As Agile has moved from a revolutionary manifesto to a mainstream approach to product development and project management, project teams have created hybrid approaches that suit the needs of their projects and work environments. The question of whether Agile is compatible with formal project management has been asked and answered. The answer is yes, of course it is.

The first step in transitioning to a hybrid approach is to drop the capital ‘A’ in Agile. That leaves us with “agile”. This change is a symbolic one that begins to eliminate fundamentalist thinking. Then we can begin a rational and practical process to find an approach that is suitable to the situation at hand.

The right approach is neither too loose nor too tight. It is like tuning a stringed instrument. Too tight or too loose and the music is not good. We want an approach that is tuned for optimal performance. Too much control and formality wastes time, costs too much and requires unnecessary effort. Too little control and formality risks errors, unnecessary conflict, poor performance, legal ramifications and unmet expectations. It wastes time, money and effort.

Project Approach

The policies, procedures and practices that are followed to manage and perform a project is the project approach. There are many valid and effective approaches. No single approach is best for all projects. The project type, its environment, size and level of complexity are critical factors in determining the right project approach.

At the same time, there are basic principles that underlie all effective approaches. Among these are 1) clear values, objectives, requirements and roles and responsibilities must be mutually accepted by all stakeholders; 2) stakeholders must be identified and engaged; 2) communication must be candid, clear and regular; 3) risk, conflict, change and issues must be effectively managed; 4) take a situational approach to neither over do or under do documentation and adherence to process. How these principles are executed is the question to be addressed to craft an effective project approach.

Arguing about whether Agile is better than a more formal approach, may be interesting and entertaining, but it misses the key point. The key point is to find the right blend of agility and formality to satisfy the need to successfully complete projects and satisfy stakeholders. The right blend varies from situation to situation.


Every rational organization wants to be able to move with speed and grace; to be nimble. That is the definition of agility.

The Agile manifesto says: “We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value: individuals and interactions over processes and tools; working software over comprehensive documentation; customer collaboration over contract negotiation; responding to change over following a plan. That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.”1


Formality is defined as being rigorous in methodically adhering to established rules or processes. It is also linked to a ceremonious adherence to rules or customs; something that is required but lacks real meaning or importance. In project management, a formal approach is one that has a prescribed process and that includes concrete written documentation – plans, contracts, artifacts, reports, etc. Clearly, we want to avoid formal processes that lack real meaning or importance. The PMOs that insist that every project develop every document identified in the methodology are heading for failure.

PMI’s PMBOK® Guide project management approach is an example used by many to exemplify formal project management.

The PMBOK® Guide is not prescriptive. It does not say one must do PM in a particular way. It allows for, in fact insists that, each project develops a specific plan that identifies how the project will be managed and performed. What the guide does say is that there are basic common project management elements (Knowledge Areas) – the integrated management of scope, time, cost, quality, human resources, communication, risk and procurement. For each of these there are a set of processes and artifacts, which together describe the knowledge area.

A parochial view of the PMBOK® Guide’s processes can, and have, led many astray. They think that the processes dictate a highly formal approach that must be taken to successfully manage a project.


A hybrid approach includes all the principles and elements identified in both agile and formal approaches in the right measure and prioritizes the critical ones.

Individuals need processes and tools. Documentation is as much a part of the product as the working software. The manifesto does not mean to trade contract negotiation away for customer collaboration. Contract negotiation, if done well, can promote more effective collaboration. Similarly, the manifesto does not imply that one should not plan. In fact one needs to plan in order to effectively respond to change.

PMBOK® Guide does not dictate a strict adherence to rules. It does not promote the development of documentation that is not useful or appropriate. It is a guide.

Take for example requirements definition. How much and to what level of detail requirements must be defined and in what format and media will vary from project to project. To maintain that requirements can be completely informal and undocumented is foolish. Such an approach will in all likelihood lead to conflicts and disappointment. Insisting upon highly formal documentation of every detail in every report or product feature with sign-offs by multiple levels of stakeholders in a project in which requirements are evolving is equally as foolish.

What then is the right approach? It is an approach which satisfies business, client and project team member needs.

