Agile Web Development: Our Approach to Project Management

How to manage a website development project

There are a lot of methodologies for managing website development projects, and plenty of folks out there who try to just “wing it” at first.

We find that solid project management (PM) is well worth the time: It ensures your project will contain the features you want, look the way you want, maintain your budget, and be completed on time. Plus, it makes the process of creating something new that much more enjoyable.

We're often asked about our approach to project management, so we put together a quick overview, including the best of the Agile development approach, traditional calendar schedules, PM tools, and great people to guide it all.

Time after time, we've found this approach to be the key to successfully delivering projects to our clients on schedule and on budget.

Agile Development Approach

At Bear Group, we provide a resource-based model for development that consists of dedicated teams to your project. We primarily follow the Agile development philosophy, mixed with a development roadmap that typically follows a milestone calendar. Features of this style of development management include:

  • Ensuring a base level of dedicated time to focus on highest priority functionality

  • Simplifying administrative work and budgeting, since we agree ahead of time on monthly resource costs

  • Avoiding a long scoping phase at the beginning in order to budget at the task level

  • Minimizing project risk, as we are never more than a single sprint in

  • Allowing new features to be continually rolled out, as we employ a flexible, Agile-based development approach, often pushing new releases every two weeks

  • Avoiding in-scope/out-of-scope conversations

  • Supporting fluid communication and a strong partnership between our dev team and clients

Project Management

We rely heavily on the Jira project management system from Atlassian to organize development work. Projects will have a client Jira login providing complete access to sprint boards, tickets, comments, attachments, and view of code commits. These are all used for task level scoping and planning.

Jira sprint

We have detailed tickets outlining use cases and stories, followed by all tasks at a granular level that will accomplish that user story. Tickets are moved from the backlog into typically two-week development sprints. This planning is done every day by the Technical Project Manager and reviewed on at least a weekly basis with clients.

Change is expected during development, and the Agile approach embraces that reality. There is never a “not in scope” discussion to be had since the scope is only loosely set at the outset of the project and you are paying for total sprint time. We expect features to be re-prioritized and evolve.

The discussion instead is with the time/budget available, which features are the highest priority, or should the project time be extended to make time for more features? Jira enforces a good Agile project methodology and allows for a vibrant online communication channel throughout the course of the project.

We use ticket “types” to identify new feature requests, bugs, and general tasks and have a four-step workflow for all tickets:

  1. Open
  2. In Progress
  3. Ready to QA
  4. Resolved

The Agile approach minimizes risk, as there is never a time when developers do not have a clear direction and they can never be more than 5 days into developing any one feature before it is reviewed or goes through a round of QA with the client.

We primarily use Agile methodology for its flexibility, but we make some adjustments to accommodate major milestones when needed. I know from experience that it can be hard to get BIG stuff accomplished using an Agile approach that's too strict—this can cause friction between web development and marketing.

To me there's kind of a forest-for-the-trees trap that I've seen happen, and I think the important thing to emphasize is that you collaborate and make it work to meet the client's goals using Agile as the base but never at the expense of the client's bigger goals.

We still, however, maintain a strong calendar and major milestones—similar to a work back schedule approach from the marketing arena. We also do smaller scoping projects, when larger features are being discussed to outline options. These typically result in 3-5 page scope documents, the final versions of these get folded into a master functional spec.

Clearly outlining the scope makes the project go more smoothly during Agile-based implementation. It's kind of a step back to help with the leap forward. Focusing on the end result helps us to make sure that the outcome is correct for the clients needs, but can cause drawback for the client if this step is missed.

Technical Project Management & Consulting Services

Ultimately, it's the Technical Project Manager who serves as the project glue—communicating between development staff, clients, design firms, and anyone involved in the project.

Technical Project Managers wear many hats—handling daily Jira management, ticketing, internal developer stand-ups, sprint planning, regular weekly client meetings, weekly demos, and reviews, scheduling and resource planning—but what clients appreciate most is their strong project coordination, transparency, and dedication to getting the project to the finish line on time.

If you have any questions about how our Agile project management style please feel free to contact us directly to setup a time to chat.