Agility is the project team's ability to quickly change the project plan in response to customer or stakeholder needs, market or technology demands in order to achieve better project and product performance in an innovative and dynamic project environment.

Maria Romero is the Holcim EMEA Digital Center PMO and, for two years now, ART Engineer, heading up the Regional Applications train as a result of the agile scaling at the company. Maria, who has transitioned from traditional project management to the culture of agility, shares with us the challenges and opportunities found along this journey.


Projects and agility

Our experience in this journey

In the EMEA Digital Center PMO, we manage a highly diverse portfolio of projects. We have handled everything from regional model implementation programs to developing country-specific products and even different solutions for each type of product: cement, aggregate, prefabricated concrete, mortar, and so on. We are asked to meet global needs and legal or compliance-related requirements, such as financial standardization.

Traditionally, a waterfall methodology was used, and the project culture still exists among the stakeholders we work with, i.e.  delivering a certain scope to meet a need, entailing a certain investment within a certain deadline.

However, in recent years, we have found that the changing market situation makes our customers’ needs change to adapt to the market, the products that cover these needs are not always foreseeable, and delivering value within a tight deadline prevails over possible costs. This prompted us to adopt agile working methodologies that we also apply to project management in order to adapt to changing environments and keep the project on track.


How we work: Hybrid model approach 

To successfully manage these projects, we rely on the know-how of a team of project managers who, without turning their backs on the proven traditional waterfall approach to project management, are experiencing the benefits of working with agile teams by applying agile methodologies such as Scrum and Kanban to the projects, resulting in a hybrid model that combines the two methodologies.  

Therefore, when a need arises, the first thing we consider is deciding which project management model is best suited in each case.  We base our decision on the flexibility called for and the type of product or service required. In terms of project management, “agility” is based on collaboration, iterative planning & continuous improvement. The combination of these features is what makes a project agile.


Evolution of the project manager’s role

The role of the project manager has evolved and these days, in an agile culture setting, this person must know how to apply methodologies on a practical level in order to achieve the targets set in each project. In addition to coordinating the team and controlling the processes, it is crucial that they also know how to lead and motivate the people assigned to the project. It is a change of mindset.

In summary, the decision to adopt a waterfall method or an agile approach to project management must be made on a case-by-case basis. This is the only way to take advantage of both models without having to give up either one, since the hybrid model –combining the waterfall method with agility techniques in a single project– is precisely what has proven to be most useful in recent years to meet our customers’ needs.

However, agility is more like a way of thinking about collaborative problem-solving and a mentality that the company also applies to project management these days. Its true usefulness lies in offering stakeholders common ground for taking a specific approach to developing products and services, staying competitive and responding to customers’ needs more efficiently.