Becoming Agile - The Application of Agile Project Methods in the Management Consulting Industry
Abstract: Background & Purpose: With continuous changes occurring in the business environment new project methods have emerged to accommodate the new needs. This has resulted in that the traditional ways to manage projects have become rigid which has given rise to the new concept of agile. Agile project methods had its breakthrough in the software development industry and have since then spread to other industries. One industry that work with projects and has to manage change is the management consulting industry, and agile project methods could thereby be efficient to apply in this industry. To be able to see how they apply these agile project methods it was seen as interesting to examine which agile project methods they apply most commonly and which key success factors and challenges can be related to its application. Due to the lack of literature on agile project methods outside the software development industry a need was identified to examine this in connection to the management consulting industry. The purpose of this study has thereby been set on examining how this industry applies agile project methods in their work processes. Methodology: Since there is not much literature on the research topic the authors decided on the exploratory approach to the research and also a comparative multiple case study of management consulting firms. The literature review was conducted in a systematic manner to ensure an extensive overview of the topic. Moreover, the thesis’s empirical contributions were made through a qualitative strategy using semi-structured interviews with 11 respondents in six different case companies selected through purposive sampling. Lastly, the authors analyzed the collected data using a thematic analysis. Empirical Findings & Conclusions: The findings from the data collection showcased different agile project methods that are utilized in the management consulting industry. The main methods being: Scrum, Kanban and SAFe. However, the findings showcased that these methods are often used in combinations due to the element of adaptation that is made to suit the client and the project. There is furthermore a number of main key success factors and challenges which became evident from the research, some correspond both to the literature and the empirical data and some are exclusive to the data collection. Here, seven main key success factors for example transparent communication and alignment of organizational mindset and five main challenges for example organizational inertia and difficulties to implement were concluded to be of importance. However, there were also others that should be considered relevant but they are not part of the conclusions. The main findings for this research also underlined that the application of agile project methods are context dependent. Moreover, an aspect of the findings was the impact of IT elements on the choice of using agile project methods. Additionally, including IT in management consulting firms can also be a contributing factor to the pace of adoption of agile project methods. The findings also indicated that it can be difficult to understand agile practices and that previous experience ease this process.
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