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Agile methods for optimising project management processes

In one of my absolute favourite projects at iCon in the field of renewable energies, we used agile methods to optimise the development processes in the solar power sector – and it was a complete success.

Our client innogy has made massive progress in the area of solar power and is planning on expanding its activity in the development and operation of solar power plants to reach an annual output of 1 GW starting in 2022. Our task was to establish future-proof processes for solar power, help reach growth targets and ensure that projects were carried out on time, on budget and with no drops in quality. The overarching goal: to standardise the entire end-to-end project management process in the development of solar power sources and solar power plants.

The challenge lay in the fact that although innogy was engaged in the construction of solar power plants worldwide, it had not been following any consistent method to date. For instance, a massive solar power plant was built in Australia with a nameplate capacity of 349 MW while a similar plant in Canada was built following a different process. Standards were urgently needed to ensure consistent processes. The big advantage: this would allow someone who works in the US, for instance, to launch solar power projects in other countries such as India or Australia without having to change the basic template.

Scrum – a winning strategy

Our four-strong team made up of Philipp, Moritz, Julius and I made the decision to approach the project using agile methods. After all, we only had three months to deliver the initial results – with over 10 support functions and stakeholder groups such as controlling, accounting, tax, commercial, strategy, legal, business development, project management and more. To make cooperation as smooth and effective as possible, we opted for a scrum approach. Our work process included daily scrum meetings (morning standups), sprint planning sessions (planning sessions that took place at the start of every sprint), project reflection sessions (joint reflections on experiences and results), sprint reviews (where all involved parties check the project results) as well as status calls and regular open feedback sessions. This agile approach meant that we were able to deliver a final result every two weeks as planned and make an effective start on the project from the very beginning. After completing a sprint (a regular, repeatable work process), we invited all involved interest groups to give us feedback. Working together in a big team saved us a lot of time – after all, we only had to deal with one big feedback loop instead of many different small ones. The feedback from the interest groups was then discussed with the client, letting us establish optimal expectation management from the very beginning.

The success of this special project can definitely be attributed to the close cooperation with the stakeholders as well as the great performance of our iCon team. Together, we dared to look outside the box and try out a lot of different things – such as upskilling. For this, topics were shared with new team members each week. For instance, I presented to the others what a solar cell is made of and how solar power plants work. Then Julius made a presentation on how “Slack” works, a planning tool such as Microsoft Planner or Trello. The idea behind this is that we don’t just come together to work on a project, we are also continuously developing ourselves.

Positive result

Even though it was sometimes challenging to keep all our stakeholders in the loop at all times and get feedback for each individual result, the project turned out to be a great success. Our agile approach proved to be an absolute game changer – both in terms of cooperation with one another and in relation to our clients. Something I am particularly pleased about is that our team not only had the opportunity to see the project through from launch to implementation, we could also further develop our close cooperation with innogy – plus it was just lots of fun!

An article by

Indrani Kaliyan

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