Agile Project Management Vs Waterfall has become a David vs Goliath fight among practitioners. As technology marches on, so does the world of project management. Challenges like deadlines being missed or work not completed or tasks not finished consistently lead many project managers to employ agile project management strategies in a hurry. However, many industry veterans fail to evolve from waterfall methodologies. Hence, the Agile Project Management Vs Waterfall debate becomes a very pertinent one. Before we dwell on this pertinent debate, we must understand a little bit of history about both these methodologies.
Agile Project Management Vs Waterfall: Development of Waterfall Model
Waterfall project management as we know finds its origin in the 19th Century. As many practitioners debate the origin of the waterfall, it can be as old as the construction of The Great Pyramids. However, the practice developed and flourished during the world war era (1900-1950) with the formalization of many techniques like CPM and PERT as we know them today. From Taylor’s Scientific work management to Henri Ford’s assembly line manufacturing, the Program Management discipline saw a radical shift. This was fueled by efficiency and the constant demand to reduce costs. However, the discipline developed challenges with the advent of Information and communication technologies in late 1980.
Agile Project Management Vs Waterfall: Emergence of Agile Project Management
There was an increasing emphasis on processes rather than the customers. During the last decade of the 20th Century, new-age businesses which focused on Software and services developed came into being. Customer centricity became central to delivery management. This led to the practitioners meeting in early 2000 to create what we know as the “Agile Manifesto” today. Gradually agile became a buzzword for the software and the delivery industry. However, many contemporary industries could not function properly with the Agile Principles. The majority of these industries could not transition fully as they still wanted to retain core elements of core and robust documentation. Recently the industry has been gradually migrating to a “Hybrid Approach” taking the best of both worlds and creating a level playing field for both industries.
Agile Project Management Vs Waterfall: Core Differences
We need to understand, how Agile Project Management Vs Waterfall fares across various industries. Also, understanding waterfall vs agile from a process point of view is important
Waterfall project management is a traditional project management methodology that relies on a sequential process and documentation.
Agile project management is a newer, more modern approach that emphasizes communication and collaboration among team members.
The key differences between Agile Project Management Vs Waterfall
- Waterfall project management typically uses a sequential process and documentation. Agile project management emphasizes communication and collaboration among team members.
- Waterfall projects require more planning and preparation time than agile projects. Agile projects are more flexible and allow for changes in direction or requirements during the development process.
- With waterfall, the risk is typically managed through upfront analysis and planning of tasks, whereas agile projects focus on risk feedback during the development process.
- Customer Centricity tends to be higher in the case of Agile Project Management, however, it depends highly on the skillset of the Project Management
- With Waterfall, cost management is complex and requires a high degree of forecasting. Agile relatively is flexible as the customer is looped in every decision-making process
- Agile is primarily more people focused whereas waterfall processes play a central role. However, people management has taken a central role in waterfall approaches as well
- In Waterfall project management, the focus is relatively high on agreement and sign-offs whereas, in Agile Program Management, the central focus is on collaboration and a working piece of development.
|Documentation Focus||Very High||Relatively low|
|People Focus||Moderate||Very High|
|Customer Collaboration||Limited to Sign offs||Every stage of development|
|Scale of Project||Suited for Large Project||Suited for Shorter Projects|
|Focus on Quality||Similar||Similar|
Agile Project Management Vs Waterfall: Process Differences
|The waterfall is divided into distinct Phases called Stages||Agile focuses on decomposing the Product Life Cycle into Sprints|
|The Project is seen as one||Many smaller Agile Projects can compose a Bigger Project|
|The Process is Sequential||The Process is cyclical|
|The Sign offs and Processes are considered sacrosanct in the product life cycle||Emphasis is on the creation of a functioning prototype|
|The chances of changing the scope at a later part of the project are very limited||Much more flexible for accommodating scope changes|
|Testing Plans are rarely discussed or they are done after a product is developed||Testing is done after the end of each sprint|
|Risk Management is generally taken care at the end of each gate||Risks are mitigated at the end of each sprint generally|
|Project Manager Assumes the role of a Team Leader||The project Manager Acts as a Servant Leader|
Pros: Waterfall Project Management
There are several pros to waterfall project management, including its linearity, its predictability, and its ability to provide clear deliverables. The waterfall is also well-suited for projects with well-defined requirements and little need for change.
One of the main advantages of waterfall project management is its linearity. The waterfall approach is a step-by-step process, with each phase building on the previous one. This predictability can be advantageous, as it allows project managers to better plan and controls the project.
Another advantage of waterfall project management is that it produces clear deliverables. Because each phase has specific objectives, deliverables can be easily measured and assessed. This can be beneficial in terms of quality control and stakeholder communication.
Finally, waterfall project management is often a good choice for projects with well-defined requirements and little need for change. Because the waterfall approach is not designed for iteration or adaptation, it can be less flexible than other approaches. However, this inflexibility can also be seen as an advantage, as it forces discipline on the project team and can help to avoid scope creep.
Cons: Waterfall Project Management
There are a few potential drawbacks to using waterfall project management, which include the following:
1. Inflexibility: Once a stage of the project is complete, it is very difficult to go back and make changes. This can lead to problems further down the line if unforeseen issues arise.
2. Lack of customer involvement: In waterfall project management, the customer is generally not involved until the very end of the project. This can cause problems if the customer’s requirements have changed or if they are not happy with the final product.
3. Rigidity: Waterfall project management can be quite rigid and inflexible, which can lead to frustration amongst team members.