There is no cookbook, there are principles and guidelines which can be combined in the right measures to create a balanced approach that when applied fits the needs of the situation at hand. This makes it the responsibility of organizations and project managers to create a hybrid approach, or multiple approaches, to suit the needs of their projects.


Reference: George Pitagorsky, PMP

  • "Casseo was engaged to provide both Programme and Project Management services to Capita Life & Pensions Services (Ireland) Ltd to define, plan, manage and control the delivery of a suite of initiatives to support the Companies strategy to be the Business Process Outsourcer of choice in the International and Domestic Life & Pensions market sector. In addition to the Programme Management assignments, Casseo also took on responsibility for the project management and delivery of specific risk and efficiency projects incorporating both business and IT elements together with the Project management of the Capita Internal end-to-end bid process (bid negotiation to legal contracts and subsequent transition/integration). All assignments were approached and delivered in a very practical, professional and comprehensive manner and I would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending or engaging Casseo should the opportunity arise at some point in the future." Operations Director, Capita Life & Pensions Services (Ireland) Ltd.

  • GE Financial Insurance (now Genworth Financial) engaged Casseo to assist in the delivery of a complex cross-functional project. The project entailed managing the IT Infrastructure and providing IT Support to assists a dedicated debtor recovery team that was set up specifically for the project. Based in Birmingham, Casseo leveraged excellent project management and technical skills to quickly win the confidence of the local team. Over a period of time, Casseo worked hand-in-hand with this team to deliver an outstanding result where significant more debts were recovered than had been thought possible.  I have no hesitation in recommending Casseo. Programme Manager, Genworth Financial

  •   "Casseo was engaged to provide Project Management services to ‘Prudential Europe Management Services Ltd’ and each project managed by Casseo during this period was delivered in a very professional and effective manner. Casseo also provided key project management services in the selection; negotiation and subsequent contract awarding of a strategic €160m Business Process Outsourcing agreement, which was in line with the Prudential business strategy. I would highly recommend Casseo to any organisation seeking experienced, practical and structured delivery of IT/Business change projects." Managing Director, Prudential Europe Management Services Ltd

  • " I engaged Casseo as I felt other vendors and recruiters just didn’t get our requirements and I haven’t been disappointed. We have established a solid partnership that I value greatly."

    Director of Change, International Financial Data Services (IFDS)

  •   "Casseo was engaged on a critical programme aimed at further enhancing Dell’s renowned Supply Chain model for outbound logistics in EMEA (Europe, Middle East & Africa). The Casseo team immediately hit the ground running and added immense value in augmenting the internal Dell IT team seeking to expedite this critical project.  They brought a strategic and realistic view of the possibilities for the project, as well as a professional focus on delivery of a quality product to agreed timescales.  Casseo managed a wide range of internal relationships, as well as cementing the external commitments needed from Dell’s partners to make the project a reality.  Throughout the project life cycle, Casseo always brought a practical perspective to the table when wrestling with a complex project, and executed creative and innovative solutions to ensure success. A very worthwhile partnership which I would eagerly recommend to those in search of external expertise and commitment in meeting their project commitments."

  • "When DB Schenker announced the $2BN acquisition of BAX Global, the integration of these two large organisations commenced in over 100 Countries across the globe. In Ireland, Schenker/Bax engaged the services of Casseo Ltd to project manage critical elements of this integration.  The brief included; IT Application integration, Network integration; IT Infrastructure upgrade and IT organisation design & recruitment.  Casseo Ltd played a vital role in each element of their brief, quickly familiarising themselves with the organisation locally and globally, building up positive and constructive working relationships with key staff. Over a nine month period through the mix of extensive experience, hard work, determination and the use of professional project management tools, Casseo Ltd made a huge contribution to the successful integration of Schenker/Bax in Ireland.   Throughout the project, Casseo Ltd provided regular progress reports to the project team and provided direct and clear advice on all occasions. Our decision to engage Casseo Ltd was recognised as a huge success, locally in Ireland and at our global HQ in Germany." Managing Director – Schenker Ireland Ltd,

