- Test Driven Development (TDD)
- Scaled Agile
- Kan-ban etc
Of these ‘Scrum’ and ‘Kan-ban’ are the most popular ones and are domain independent where as XP, RUP,TDD, Scaled Agile etc are I.T specific. The common factor cutting across all the agile frameworks (except Kan-ban) is the iteration. The team can decide on the duration of the iteration with the only stipulation that iteration duration cannot be more than 30 days. At the beginning of every iteration the multi-disciplinary team decides the work they will perform in the iteration, and then they go ahead and perform the work.
Overview of Scrum framework
The Scrum framework was established by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland in the year 1993. This is a very simple framework based on the scrum values of;
Picture Courtesy www.scrum.org
Product backlog (task list)
Is the pending task list towards a major milestone. When the product backlog gets exhausted, that is an indication that the associated milestone is about to get accomplished.
Sprint (Iteration) backlog
The scrum project progresses in sprints (iterations). Sprint is a time box not exceeding 30 days. Before the start of the sprint, the team sits together and decides what all things they can commit during the next sprint (time box). Once they agree on a set of tasks to be completed during the sprint, they prepare detailed plan for the sprint. The output of the sprint planning meeting is the sprint backlog which comprises of tasks and responsibilities.
During the sprint, the team carryout the work related to the sprint.
Daily stand-up meeting
Daily stand up meetings are 20 minute meetings (for 10 member teams) where each person explains three things to the rest of the team like;
- What did I do yesterday?
- What am I doing today?
- What are the issues I am facing and need help?
This helps the team to see the status of the sprint on a daily basis. This also increases collaboration among team members to resolve issues quickly.
On the last day of the sprint, the team along with other key stakeholders review the status of the output of the sprint. If all the planned activities are completed with the required quality, the sprint is considered as successful.
After the Sprint review, sprint retrospectives are conducted. The lessons learned during the sprint are consolidated and incorporated into the subsequent sprint’s planning meeting.
Post Covid, the way we work in projects have changed. Social distancing forces us to work as a team without co-location. Even within the same meeting rooms, we are getting used to maintaining safe distances. All of a sudden, working from home or from any location on projects have become the the norm. Integrated & Collaborative planning, monitoring and controlling is the new norm. It has already kicked off, and is here to stay.
Burn down chart
In scrum, burn down charts are used to monitor the progress of the sprint (iteration). The duration of the iteration is on the ‘X’ axis. The effort required to complete the balance work (Remaining effort) is plotted on the ‘Y’ axis. As the iteration progresses, the effort required to complete the balance activities is decremented based on the judgment of the team. If the effort required to complete the balance activities becomes zero on or before the iteration duration (in this case 20 days), that is an indication that the sprint is completed successfully.
Agile, especially scrum is gaining ground in EPC projects. Though agile is not the right fit for managing end to end EPC projects, application of agile along with traditional project management have provided benefits like;
- Increased communication
- The visibility and ability to follow what the team is doing is at a whole other level
- The transparency to others outside the team is close to perfect
- People only work on tasks that are on the task list, and these are in a prioritized order
- When stakeholders see what tasks are on the task list and what priority their task has in relation to other tasks, they become more patient with waiting for their task to be finished
- Builds better relations between the team and their internal customers
- With the opportunity to bring forth problems in daily meetings, the transparency has increased a lot
- Problems surface quite quickly, allowing them to be solved faster
- The problems are often identified by the team
- When a problem is brought to the team’s knowledge during the daily meetings, others can immediately help with the problem
- If a change is in conflict with another change it can be spotted as soon as possible
- If a problem then surfaces it is easy to find , since only one day’s work has to be gone through to find the problem and people still remember well what they have done during the day
- A project can last for 1.5 years and previously feedback wasn’t gathered into a final report until the end of the project. This feedback could then be utilized to improve future projects. Today thanks to Scrum this cycle is much faster and they ask for and discuss feedback continuously
- Process improvement activities have become part of the project
- Unified the ways of working
- Business development efforts are also accounted