4. Time-consuming: Waterfall project management can take a long time to complete, as each stage needs to be finished before moving on to the next one. This can be problematic if there are tight deadlines in place.
Pros: Agile Project Management
Agile project management is a process that helps organizations manage projects in a more efficient and effective way. There are many benefits of using agile project management, including the following:
1. Increased Efficiency
With agile project management, projects are completed more quickly and efficiently because there is less wasted time and effort. This is because agile project management focuses on delivering value early and often, which means that tasks and objectives are constantly being refined and improved.
2. Better Quality
Since agile project management emphasizes constant refinement and feedback, the end product is often of better quality than if traditional methods were used. This is because problems and issues are identified and addressed much sooner, resulting in a better final product.
3. Improved Customer Satisfaction
Since agile project management puts the customer first, customer satisfaction levels are usually higher when compared to traditional methods. This is because customers are able to give their input throughout the development process, which leads to a product or service that better meets their needs and expectations.
4. Greater flexibility
Another great benefit of agile project management is that it is much more flexible than traditional methods. This means that changes can be made quickly and easily, without disrupting the entire project. This is essential in today
Cons: Agile Project Management
There are a few potential drawbacks to using agile project management that organizations should be aware of before deciding if it’s the right approach for them.
Firstly, agile project management can sometimes lead to scope creep. This is because the nature of agile means that new features and requirements can be added at any time during the project. This can make it difficult to keep track of what needs to be done and can lead to projects taking longer than expected.
Secondly, agile project management can also be quite chaotic and disorganized. This is because it relies on constant communication and collaboration between team members, which can be difficult to maintain.
Finally, agile project management requires a lot of commitment from everyone involved. team members need to be available to work on the project at all times and be willing to change their plans as needed. This can be tough for some organizations to manage.
Waterfall vs Agile: Which is Prefered?
Waterfall project management is typically favored for larger, more complex projects with a known timeline and planned events. This method involves dividing the project into phases or milestones, with each phase having defined deliverables and deadlines. A waterfall project manager typically specifies all the required details in advance, making it easy for team members to know what they need to do and when.
Agile project management is more suited for small, fast-paced projects where flexibility is essential. In this method, project managers take a “best guess” approach to planning and managing the project. They allow team members to work together asynchronously to come up with solutions to problems as they arise. This type of approach results in greater innovation and faster completion of the project. It can be difficult to adapt to at first, but ultimately it produces better outcomes.
Pros of Granularity with Waterfall versus Flexibility with Agile
Waterfall and agile project management are two popular, albeit contrasting, (Agile Project Management Vs Waterfall) methodologies for creating software. While both have their benefits, granularity is one key difference that can make a big difference in how successful a project will be.
Waterfall projects are typically divided into major phases, with each phase assigned a specific set of tasks. This approach allows for a high degree of certainty about the progress of the project, as well as a high level of control from the initial stages onwards. However, this degree of control can also be a hindrance if the stakeholders need to make changes that affect multiple phases simultaneously. For example, if the stakeholders need to change part of the system that was coded in Phase 1 but is still in use in Phase 3, they will have to wait until Phase 3 is complete to make the changes. This type of delay can be disastrous if it causes customers to leave the business or if the project team runs out of time.
Agile projects divide the project into several short-term sprints (of weeks or months), with each sprint containing several tasks that are then completed as they are completed. The goal is to allow stakeholders more flexibility in making changes while.
Tip: Use Agile when you have a very high degree of ambiguity and waterfall which would require strong process orientation and sign-offs.
Agile Project Management Vs Waterfall: Examples
|Develop an App-Based Software||Not a Prefered Solution||Highly Prefered|
|Develop a Telematics System for an Automobile||Develop the Hardware with Waterfall||Develop the Software interface with Agile|
|A Regulatory Project||Highly Prefered||Should be avoided|
|An Intergovernmental Project||Highly Prefered||Not Prefered|
|Proof of Concept Projects||Not Prefered||Highly Prefered|
|A Large Scale Construction Project||Highly Prefered||Not Prefered|
|Projects with high Ambiguity and with Evident Scope Changes||Not Prefered||Preferred|
What are the Advantages of Going With Agile from The Start and Vs Incorporate it Later After Months or Years Of Development?
Waterfall project management has been around for quite some time now and it seems to be working for most organizations. However, there are a few advantages of going with agile project management from the start rather than incorporating it later after months or years of development.
One big advantage of agile project management is that it enables faster and better communication between all the different stakeholders involved in a project. This is because agile projects are based on continuous deliberation and collaboration between all the different parties involved in them, which leads to an overall better understanding of the project’s current state. Additionally, agile projects tend to have a lower total cost of ownership because they are more efficient in terms of resources used.
Another advantage of going with waterfall vs agile from the start is that it can help reduce the risk associated with projects. This is because agile projects are more focused on the outcome rather than the process, which leads to a reduction in implementation risks. Additionally, agile projects often use iterations as a way to release new versions of a project without having to go through a complete implementation cycle again. This helps keep the Risk/Reward Ratio high, which is always a good thing. The debate between waterfall vs agile is never ending, at least in the current context as the discipline is undergoing some shifts. It is advised to devise competence for both the approaches for future.
Samrat is a Delhi-based MBA from the Indian Institute of Management. He is a Strategy, AI, and Marketing Enthusiast and passionately writes about core and emerging topics in Management studies. Reach out to his LinkedIn for a discussion or follow his Quora Page