Neil Varma of New York works as an IT project manager in the private sector. In the following article, Neil Varma compares two popular management approaches, unveiling the nuances that can spell the difference between triumph and stagnation.
Agile and Waterfall are two much-loved project management methodologies popular in software development. However, professionals often find it tricky to establish which one they should be using for their project. Since Waterfall offers a linear system and Agile encourages simultaneous working between teams, they’re both useful in different situations.
Thus, industry experts encourage professionals to learn the ins and outs of both project management approaches for best results.
Neil Varma on Understanding Waterfall Project Management
This traditional method defines goals and outcomes from the get-go, boasting clearly defined execution sequence with project phases that cannot advance until the previous stage receives approval. Upon completion of the phase, however, experts note it’s difficult (and often costly) to revisit previous sections.
Neil Varma of New York says that using Waterfall, projects follow a linear formula, making it perfect for work with predictable, recurring processes. Although, it’s notorious for leaving development teams unable to keep up with ever-evolving spaces and the competition.
Just one scope change or missed deadline can trigger considerable consequences on subsequent releases. Plus, teams that are completely focused on the next work phase find fixing bugs or technical debt difficult when they’re constantly pushing forward.
Those who’ve used Waterfall note these advantages and disadvantages of the approach:
- Concrete plan from start to finish
- Establishes project requirements early on
- Sometimes time-saving
- Every phase requires deliverables to progress to the next stage, ensuring a structured workflow
- Less coordination thanks to clearly defined phases
- Sequential processes
- Clearly defined dependencies
- Cost can be estimated after the necessities are determined
- Better focus on designs and requirements
- Design phase is more structured and methodical
- Harder to share work since the stricter phases means teams are more specialize
- Additional hiring requirements needed to fulfill specialized phases
- Extra communication overhead throughout handoffs and phase transitions
- Risk of time wastes due to setbacks and delays during transitions
- Product ownership and engagement isn’t as strong as Agile because the focus is always on the current phase
- Whole process can take longer
- Not great for early issue detection
- No flexibility or change
Understanding Agile Project Management
Agile project management was created as a response to the aforementioned method’s rigidity. Thus, it’s much more fluid and iterative, focusing on continuous iterations incorporating consumer feedback. This ability to adjust during each release promotes exceptional adaptability and velocity, differing considerably from the linear, Waterfall approach.
Neil Varma of New York explains that since software development projects can take years to finalize and technology can change drastically during that time, the Agile method allows developers to incorporate these evolutions and direction changes, even in later stages. Plus, stakeholder feedback will be accounted for during each iteration.
Agile sees teams working on various phases of the project concurrently, meeting short-term deadlines. And it isn’t the manager, but the team, that drives the project’s direction, empowering motivation and productivity, alongside self-direction.
Those who’ve used the Agile management system note the following advantages and disadvantages below:
- Short-term deadlines for efficiency and productivity
- Flexibility to change project direction
- Faster feedback cycles
- Early problem detection
- Enhanced potential for customer satisfaction
- Better accountability/visibility
- Significantly improved time to market
- No organizational learning curve cost
- Many technical dependencies and engineering costs to consider
- Inter-project and critical path dependencies aren’t as defined as Waterfall
- Potential for overlap/unnecessary time/effort spent on later stages
- Harder to ensure team is on the same page since deliverables aren’t a requirement to progress through the stages
- Miscommunication is a worry
- Timelines are more difficult to establish from the start
Choosing the Perfect Management Approach for the Project
Neil Varma of New York says that most managers prefer one method or the other, but in reality, Agile and Waterfall are made with different project types in mind.
Waterfall is perfect for projects that have concreate timelines and definable deliverables. Generally speaking, if the project’s constraints are well-identified, understood, and document, the Waterfall methodology will be the most useful.
Neil Varma of New York notes that Agile, however, is ideal for projects without well-understood time constraints. If the project includes coming up with a new product, for example, the timeline and scope may not be determined in advance. Thus, Agile is the best option, thanks to its flexibility that lets teams plan a project in stages to evolve with the product’s creation.