  • Casseo Ltd were selected by Pioneer Investments Management Ltd to play a very significant part in establishing the PMO in the organisation (processes, systems, data) and in gaining broad acceptance for the role of the PMO amongst the IT community. The Casseo associate made a major contribution to adapting and tailoring processes, at short notice, to accommodate the diverse elements involved in a very large and complex change programme and also came with a strong project management background, which, combined with a good knowledge of the asset management business, allowed him to be effective from the start. The Casseo associate has performed to a very high standard in a fast-moving, multinational environment and has interacted well with PM, IT and business groups.  I would have no hesitation in recommending Casseo Ltd to other suppliers who are seeking a quality Project Management partner. Programme Manager, Pioneer Investments Management Ltd

  • "As a Global IT director with General Motors, it’s critical that I source high calibre resources every time. Casseo Ltd bring such a level of confidence and integrity to the pipeline of resources that distinguishes them from everyone else in the market. Casseo is about relationship building, getting to know our company, our culture, our management team, requirements and practices. They assist with the tailoring of job specifications to ensure the widest range of options are attracted to the job profiles. In addition to the existing Casseo network, their hands on screening of resources means that we have an excellent ratio of interviews to on-boarding and subsequently, shorter ramp-up cycles, improved business value & increased efficiencies.  Resources are not just screened based on their CVs, Casseo invests a lot of time to get to know the resources and this profiling gets best results, both for my teams and for the resources themselves. Our local team has leveraged the Casseo experience for a number of years and I would highly recommend them to any organisation seeking a true partnership arrangement that delivers results. " Global IT Director General Motors

  •   "Casseo partnered with Perot Systems to provide Programme and Project Management expertise across a number of projects in the UK Public sector and in the international education sector. These are complex Business Transformation and IT Change Programmes, aimed at improving efficiency and business outcomes and reducing costs through the implementation of new technology. Once engaged, Casseo’s associates hit the ground running, developing and implementing the plans, governance models and reporting disciplines thereby bringing significant improvements in the clarity and transparency of the progress being made in a short timeframe. The focus, work ethic and pragmatism of Casseo’s associates meant that as an executive sponsor you had confidence and clarity that the projects would be delivered and that our customers objectives and outcomes would be realised. The results and deliverables achieved speak for themselves across all engagements. I would strongly recommend Casseo to other organisations faced with requirements to deliver new projects or indeed faced with having to intervene or rescue in flight IT or Business Change programmes.” Director of Professional Services, Perot Systems

  • Casseo Ltd provided experienced IT contract personnel to Kindle Banking Systems. During this period Casseo personnel quickly assumed key roles in the development of the Bankmaster product portfolio, a leading open systems integrated banking solution that was deployed in over 200 banks worldwide. Casseo developed a partnership with Kindle Banking Systems that saw its personnel provide business critical services during a time of huge upheaval in the banking software market. Casseo services were also key in underpinning operations during the creation of Kindle’s Bangalore Software Services Centre. Technical competence, pragmatic project focus and flexible people are the hallmark of Casseo’s service delivery. I would strongly recommend Casseo and its team of IT professionals. Corporate Partnership Services Director, Kindle Banking Systems

  • TTM engaged Casseo at Board level to work with us particularly, but not exclusively, on Funding, Delivery Management and Sales Growth. The Casseo Interim Manager worked with us through two acquisition approaches, a funding round with Ulster Bank Ireland / Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS Commercial) UK and numerous Vendor Selection processes. Subsequently, we have appointed the Casseo Interim Managers as Non – Executive Chairman of TTM Ireland / TTM UK and as a direct result, our revenue has grown considerably allied by a massive reduction in our costs through various measures including Business Process Outsourcing and more structured Delivery Management. TTM’s Managing Director, our Senior Management team and our Project Managers have grown in confidence since their arrival at TTM. The Casseo Interim Manager’s rounded experience and qualifications has allowed him to truly work with the management team across all operational areas – financial management, sales channel development, project management, marketing support, technology vendor selection and in particular operational business management. We now have a much more structured outlook to the future and in our attempt to add more value to the bottom line the Casseo Interim Managers input will ultimately have an impact on the value of TTM as we move towards trade sale. Managing Director...[Read more]

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