Agile Project Management: Challenges You'll Face

Gimena Aguerreberry
June 3, 2021

If your IT organization implements agile project management, you're likely aware of its many benefits — greater adaptability, faster deployments, and better alignment with client needs. However, adopting agile frameworks and mindsets will likely present roadblocks along the way.

Most IT organizations will be more familiar with traditional task management methods. Adapting to agile management will involve a significant learning curve. As long as you know what to expect, you and your team can better manage the transition in the long run.

Prepare yourself by reading these nine common challenges with agile project management and how to overcome them.

1) Budgeting Issues

When your IT team creates a traditional project budget, you can establish all costs down to the very last penny. This process makes it difficult to overspend.

However, a team with an agile manifesto won't experience such simplicity. Instead, agile organizations must allow room for iteration and change. Your team members don't need to lay everything out on the table from the very beginning — they must be willing to make changes in stride.

This kind of planning can be difficult because your company's finance professionals may not understand it fully. You'll need to take someone from your IT department and involve them with your company's finance board. This way, you can get a knowledgeable insider to help fund your software development team's agile manifesto.

2) Poor Planning

A business leader will rarely commit to a software development project without first knowing its costs and benefits.

Even though implemented agile strategies differ from traditional ones, there is no excuse not to plan beforehand.

Your project manager's team should perform some design work, architecture, and detailed requirements exploration upfront. Through your team's research, you can provide a business leader with estimates in dollars, hours, sprint numbers, points, and real dates.

This kind of proactive planning will let your product owners stay in touch with business partners and figure out the best course of action to take.

3) An Unwillingness to Conform to New Practices

Everyone gets comfortable with (and stuck in) their old patterns — it is human nature. Even those in an innovative field like IT can find themselves unwilling to conform to new agile methodologies.

If your IT company is undergoing an agile transformation, you'll need to establish some priorities. Getting your employees on board and transforming your company culture are the two greatest roadblocks you'll face as you transition your project management style.

Agile management can allow your company to create new products faster and help your organization operate better as a whole when implemented correctly.

You can invest in the most innovative tools and techniques for your software development project. However, if your employees don't get on board, you won't have anyone to implement your investments.

All IT leaders should take the initiative and show off the benefits of agile management and why employees should be enthusiastic about the transition. They should also provide relevant training resources to help team members understand why the shift is happening and the logistics behind it. Following this three-step outline should help ease the transition for your team:

• Visualize all tasks in a clear, concise way. Encourage conversation and feedback from your team members.

• Implement feedback early on and make continuous improvements.

• Foster daily interaction between team members and leaders.

4) Getting HR Involved

It's no secret that agile project management differs greatly from the traditional style. The differences also bleed into the HR realm.

Recruiting, assessing, and rewarding talent for agile methodologies will be very different from what your HR team is used to.

Hiring cross-functional teams who can implement your project's vision won't be so cut-and-dry. Oftentimes, current individuals in your company will have to recognize their expertise and step up to perform specific tasks.

Because a lot of innovation will originate internally, you'll need to change how your business recognizes and rewards its agile team members for their outstanding performance.

5) Going the "Waterfall" Route with Agile Project Management

When you're taking on a new project strategy, it can be tempting to take the "waterfall" route. This means your agile team will naturally take an in-depth, centralized, and planned-out approach to its project.

This approach, while seemingly innate, will most likely lead to hiccups down the line. Agile team members will take on a fast-track approach to the software development life cycle. They'll define functional requirements, complete a high-level design, and perform coding and testing in a two-week period.

Instead of hastening your team's agile project management, you should take things slowly at first. Start small and allow your team to learn as the days and weeks go on.

6) Agile Exhaustion

This common challenge ties into the previous one. When your agile team overcommits initially and doesn't establish proper pacing, the results will be disastrous. Your team members will become burnt out, make otherwise avoidable mistakes, and fail to meet their prior commitments.

An agile team working erroneously is just as ineffective as one that isn't working at all.

You can prevent agile exhaustion by implementing project management software. Alternatively, you can opt for one (or both) of these two organizational tools:

 Kanban boards: A Kanban board is a tool that leaders can use to manage tasks. It displays work at various stages of a software development project and uses cards to identify work items and columns to identify each stage of the process.

 Gantt charts: A Gantt chart depicts tasks that a project management team needs to complete. All tasks on a Gantt chart take the form of a bar, and the bar indicates the task's start/end date and duration.

7) Structural Issues

Sometimes, problems with agile project management stem from preexisting issues. For example, compliance organizations may be hesitant to adapt to new ways of completing work. In other cases, legacy systems will inhibit quick repetitions, which will ensure a system is functioning properly.

In any situation, your agile team should start with small-scale goals and work their way upward to larger, more impactful objectives.

8) Hype Around Agile Strategies

There is no doubt that agile methodologies will have substantial impacts on many types of projects.

Once the agile strategy starts producing success for your company, it can be tempting for distributed teams to take this methodology in stride. However, you should implement agile methodologies selectively.

Misapplying agile strategies to a project can produce undesirable results. Specific projects will benefit from more predictable, straightforward approaches to project management.

The common saying "if it isn't broken, don't fix it" can apply to your business when you're deciding between traditional vs. agile management strategies. Common problems will most likely benefit from traditional strategies, while complex or unexplored realms will benefit from agile ones.

Your company should never pursue agile management strategies "just for the heck of it." Doing so can result in lower productivity and poor customer satisfaction. Instead, you should establish clear business goals, even if the actual agile management process doesn't unfold so clearly.

Having clear business goals will allow your team to provide better customer support and get your software product on the market faster.

9) Unclear Roles within Your Company

When it comes to implementing agile management, there are very few roles established upfront. The main ones are:

• Scrum master (helps your distributed teams work together)

• Product owner

• Agile team members

Outside of these main roles, your team must assign the remaining duties that make sense for your company. This kind of individualized approach will promote efficiency and ensure all your teams function smoothly as a cohesive unit.

Some IT leaders will need to introduce more specialized roles, like build master, testing manager, or traditional project manager. Others will experience more success when they allocate responsibilities without assigning overarching labels and titles.


There's no denying that agile strategies work; the key is using these tactics to plan, budget, increase communication among all departments, and foster collaboration with your software development team.

Need more help navigating the challenges of agile project management?

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"Agile Project Management: Challenges You'll Face" by Gimena Aguerreberry is licensed under CC BY SA. Source code examples are licensed under MIT.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao.

Categorized under software development.

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