From agile software development


to management agility:

The way forward



By Prof Darren Dalcher

Director, National Centre for Project Management
Lancaster University Management School

United Kingdom

The adoption of agile concepts, principles, methods and approaches in many sectors is rapidly transforming software development and management practice. Crucially, agile methods focus on managing — and speeding up — development activities and can therefore offer new ideas and significant improvements for management-in-the-small.

The aim of this article is to reflect on the impact that agile methods are likely to have on project management practice. Agile methods challenge some of the basic assumptions embedded in sound project management, and while they overcome some limitations, they introduce new constraints and ways of thinking. Their adoption requires intelligent adjustments to the way projects are perceived, prioritized, and managed.

  1. Agility is everywhere

Agile software development emerged in response to widespread dissatisfaction with sequential approaches to developing software. Much like prototyping before it, agile development embraced the ideas of greater interest in users, capturing true requirements, and rapid delivery of working versions of the agreed content. While agile methods adopted the creative ideas of prototyping, they also placed a greater emphasis on controlling development through the use of timeboxing, thus offering a more structured framework for delivery.

Agile normally means nimble, quick-moving, or active. Agile methods aim to use such qualities in order to prosper in an environment of constant and unpredictable change. They integrate established software development practices and principles into organized approaches for responsive development that emphasize collaboration and communication. Short delivery cycles enable developers to respond more easily to changing demands from clients and a shifting marketplace and environment. Agile development is typified by adaptive software built by small teams that focus on rapid feedback and continuous improvement.

Agile methods boast an ever-growing influence. Such methods, and the principles they embody, have played a key part in shaping research and practice in software development and engineering, bringing many new topics to the forefront. Moreover, the improved IT project success rate — with more IT projects delivered on time, on budget, and within requirements — is being attributed in part to the increased adoption of agile methods.

Meanwhile, the “agile movement” has spawned new terms, such as sprints, scrums, velocity, epics, sagas, user stories, retrospectives, huddles, and daily stand-up meetings, which have become part of the accepted software development and even project management jargon. The Agile Conference is probably the best-attended conference in software development and continues to grow in popularity. Many new conferences and communities have formed to discuss and agile ideas, and tracks in established conferences also highlight agile concepts. And this explosion of interest in all things agile has extended well beyond IT. Bookshelves in bookshops include many new titles focusing on agile investors, agile competitors, agile organizations, agile systems and enterprises, agile genes, and even the agile library.

Not surprisingly, the improved success rates in agile IT project delivery have also sparked an interest amongst a project management community looking to improve its own practices. Many of the ideas and emphases fostered in agile methods, such as value, benefit, relationships, feedback, and response to change, chime in with interests the project management community has explored. Given the shared focus on projects and project delivery, it is easy to see why importing new agile ideas into project management seems so attractive. However, it is worth noting that there is a fundamental difference between agile as a development method for organising small technical teams and seeking to employ agile as a project management method. This is not clear in the discourse surrounding agile methods and their application.


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper revisits an article (Dalcher, 2008) published as an invited contribution in the Cutter IT Journal in 2008. The current version includes a number of minor corrections and an improved diagram. For more recent articles and additional perspectives on agile, see (Dalcher, 2021; 2022)This paper is republished here with the author’s permission.

How to cite this paper: Dalcher, D. (2023. 2008). From agile software development to management agility: The way forward; originally published in the Cutter IT Journal in 2008; republished in the PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue IV, April 2023.  Available online at https://pmworldjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/pmwj128-Apr2023-Dalcher-from-agile-software-development-to-agile-management-1.pdf

About the Author

Darren Dalcher, PhD

Author, Professor, Series Editor
Director, National Centre for Project Management
Lancaster University Management School, UK


Darren Dalcher, Ph.D., HonFAPM, FRSA, FBCS, CITP, FCMI, SMIEEE, SFHEA, MINCOSE is Professor in Strategic Project Management at Lancaster University, and founder and Director of the National Centre for Project Management (NCPM) in the UK.  He has been named by the Association for Project Management (APM) as one of the top 10 “movers and shapers” in project management and was voted Project Magazine’s “Academic of the Year” for his contribution in “integrating and weaving academic work with practice”. Following industrial and consultancy experience in managing IT projects, Professor Dalcher gained his PhD in Software Engineering from King’s College, University of London.

Professor Dalcher has written over 300 papers and book chapters on project management and software engineering. He is Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Software: Evolution and Process, a leading international software engineering journal. He is the editor of the book series, Advances in Project Management, published by Routledge and of the companion series Fundamentals of Project Management.  Heavily involved in a variety of research projects and subjects, Professor Dalcher has built a reputation as leader and innovator in the areas of practice-based education and reflection in project management. He works with many major industrial and commercial organisations and government bodies.

Darren is an Honorary Fellow of the APM, a Chartered Fellow of the British Computer Society, a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute, and the Royal Society of Arts, a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a Member of the Project Management Institute (PMI), the British Academy of Management and the International Council on Systems Engineering. He is a Chartered IT Practitioner. He sits on numerous senior research and professional boards, including The PMI Academic Insight Team, the CMI Academic Council and the APM Group Ethics and Standards Governance Board as well as the British Library Management Book of the Year Panel.  He is the Academic Advisor, author and co-Editor of the highly influential 7th edition of the APM Body of Knowledge. Prof Dalcher is an academic advisor for the PM World Journal. He can be contacted at d.dalcher@lancaster.ac.uk.

To view other works by Prof Darren Dalcher, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/darren-dalcher/.