Agile vs Waterfall: Choosing the Right Project Management Methodology

“Project management is like juggling three balls- time, cost, and quality. Program management is like a troupe of circus performers standing in a circle, each juggling three balls and swapping balls from time to time.” This amusing quote by Geoff Reiss demystifies the management, challenges, and corollaries of project management. In layman's terms, a project is a work followed by a stipulated tenure with the requisition of paramount results at the end. If the project becomes a grand success and excellent outcomes are derived, the clients can entrust the same company with other projects. But the incoming of projects is just a formal handshake only. Lots of assignments need to be carried out to acclimatize the new project into a crackerjack one. 

Project management involves various processes, challenges, and a hierarchy of steps until its completion. The feedback of that project may be the sole indicator for the route of other grand projects as well. After the project comes in handy, the main homework to do for a project manager and a team is to choose the right project management methodology according to the nature of the project. There are various types of project management methodologies abundant in several organizations. Some of the traditional methodologies of project management are enumerated below: 

1. Waterfall 

2. Critical Path Method (CPM) 

3. Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) 

whereas, the Agile methodologies (flexible project management methods) include: 

1. Agile Project Management 

2. Scrum 

3. Kanban extreme 

4. Extreme Programming (XP) 

5. Adaptive Project Framework 

There are other several methodologies developed timely. In this blog article, we will be sharing light upon Agile and Waterfall project management methodology and which methodology among these two can be chosen as the best fit for the projects. Let's dig in. 

Agile and Waterfall both are famed project management methodologies best used for different types of projects. These methodologies are not chosen at first before knowing about the kind of project, service-seekers of the project along clients. In order to choose the right methodology for the inaugural of the project, the following series of questions should be addressed: 

i) Does this project require certain shifts and adjustments within the processing of the project? 

ii) Are the deliverables handed over between the project or upon completion? 

iii) Is this project embedded with strict rules and regulations? 

iv) Is the involvement of the project owners or stakeholders prioritized in the project? 

v) What are the basic needs of the team and features of the project to deliver quality results catering to the customer's needs? 

When working on a project, it's the complete responsibility of the project manager to select the appropriate approach of project management to redeem high-end results in exchange for trust and investment furnished over the project manager and team. There are several pros and cons of each project management technology but the nature of the project should be studied and then the methodology is selected. 

Agile vs Waterfall: Choosing the Right Project Management Methodology 



Waterfall Project Management Methodology 

The waterfall method is regarded as the senescent project management methodology that came into existence inspired by the rigid and repetitive process of Henry Ford's assembly line which became famous in the '70s and '80s. According to one of the popular websites of project management, the Waterfall method was first documented in a paper entitled “Managing the Development of Large Software Systems” published by Winston W. Royce in 1970. As the technology advanced, the project managers began to realize its limitations and craved a new method compensating for the drawbacks of the Waterfall method. 

The waterfall method is considered the linear system of project management where the team has to complete each project tenure before jumping into the next one. The team members must finish the whole project phase before entering into the next phase. The end goals and outcomes are established from the beginning which means the outcomes or results are clarified and established from the beginning of the project. As mentioned earlier, to reach the next phase, the deliverables of the first phase, say, have to be completed. The waterfall method has a fixed timeline with very low flexibility. A clear vision is already set in the beginning. Hence, changes or frequent changes are not accepted in this methodology. 

This methodology avoids the participation or involvement of the clients, stakeholders, or project owners during the process except for some specific check-ins and instant deliverables. Hence, incorporating clients’ feedback or interventions is strictly prohibited. As it's a kind of fixed method, there is very little room to change the budget or any other structures. As the roles and outcomes are mapped at the beginning of the Waterfall method, each team member constitutes a specific pre-determined role where the probability of deviating from that role is almost nil during the project phase which makes this method too formal in nature. Due to its fixed nature, the tenure of the project may get elongated as well. And the documentation is done in a very formal setting. The linear or typical phases of a Waterfall include: 

Requirements → Design → Implementation → Testing → Deployment → Maintenance 

Pros of Waterfall Methodology 

- From the start to end, the concrete plan of the project is set. 

