Agile project management software can help teams drive collaboration and iterative innovation, while responding rapidly to change. But what are the key features that can scale an enterprise’s Agile teams to the next level? And how do organizations know if they need to implement Agile program management – an approach that takes Agile project management to the next level by enabling teams of teams to maintain adaptability and flexibility, plus alignment with executives, strategy, and key stakeholders?

Here’s an overview of how Agile principles apply to project management, how those teams scale up into Agile program management, and finally, the benefits and features of using Agile software across an organization.

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Agile program management software enables functionality for teams-of-teams planning and delivery not in typical Agile project management software.
Agile program management software enables functionality for teams-of-teams planning and delivery not in typical Agile project management software.

What Is Agile Project Management?

Agile project management is a philosophy of achieving business objectives based on the principles of Agile software development, outlined in the Agile Manifesto, published in 2001. Simply put, Agile (capitalized to denote this specific set of values) prioritizes collaboration, productivity, and flexibility over negotiation, documentation, and planning.

Agile project management, particularly as it related to the development of software in the late 1990s, replaced what was known as the Waterfall model, in which each phase of development is separate and prior phases must be fully complete before the next phase can begin. For project management purposes, teams might use Agile project management software to work on several phases simultaneously as new problems or requirements arise.

What Is Agile Program Management?

Program management refers to the handling of multiple interrelated projects, on both strategic and operational levels. Thus, Agile program management is all about cross-team collaboration, planning, and sharing. Understanding dependencies so that work can be done in the right order and prioritized accordingly is critical to the success of an Agile program.

Additionally, Agile programs are typically longer lasting and usually aligned to a product or value stream that will persist. Agile project teams, by contrast, have a narrower focus and are often owning something specific and temporal.

One critical feature of Agile program management is the acknowledgement that it is not simply a running list of Agile projects, but a means of managing several moving parts simultaneously. Agile program management can toggle between a bird’s-eye overview and finer details, in order to create simplicity from complexity and deliver value to the business as a whole.

Read Next: What is Agile Program Management?

Agile Project Management vs. Agile Program Management

Though they both apply Agile principles to their processes, Agile project management and Agile program management are separate disciplines that cover different aspects of business. Agile project management is typically based around one particular deliverable or segment of an organization and based on the person-to-person collaboration within a single team.

Before COVID-19, Agile usually promoted co-location of colleagues and face-to-face meetings, but post-pandemic management culture has shifted to accommodate more remote work, helped by Agile project management software that provides virtual collaboration features. Additionally, an Agile project team might limit its scope to a specific deliverable, client, or discipline, in order to better focus on its objectives without allowing scope creep.

Agile program management, on the other hand, is necessarily larger in scope and purpose because it encompasses several strategic and operational initiatives, as well as serving a broader group of stakeholders. The same Agile principles still apply – collaboration, adaptability, and deliverables take priority.

An organization might employ Agile project management and Agile program management to varying degrees based on its goals. But the Agile philosophy – infinitely adaptive and responsive to change, as its manifesto declares – drives both disciplines and fosters an overall environment of collaborative growth.

What Is Agile Project Management Software?

How, then, can software apply to Agile project management? For teams working through the development and delivery lifecycle, an Agile project management software solution would include tools for visualizing goals, planning, processes, stakeholder feedback, and status reporting, to name a few.

Because of its iterative nature, Agile project management requires software that offers instant visibility to teams working on fast-moving objectives. And because Agile teams are usually cross-functional, visual tracking should be highly customizable to show what’s necessary and hide what’s not.

Additionally, basic Agile project management software would include reporting dashboards, resource management support, and issue tracking. Finally, one last critical component is seamless integration with third-party applications and tools already used in an organization’s tech ecosystem.

Coordinating planning across value stream teams is best done with Agile program management software, rather than Agile project management software.
Coordinating planning across value stream teams is best done with Agile program management software, rather than Agile project management software.

What Is Agile Program Management Software?

Cross-team coordination and visibility are crucial for the success of an Agile program. And Agile program management software allows the efforts of several self-governing teams to be developed, tracked, managed, and deployed within one ecosystem.

For teams of teams looking to deploy products, enterprise-level Agile program management software provides a platform that supports product management, systems architects, engineers, and business owners in an Agile Release Train (ART), working at scale to deliver value. Facilitating and supporting a strong ART is the backbone of Agile program management software.

Read Next: What are Agile Release Trains?

Agile Project Management Software vs. Agile Program Management Software

If both Agile project management and Agile program management can be enhanced with software solutions that empower teams, it seems that the software solutions would be similar. But actually, the differences between the two can be enormous.

Agile project management software aligns one team around a short-term goal with an intentionally limited scope. A small team composed of only necessary stakeholders allows more nimble iteration, and Agile project management software should be correspondingly quick to pick up and easy to use.

But as Agile teams impress stakeholders and spread to different parts of an organization, scaling Agile principles requires a different solution. Agile program management software anticipates the challenges of scaling and features tools to speed it along. And because it’s meant to manage complex and ever-evolving projects on an iterative basis, the software has to accommodate several teams within a single ecosystem.

