Book Review: The Software Project Manager's Bridge to Agility

Michelle Sliger's and Stacia Broderick's The Software Project Manager's Bridge to Agility takea all the standard project management concepts and terms we've been entrenched in for the past decade or three and explains the crux of agile to you from within that domain.

For all you PMPs, PMOs, PMI members and PMBoK people out there ... This is it! This book is "the one" for you. Look no further than Michelle Sliger's and Stacia Broderick's The Software Project Manager's Bridge to Agility to take all the standard project management concepts and terms you've been entrenched in for the past decade or three and to explain the crux of agile to you from within that domain. The book's title has it exactly right: It is nothing less than a "bridge to agility" for long-time project management professionals who suddenly find themselves needing to understand and manage agile projects in short-order time.

The book is divided into three parts:

  • an Agile Overview
  • The Bridge: Relating PMBOK Guide Practices to Agile Practices
  • Crossing the Bridge to Agile

Both Michelle Sliger and Stacia Broderick are Project Management Professionals (PMPs) with many years of experience practicing and applying PMBoK before "bridging the gap" to Agile Project Management:

"As PMPs who are now agile enthusiasts, we feel it is important to ... dispel the mistaken notion in the agile community that PMPs cannot be good agile project managers. We would like to build a bridge between the two." - Michelle Sliger and Stacia Broderick, from the Preface of the book

The book's preface gives the motivation for the book and clearly presents the overall structure and content. The introduction tells the personal story of how one of the book's authors "crossed the bridge" from PMBoK to Agile PM.

Part I comprises chapters 1-3: Chapter 1 dives right into the foundations of software agility, giving a very high-level history and description, and then presents the Agile Manifesto and its Principles of Agile Software; Chapter 2 looks at the history of the PMI and the PMBoK Guide and then relates its project lifecycle phases and process groups to the "Agile Fractal"; Chapter 3 then delves into more detail about the agile development lifecycle, explaining the concepts of iteration plans amp; retrospectives and the other various levels of agile planning.

Part II consists of a chapter for each of the PMBoK's nine knowledge areas. For each knowledge area, it describes what you have previously done as a "traditional" project manager and what you would instead do to address that knowledge area as an agile project manager. What I found particularly useful in Part II were the tables in each section that clearly identified each traditional project management activity and deliverable and how it is handled in agile projects. Better still is the summary table at the end of each chapter with the two columns: "I used to do this" and "Now I do this".

Part III covers the "soft skills" of agile project amp; change leadership. The various chapters discuss: how the PM's responsibilities change from traditional to Agile projects, interactions with other teams (especially ones that aren't Agile), Aligning with and gaining support from a PMO, and "Selling the benefits of Agile" to other internal and external roles and stakeholders throughout the enterprise. The last chapter in this section is my favorite, addressing common mistakes, pitfalls myths and stereotypes about agile development and agile projects.

Two appendices (one giving an overview of Agile methods, the other of agile project management deliverables), plus a glossary of terms, wrap-up the book very clearly and concisely.

I found the book to be a bit Scrum-centric in its terms and approach, but that is perfectly reasonable given that Scrum is the most heavily used Agile method (as of this writing) and the only one that that is almost exclusively and comprehensively devoted to project management practices and concerns.

For those who want to see more before running out and buying this book, Michelle Sliger's website has a nice collection of her articles and presentations (including a 4-part series on Relating PMBoK to Agile Practices that was a precursor of some of the material in the book), and the introduction along with chapter 5 are available online at the publisher's website.

It is so nice to have a book for traditional project managers that I can simply say "Here - read this; it explains everything you need to know to understand Agility and begin managing an agile project." Previously, my top recommendation for an agile project management "How To" book was Mike Cohn's Agile Estimating and Planning. And for those who are not already PMPs or ingrained in the PMBoK, that is still probably the best and most practical book available today. But for anyone coming from many years of being steeped in PMBoK, PMI, PMP or PMOs, The Software Project Manager's Bridge to Agility is the quintessential guide to get you started and on your way to understanding and applying Agile Project Management.


About the Reviewer

Brad Appleton is an enterprise SCM/ALM solution architect for a Fortune 100 technology company. Currently he helps projects and teams adopt and apply agile development amp; SCM practices. Brad also author's the Agile CM Environments blog, and is co-author of Software Configuration Management Patterns: Effective Teamwork, Practical Integration, the "Agile SCM" column in's CM Journal, and is a former section editor for The C++ Report. Since 1987, Brad has extensive experience using, developing, and supporting SCM environments for teams of all shapes and sizes. He holds an M.S. in Software Engineering and a B.S. in Computer Science and Mathematics.


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