IT Project Management: Waterfall vs. Agile

IT Project Management: Waterfall vs. Agile

 Waterfall vs. Agile

The debate between Waterfall or traditional project methodology and the newer Agile methodology can create heated conversations among project managers.  Some project managers swear by one technique versus the other. Agile was used originally for software and there are a few die-hard managers, who still believe software is the only use for Agile methodology. Other project managers use a hybrid approach.
Which Methodology is right for your Project? Source:

Waterfall and Agile Methodologies are:
  1. Waterfall: Traditional approach using distinct phases with milestone achievement.
  2. Agile: A flexible Rapid Application Development which ueses sprints and deliveries small products at the end of each sprint.


Characteristics of Waterfall methodology include:
  • Detailed project plans and timelines (Gantt charts)
  • Product deliverable at the end of the project
  • Very defined scope requiring a rigid change management process
  • Changes to scope are generally costly or push the schedule to the right
  • Well defined team member roles
  • Linear approach with dependencies
  • Detailed requirements planning
Waterfall Methodology: Source


Characteristics of Agile methodology include:
  • Shorter planning phase and multiple deliverable throughout the project
  • Flexible team roles
  • Collaborative approach to requirements
  • Changes to scope are possible after each sprint
  • Flexibility on requirements planning
  • Changes are loss costly and impact the timeline less
  • Concurrent tasks results in fewer dependencies 
Agile Methodology: Source 

Waterfall vs. Agile

Some considerations when deciding between waterfall and agile include Project Characteristics, Sponsor Characteristics,  and the comfort level with Agile Methodology.
  • Project Characteristics:
    • How long is the duration of the project?
    • Are incremental deliverable possible?
    • Are there legal or regulatory concerns?
    • Are there inter-dependencies with other projects?
    • Will the project be in-house or outsources?
    • Can the project team be broken into small teams?
    • Is collaboration an option for the team members?
  • Sponsor Characteristics:
    • Is there sponsor buy-in?
    • How much time is the sponsor willing to dedicate to the project?
    • How committed is the sponsor?
  • Agile Acceptance:
    • Is the project team trained in Agile methodology?
    • Has agile been applied to organizations in the organization before?
    • Are coaches available to the project team?

Waterfall vs. Agile: Source


Every project manager needs to fully consider their options before making a commitment.  Many project managers use a hybrid approach.

Aligning Project Traits with Methodologies: Source


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