The 3 Most Impactful Differences Between Agile & Waterfall Methodology

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Ultimately, when we think Project Management, there are two types of methodologies- Waterfall and Agile approach. As project managers, it is our job to determine the value of each methodology and it’s best practices. In this month’s Vlog, Ashley Hunt talks about each approach and the three most crucial differences to take note of.

What is Waterfall?

The marathon.

Waterfall methodology is a sequential process flow. In other words, it means we are planning in advance for an entire project. Much like a waterfall flowing from top to bottom, we start at the top by initiating a process, then planning, then executing, and finally monitoring and controlling the process before it’s completion. Waterfall is commonly used for projects including the mass production of tangible long-term work efforts (a fancy way of saying construction). Chances are, the scope of the project is well known in the beginning, making it easy to pre-plan and execute.

Waterfall has a very formal change control system. We move forward by planning on the scope of work and depending on the requirements collected at the very beginning of planning. This can also help us set an appropriate baseline for project costs

Challenges to Waterfall

1. Validation at the end

Like any project, there’s always a chance of carrying it out to completion, only for your customers to not validate your work. It’s frustrating to not produce the right end-result. Dreams are crushed and time and efforts can feel as if they’ve been wasted.

2. Change is difficult

In waterfall specifically, changes are difficult to make because we have the set plan already underway.

3. Drowning in documentation

Another downside of Waterfall methodology is all the tedious documentation. As a project manager, it’s your job to decide best practices on this. Note that the more you pre-plan, the more you’re probably documenting.

4. Possible Cancellation

If there are too many scope changes, a project can be cancelled and the team would have to start over. First they wanted bikes and now they want motorcycles? No one likes starting from scratch.

What is Agile?

The sprint.

Think of the word, agility. Agile was typically designed for knowledge work. It was developed to create a very simple design that becomes more clear through out the project. We expect change and embrace it. The only way to do that is not to pre-plan too far out in to the future. Instead of a marathon, we plan and execute in 30-day sprints. At the end of that sprint, a workable increment is made that can be evaluated by the customer to make sure we’re still on the right track. We can adapt, adjust and be agile (hence the name). This is most commonly practiced for non-tangible products such as web sites and software.

Challenges to Agile

1. Difficult to select the right amount of requirements.

As we shift and change we try to produce something that meets the customers needs and provides them value.

2. Difficult to do if you’re using Scrum, XP, or feature driven development.

Any inexperience team members or even senior management that is not fully engaged can lead to chaotic and difficult implementation. This type of practice is hands on. It constantly needs to be reaffirmed and managed.

The 3 Most Impactful Differences

1. Beginning:

Agile has no clear picture of the final product
Waterfall has a clear picture of the final product

2. Middle:

Agile expects change and adds features as needed
Waterfall has formally controlled change which can affects baselines

3. End:

Agile focuses on producing an increment quickly rather than quality
Waterfall focuses on quality rather than producing a result quickly

3 Most Impactful Differences Between Agile and Waterfall

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