- To progress to the next phase, each phase requires deliverables making the project and workflow more structured in a formal setting. 

- The budget is already fixed without any hassles for more monetary and manpower investments. 

- As the expectations and goals are assembled at the start, the project can go in a smooth direction. 

Cons of Waterfall Method:

- As each project phase needs to be accomplished before jumping into another project, the process takes a longer time. It is a timely process as going back through each phrase is needed to analyze the mistakes or errors until jumping to the next phase. 

- If the stakeholders want to introduce new changes, their feedback can’t be addressed as it is a fixed methodology. 

- As documentation is done heavily in a formal setting, it requires a lengthy process. 

Industries such as Construction and Manufacturing, making hardware projects with well-defined requirements use the Waterfall method. Those projects whose requirements are the deliverables set up in a standardized format, in the beginning, get benefit using this Waterfall methodology. 


Agile Project Management Methodology 

Agile, the word is an umbrella term for a set of definite values catering to the continuous and flexible delivery of the outcomes. Before the introduction of the Agile method, software developers and technical teams were fed up with the limitations and drawbacks of the Waterfall approach. When the boom of the '90s began, the project team required a more flexible approach. According to the popular website, in 2001 February, a group of 17 software developers gathered in Snowbird, Utah, and presented their views to create a flexible method that could address the cons of the Waterfall approach and hence they created the Agile manifesto guided by the key principles of modern Agile project management. Agile project management methodology has four values and twelve principles guiding the philosophy of this flexible approach. The four values of Agile can be stated as: 

- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools 

- Working software over comprehensive documentation 

- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation 

- Responding to change over following a plan 

The agile methodology of project management is a cyclical and flexible team-driven method that includes big room for quick updates and edits for stakeholders’ feedback. This method openly welcomes the changes and feedback with new adaptations even at the later stages of the project. The agile method values the short bursts of the work popularly known as sprints. This method is a flexible approach as it is open to new experimentation and changes of direction to the project. As the situations evolve, per the demand of the project, the highly fluid components can be shifted and adjusted. Deliverables and outcomes are turned over throughout the tenure of the project meaning the clients' and external stakeholders’ participation is taken into consideration. As heavy documentation is not required in Agile methodology, it is less formal in comparison to the Waterfall approach. 

Agile teams are more self-organizing emphasizing self-reliance rather than relying upon project managers solely. Their roles are linked with self-reliance and the communication process is also undergone frequently. Embracing changes, and uncertainties with uncertain budgets, resources, and timelines are the reigning features of this method. Unlike Waterfall, the team is not required to go back to the previous phase of the project to find out the mistake or error. The team members can work simultaneously on different phases of the project. 

Pros of Agile project management methodology:

- Frequent stakeholders’ interaction, feedback, and incorporation of new changes make this method more flexible and the team is more self-directed rather than relying everything upon project managers’ guidance. 

- High flexibility and welcoming new changes enhance short-term deadlines leading to productivity and efficiency among team members.

- Due to the higher level of changes’ adaptations, the project moves more quickly than Waterfall. 

- As clients’ involvement is welcomed at every step, this method builds a bridge between the mapping of the project and outcomes. It has the features of consistent reviews with continuous delivery and responsiveness to change. 

Cons of Agile Project Management Methodology 

- Due to a more flexible option, there is the probability of overlap in the later phase of the project if there have to be some modifications in the early stage. 

- The roles are not predetermined in the Agile approach hence it is hard to ensure that the pace of team members is on the same page. When the team members leave or enroll in the middle of the projects, there may be some issues and communication. 

- The deadlines tend to be shorter but the project timeline may get elongated due to more acceptable changes. 

Projects with a high level of certainty and flexibility prefer Agile methodology such as software engineers, IT support teams, video game developers, and tech startups. Basically, software development projects benefit from this kind of methodology for the completion of the project with outstanding aftereffects. 

The uses, cases, core rules, values, principles, and alignments of both methodologies are extremely different. According to the nature of the project, one of these two methodologies can be used. Per the requirement, hybrid models can also be used as well as other methodologies of project management. 

The main motto of project management whether Waterfall or Agile, can be termed “An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.” - Friedrich Engels

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