Do you know the difference between agile and waterfall? You may have wondered which of the two is best for your business.
Don't chase waterfalls - unless you're looking for an approach to project management. The waterfall method is a common framework that teams have used for years. However, it's not the only way to deliver projects, and it may not be the best one given your team's needs. In this blog, we'll cover the differences between various agile and waterfall methodologies, addressing the pros and cons of each. We will also introduce a possible alternative, called a hybrid methodology, which may offer the best of both worlds to certain teams.
Comparison between the agile and the waterfall method
The agile method does not have much in common with the waterfall method. In many respects, agile is particularly a reaction to the limitations of the more common waterfall method. However, each of these two frameworks still has both advantages and disadvantages.
Let's now take a closer look at these two methods.
The waterfall method
Let's start with the waterfall approach, as it is a bit easier to explain. While the idea of a waterfall may seem majestic and bold, the eponymous method is quite traditional and straightforward.
This model is used to describe the common approach to project management in which a:e project manager:in first creates a plan before work begins. The project requirements and tasks are planned in advance and then given to a team, which works on one task at a time until the project is finally delivered.
Tasks are completed in the order in which they were specified in the original plan. Waterfall project management is consequently called this because tasks are completed in sequential order, cascading from one task to the next, so to speak.
This traditional method is widely used in the project management field, but it also has its limitations. While the strict approach allows team members to orient and adjust to their tasks at each step of the project, it is not very adaptable, so it can lack input from the team as a whole.
This lack of flexibility has quite limited the way modern teams work. The waterfall approach makes it more difficult to manage the pace of work as needed. A predefined plan does not allow sufficient room for change and fails to adapt to invaluable feedback from stakeholders as well as customers.
Advantages of the waterfall method
- At the beginning, clear goals and objectives are set.
- The method is based on a straightforward structure that is repeated in every project.
- Team members can easily understand what is expected of them.
- The general pressure on employees is less.
- Especially for new employees, the familiarization is easier.
- The information can be easily shared with all team members.
- Because success is measured by the progress of task completion, employees experience a sense of satisfaction more quickly.
- In addition, budgets can be forecast more accurately.
- The desired end result of a project is fixed from the beginning, so that the goal is apparent to all involved.
Disadvantages of the waterfall method
- The process is not as flexible as in an agile approach.
- It is difficult to foresee obstacles and dependencies that could delay the work.
- Work is not always evenly distributed across the team.
- It may happen that project overloads occur.
- The short-lived teams may ignore conflicts to reach the end of the project.
- It is difficult to change the direction or scope of deliverables once a project has begun.
- Customer involvement is lower during the course of project or product development.
- Stakeholders may not see progress until the end of the project or when the final product is completed.
- There is no initial testing phase to ensure that the project implementation or product creation is done properly.
The agile method
The agile method is an iterative approach that focuses on testing and adapting. It involves soliciting opinions and involving stakeholders at an early stage to determine the best way to proceed. In the agile approach, a plan is also created, but it is flexible, leaving plenty of room for adjustments and possible changes in direction.
As new information comes in, the plan is adjusted accordingly to ensure that the end result meets both customer and stakeholder requirements. Adaptability plays a big role in the agile method, which is why so many teams have chosen to adopt it. The ability to adapt to ever-changing external circumstances is a sought-after talent today, given the pace of change in technology and business, as well as in global markets.
Advantages of the agile method
- The entire team is involved in the planning.
- Feedback is at the heart of the process.
- Both customers and stakeholders are involved.
- In the decision-making process, the customer experience (customer journey) is the top priority.
- The team can adapt as new information comes in.
- Appropriate changes can be made as the project progresses to overcome obstacles or avoid work blockages.
- The capacity (workload) of each team member is continuously assessed to prevent burnout.
- Teams focused on long-term collaboration can always expand their ability to work together.
- Processes are continuously improved at every stage of project implementation or product creation.
- Everyone's opinion is sought, regardless of role, when it comes to obtaining retrospective feedback.
Disadvantages of the agile method
- The techniques and terminology underlying the agile approach can be difficult to understand.
- It can take a while for a team to learn the right agile methods.
- Agile teams may not get the support they need from managers and business owners.
- It is also possible that not all team members are convinced of the agile framework, and this can lead to a split within the team.
- A lack of required documentation could further result in employees not understanding all the details.
- Budget levels can be difficult to predict, especially if it turns out that the project/product requires a change in direction.
- The scope of project implementation/product creation could continue to grow (unnoticed scope growth).
- The numerous meetings required in an agile approach take up a lot of time.
- It is currently even more difficult to find new employees who have experience with agile methods.
"Agile" is more of an umbrella term that encompasses different frameworks that incorporate agile practices. Lean, DevOps, Kanban, and Scrum are all different types of agile methodologies that meet different requirements. For example, the Scrum framework includes repetitive short-term rapid deployments that are typically implemented by agile software development teams. If you've never heard of the Scrum framework, it may be difficult for you to grasp the whole concept at once. A Scrum deployment lasts two weeks. It starts with deployment planning, where the product owner:in decides which upcoming tasks should be prioritized for the next deployment. From there, the team works through the specified tasks. The deployment is led by a Scrum leader who organizes daily stand-up meetings to keep everyone informed about the project/product progress. Finally, at the end of the deployment, an evaluation and retrospective assessment is conducted to ensure that the team is continuously evolving and improving.
The hybrid method
Do you have to commit to an agile or a waterfall method? You may be considering whether you could simply combine the benefits of both methods. For some teams, the hybrid agile approach may represent an opportunity to combine the best of both worlds.
Hybrid model combines the best techniques from the waterfall and agile frameworks. For example, you could start with different agile deployments for prototyping and gathering feedback, and then develop a single action plan without agile techniques that they then implement. This could reconcile the benefits of both strategies and serve as a springboard for the team to fully transition to an agile methodology.
A hybrid approach often uses agile project management and other unconventional agile applications. The agile method was originally designed for the software development sector, but teams from all kinds of other industries can also gradually implement procedures from the agile method into their work routines. The agile methods used by software developers do not always work for teams from other fields. Switching to an agile method is often difficult, especially if a team has already become accustomed to a different way of working.
An approach that meets your requirements
Take your time when choosing the approach that is best for your team, company, or operation, considering the needs of your team as well as your customers and stakeholders. Moving to an agile methodology is often fraught with difficulty. However, if you believe that an agile methodology will have a long-term beneficial impact on your processes and your business, this may be the right time to make the switch. A hybrid approach can help you make the transition gradually and without too much disruption to your current processes.
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