Customizable visibility, seamless integration, and top-grade security allow collaboration between disparate teams – while maintaining vital visibility for stakeholders. Agile program management software scales company-wide, without the growing pains of scaling through project management software first.

Key Features for Scaling Agile Across an Enterprise

What key features are vital to successfully scaling Agile practices across an enterprise as a whole? Not every organization will answer the same way, depending on their current and future needs. Here’s a comparison that explains the high-level differences between what Agile project management software and Agile program management software can offer:

FeatureAgile Project Management SoftwareAgile program management software
Remote Work Support • Feature • Feature
In-context Team Collaboration • Feature • Feature
Enterprise-Class Security • Feature • Feature
Basic Kanban boards • Feature • Feature
Complex Kanban boards • Feature
Kanban board templates • Feature • Feature
Built-in WIP Limits • Feature • Feature
Cross-team Prioritization • Feature
Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) • Feature
Capacity Planning and Management • Feature
A Flexible and Configurable Solution • Feature • Feature
Multi-level and Connected Boards • Feature
Dependency Management • Feature
Card and Board Health • Feature
Lean and Agile Metrics • Feature • Feature
Agile Integration Capabilities • Feature
Dedicated virtual collaboration space • Feature

Benefits of Using Agile Program Management Software

Regardless of where your organization is on its Agile journey, the solution you choose should check these boxes outright, before you move on to learning the details. If you’re unsure of whether to choose Agile project management software or Agile program management software, here are a few of the benefits of using the latter at enterprise level.

Foster a collaborative and coordinated approach to planning

Quarterly planning, or Program Increment (PI) planning, is a routine, usually face-to-face event where teams create their plans and objectives for the next Program Increment. It’s a critical part of Agile program management, because it’s a time for Agile teams to:

  • Align development to business goals and Team and Program strategic objectives
  • Identify dependencies and foster cross-team and cross-Agile Release Train (ART) or teams of teams collaboration
  • Analyze demand and capacity

Unlike Agile project management software, the right Agile program management software can help teams align and sync their cadences, which is essential for unlocking the benefits of Agile.

Teams are the lifeblood of scaling Agile across an organization.

For teams to successfully deliver their committed work, they need an Agile program management software solution to stay aligned to strategic objectives and anticipate, understand, and manage work between each other. Scaling Agile success requires solution functionality geared to improve collaboration, keep information flowing between teams, and speed delivery across the business.

Remember: Any time you are inviting multiple teams and stakeholders into an Agile program management software solution to achieve a shared outcome, it is essential that your solution offers unparalleled visibility, which can be configured to accurately reflect your organization’s unique processes.

Read Next: Agile Teams: Dependency Management and Visualization

Provide extensive cross-team visibility, plus Agile tool integrations

Agile program management software enables visibility across teams, which helps teams to understand how their work is related to the work of other teams, anticipate risks and dependencies, and work to mitigate roadblocks before delivery delays happen.

Understanding and managing cross-team and cross-program dependencies is a key benefit of Agile program management software.

In contrast to Agile project management software, many Agile program management software providers feature enterprise Kanban tools, which have the capability to connect related work items (cards) across multiple boards, visualize hierarchical relationships between cards, and visualize dependencies with card features like custom icons. These advanced collaboration features enable Agile teams to stay aligned and keep work moving even as dependencies become more complex.

If you’re like most Agile organizations, it’s likely that your delivery teams use different tools. To increase stakeholder visibility (and a host of other benefits), it is essential that your Agile program management software integrates with the Agile tools your teams are already using, in a way that makes the information from those tools meaningful and usable to others within the organization.

By investing in the right software to support scaling up to Agile program management, organizations can begin to bridge the strategy-to-delivery chasm and deliver better outcomes.

Connect your execution teams and your strategic objectives

It is hard to appropriately plan or dial into the larger planning purpose when your Agile teams are operating on different cadences, following different processes, or working in different tools.

With the right Agile program management software, all the Agile teams are brought together to align to common purpose, and break down their work together.

Agile program management software augments the benefits offered by Agile project management software, and enables greater strategic alignment through the organization, by providing the visibility and planning processes necessary to take larger initiatives and break them into actionable steps at the team level.

Many Agile organizations choose to use Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) as a framework for planning and measuring delivery against their strategic goals. The OKR framework is an especially useful benefit in Agile program management software, as it provides a systematic way for teams to orient themselves around big-picture strategic goals while working autonomously toward specific Key Results.

Unlike most Agile project management software, Agile program management software includes OKRs to drive priorities based on desired outcomes.
Unlike most Agile project management software, Agile program management software includes OKRs to drive priorities based on desired outcomes.

Conclusion

Delivering products quickly, iteratively, and collaboratively is at the heart of Agile project management software – but achieving the same results at scale requires an Agile program management solution. Get started with a demo of Planview’s Agile Program Management solution, or learn more about the basic criteria of selecting the right Agile software solution for your organization.