A practical hybrid of Waterfall-Agile

08-22-2011 Project Management Office Add comments

Lets recognize the benefits of Agile and Waterfall in their own suitable contexts. Indeed, for NASA space projects, Pharmaceutical clinical trials, and other regulated industries, the “heavyweight” waterfall methods with extensive planning and documentation is the only way to work.

Web and software development, IT implementations, and some research programs are the right environments for the Agile “lightweight” approach. In most cases, using Scrum as the most popular framework, the teams deliver better final results for the customer than Waterfall. This is true for internal projects with internal customers.

External customers however, may not be so open to Agile if they only have visibility to a short term Sprint. They will want to have a quote and schedule not for only two or four weeks, but for the entire project. They have budgets to manage and commercial targets to meet, and cannot simply assume the risk of starting a project without total estimates. There is an upfront level of planning that cannot be skipped.

A generic umbrella methology could take good elements from both, Waterfall and Agile, for a hybrid model better suited for sw development projects with external customers.

After all, methodologies and processes are not the goal themselves, but means to help achiving the goals. If Project work is better done with a mix of various tools and techniques from diverse sources, lets do that. Going even further, as sugested by Adaptive Software Development, the team may change the framework during the project, in a continuous learning process, if that is seen as more efective than following a predetermined generic method.

Nevertheless, the organization and teams require some consistency. Team members cannot waste time learning differents ways of working everytime they start a new project. Likewise, Management need some standardized data to plan and measure performance comparatively. The recommendation would be to change and adapt the methodology at first, but then try to stabilize it for some period before introducing significant changes.

A hybrid generic or umbrella methodology can be presented like the traditional waterfall where the planning is somewhat shortenned but still provides the overall level of requirements and design analysis sufficient to create a complete schedule and budget. Development and test cycles increased in number and each shorter in duration, giving more oportunities for user feedback. Prototyping and small functionality deliveries are close to Scrum Sprints.

Plan with Waterfall, Execute with Agile.

To do…
Rfp, sow, contract, total estimation time, cost
Scrum, sprints regular feedbacks, prioritization of features, replacing Change Requests
Avoid cost date overrun, stop at date or cost, 80/20 P0 features done

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