Predicting Completion in Agile & Distributed Projects



By Patrick Weaver

Melbourne, Australia


The generally accepted way of assessing progress on a project, and predicting its completion, is to use a Critical Path Method (CPM) schedule.  A well-constructed CPM schedule models the intended sequence of work on the project. Then by updating the schedule with progress ‘as at’ a specific date, the CPM scheduling tools move any incomplete work into the future and recalculate the time needed to complete the project. This rich, dynamic, data allows the baseline, and current, critical path and float to be compared and the effect of intervening events to be assessed with mathematical precision.

There are well recognized challenges and shortcomings in this approach, but after 65 years, skilled practitioners can produce useful information for the management and overall assessment of most traditional project’s progress and health[1].

However, the CPM paradigm does not work across a wide range of projects where there is no predetermined sequence of working that must be followed.  There may be a high level ‘road map’ outlining the desired route to completion and/or specific constraints on the sequencing of parts of the work but in both Agile and distributed projects, the people doing the work have a high degree of flexibility in choosing the way most of the work is accomplished.

Projects using the Agile paradigm, have a deliberate management intent not to follow a predetermined sequence of activities, the assumption is the people doing the work are best placed to decide what needs doing next. In distributed projects, while there may be a CPM schedule developed at the start, when circumstances force a change in the plan, often there is very little disruption to the productive output of the resources; they simply move onto something else. This reality cannot be properly modelled in a CPM schedule without rebuilding the logic every time something changes.  These types of projects are defined, and discussed in detail, in Scheduling Challenges in Agile & Distributed Projects[2].

The focus of this paper is to offer a practical solution to the challenge of assessing progress, and calculating the likely completion date in Agile and distributed projects. A second paper Assessing Delays in Agile & Distributed Projects[3] looks at the issues of determining delay and disruption in projects where the CPM paradigm does not provide an acceptable answer.

Projects not suited to CPM

CPM theory assumes there is one best way of doing the project, which can be accurately described in a schedule. The schedule allows the critical path and float to be calculated and for delays to be assessed based on their impact on the schedule. CPM theory and calculations are 65 years old; they have survived because they are very useful in a lot of situations. However, there are many projects that cannot be effectively scheduled using CPM. The two most common types are soft projects and distributed projects.

Soft projects

A soft project is one where completion is not defined by the creation of a tangible asset. This includes:

  • Software developments
  • Business change, and
  • Marketing projects.

The project’s soft objective can be achieved in many different ways. The best way (and occasionally the objective) adapts and emerges as the work progresses. Because of their emergent nature, soft projects have largely abandoned CPM and gone Agile; better delivery outcomes are claimed.  There are many different forms of Agile involving a range of tools and techniques including: Scrum, SAFe®, Disciplined Agile, Kanban, etc. But across all of these different methodologies, the essence of Agile remains:


To read entire paper, click here

How to cite this paper: Weaver, P. (2023). Predicting Completion in Agile & Distributed Projects; PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue VI, June. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/pmwj130-Jun2023-Weaver-Predicting-Completion-In-AgileDistributed-Projects.pdf

About the Author

Patrick Weaver

Melbourne, Australia


Patrick Weaver, PMP, PMI-SP, FAICD, FCIOB, is the Managing Director of Mosaic Project Services Pty Ltd, an Australian project management consultancy specializing in project control systems.  He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Building, Australasia (FCIOB) and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (FAICD). He is a member of the PMI Melbourne Chapter (Australia), as well a full member of AIPM, and the Project Management College of Scheduling (PMCOS).

Patrick has over 50 years’ experience in Project Management. His career was initially focused on the planning and managing of construction, engineering and infrastructure projects in the UK and Australia. The last 35 years has seen his businesses and experience expand to include the successful delivery of project scheduling services and PMOs in a range of government, ICT and business environments; with a strong focus on project management training.

His consultancy work encompasses: developing and advising on project schedules, developing and presenting PM training courses, managing the development of internal project control systems for client organizations, and assisting with dispute resolution and claims management.

In the last few years, Patrick has sought to ‘give back’ to the industry he has participated in since leaving college through contributions to the development of the project management profession. In addition to his committee roles, he has presented papers at a wide range of project management conferences in the USA, Europe, Asia and Australia, has an on-going role with the PGCS conference in Australia and is part of the Australian delegation to ISO TC258.

Patrick can be contacted at patw@mosaicprojects.com.au or at www.mosaicprojects.com.au.

[1]    For more on developing and using CPM schedules see: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/PMKI-SCH-010.php
[2]    See Scheduling Challenges in Agile & Distributed Projects: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/PDF_Papers/P208_Scheduling_Challenges_in_Agile_+_Distributed_Projects.pdf
[3]    See Assessing Delays in Agile & Distributed Projects: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/PDF_Papers/P215_Assessing_Delays_In_Agile_+_Distributed_Projects.pdf