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Should You Go Agile, Waterfall or Leverage a Combined Approach?

By this article, I wanted to take a closer look at a struggle that most companies face. In the field of project management, there is a debate concerning the ideal approach for the organization to do project management. On one hand, we have a “free” format of Agile and on the other side of the spectrum, we have the traditional Waterfall approach. In this article, I’d like to take a close look at pro’s and con’s for these methodologies and describe how a PM could even use a best of both worlds approach.Traditional/Waterfall methodologyIn a traditional waterfall project, the project manager has given a (somewhat) fixed budget and he or she should accomplish a task within a deadline, which most of the time has resulted into a finished product or service. This is a time-honored traditional way of approaching projects. Where there is a goal, a timespan and a number of resources that should be utilized to achieve that goal.                                                                                           Do You Know?                                                           Waterfall approach is used where the end result is fixed. This approach is particularly useful in situations where the outcome is fixed. Such as the construction of a building or car or even a phone. These products have a physical footprint and changes to these products can almost always be labeled as a completely new project. For example, adding a new floor to the building. The waterfall approach tools of choice are Excel, Microsoft Project (or server) and Primavera. As well as some tools that are highly focused on a specific niche. A traditional project could look something like this (example in Microsoft Project):Pro’s for the traditional/waterfall modelClearly defined resultTime, resources and quality are budgeted up frontCon’s for the traditional/waterfall modelProduct or service is only finished at the end of the projectWhen the end product is ready, it is done. There are no further iterationsThere is a need for a lot of documentationScope creep can be very costly due to late response to changesAgile MethodologyThe completely opposite to the traditional/waterfall approach.  Its origin is found in software development. The Agile Manifesto is the document that describes the Agile methodology and the core values:Individuals and Interactions over processes and toolsWorking Software over comprehensive documentationCustomer Collaboration over contract negotiationResponding to Change over following a plan Organizations are struggling to find a suitable approach for Agile in all departments of the organization. This, in my opinion, is mainly due to the fact that it is found rooted in the software development departments. And therefore wasn’t designed for all types of organizational projects.The Agile approach tools of choice are Excel, Jira, VSTS (or Azure DevOps as it’s now called) Basecamp and Trello. As well as some tools that are highly focused on a specific niche. An Agile “project” could look something like this (example in Microsoft Project):Pros for working AgileFast time to market for a first iteration and working product/serviceHigh focus on quality deliveryCons for working AgileNot all products seem suitable for this approachNo clear end in sightIt requires a team to be fully assigned to the product/serviceDifficult to negotiate budgets to upper managementMaking Agile and Waterfall model work together Agifall approach.As the hype for Agile Project Management is slowly subsiding, there are more and more people that believe that Agile is not the holy grail of project management. We are coming to a more mature understanding of the overall complexity of projects in general. There are so many factors that come into play among others: politics, resource availability, budget, client’s needs, communication difficulties.Maybe we should look for a solution that is best of both worlds. Maybe we can find a way to combine the Agile and traditional Waterfall methodologies. There are multiple sources that advocate a Water–Agile–fall approach. This approach will help to reach a finished product if followed properly. This includes ample documentation and clear goals from the start. But, it also includes an Agile part where a team will have sprints to improve the product in the phase where real development is done. This enforces fast delivery and high quality with a lot of client interaction. In any case; pure Agile and pure Waterfall companies are hard to come by. So, most organizations are pushed to integrate Agile into a Waterfall world, mainly because of certain departments in the organization work more towards Agile than Waterfall and the other way around. Now, let’s see the two popular hybrid methodologies-Water-Scrum-Fall approach Water-Scrum-Fall ApproachWater-Scrum-fall model is the one model which allows the blending of Agile and Waterfall methodologies. The teams like Business analysis and Release management teams conform to the traditional Waterfall model, whereas the Development team and testing team adheres to the Scrum method in a limited way. In Water-Scrum-Fall approach, the processes in the traditional Waterfall model are mixed with the processes of Scrum framework model. The Waterfall processes like planning, requirements gathering, budgeting and documenting the project’s progress are integrated with the timeboxed, iterative version of Scrum during the product development. The mixing of Agile and Traditional Waterfall strategies is done if there are enough details to start the development phase.Water-Scrum-Fall model UsageOrganizations use this approach in the following conditions-When the project needs in-depth details in the planning phase to make a precise budget estimation. Because, if the project processes are well-planned, then the management can also feel secure to portion out the funds for the project implementation.  The natural tendency of the developers and testers to look at the Agile practices during the development phase. This happens because the Agile methodology provides them the chance to collaborate as per the needs of the project. AgiFall methodology The motto of getting the best of Agile and Waterfall gives birth to the concept called AgiFall. This approach was first presented at Vancouver Digital Project Managers Meetup Group. It consists of the mixture of Waterfall and Agile principles. The aim is to increase the speed, decrease the cost, and most importantly improve the quality of the end-product.  The AgiFall approach carries out the Waterfall processes like planning and requirements phases activities in an Agile manner. These activities are broken into the user stories and prioritized them in the Sprint. In this method, you don’t need to wait for one phase to finish to begin the next one. This means that you can carry on with the development process while the planning phase is going on. in AgiFall model, the development phase implements the Agile principles.Can Agile and Waterfall Hybrid go with each other?Today, backlog management replaced the comprehensive documentation due to the evolution of techniques. This can be the best example of successful adoption of the hybrid model. The Waterfall-Agile hybrid model is most suitable for the projects which expect that the team should address and deliver the constantly changing requirements within a limited period of time.When the Manager has to implement a particular methodology during the Planning phase, the best way is to select that methodology which matches the project needs. Additionally, the team should have crystal clear understanding of the hybrid model and its implementation knowledge. Otherwise, it will result in a failure spreading a mess with no benefits.Final notesI hope you liked reading my first article on the Knowledgehut. The screenshots I took came from the Office Insider version of Microsoft Project Pro for Office 365. I’ve done a video on how to get the office insider version. This is the version that includes the newest features released by Microsoft. Such as the Agile board I’ve used in the example of Agile.Keep Planning with Waterfall, Executing with Agile, and Speed up the Product Development process!If you like to read more about Agile and Waterfall, here are some great articles I found interesting to read. Click to read a relevant article which I found interesting.
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Should You Go Agile, Waterfall or Leverage a Combined Approach?

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Should You Go Agile, Waterfall or Leverage a Combined Approach?

By this article, I wanted to take a closer look at a struggle that most companies face. In the field of project management, there is a debate concerning the ideal approach for the organization to do project management. On one hand, we have a “free” format of Agile and on the other side of the spectrum, we have the traditional Waterfall approach. 

In this article, I’d like to take a close look at pro’s and con’s for these methodologies and describe how a PM could even use a best of both worlds approach.

Traditional/Waterfall methodology
Traditional/Waterfall methodology

In a traditional waterfall project, the project manager has given a (somewhat) fixed budget and he or she should accomplish a task within a deadline, which most of the time has resulted into a finished product or service. This is a time-honored traditional way of approaching projects. Where there is a goal, a timespan and a number of resources that should be utilized to achieve that goal. 

                                                                                          Do You Know?

                                                           Waterfall approach is used where the end result is fixed. 

This approach is particularly useful in situations where the outcome is fixed. Such as the construction of a building or car or even a phone. These products have a physical footprint and changes to these products can almost always be labeled as a completely new project. For example, adding a new floor to the building. 

The waterfall approach tools of choice are Excel, Microsoft Project (or server) and Primavera. As well as some tools that are highly focused on a specific niche. A traditional project could look something like this (example in Microsoft Project):

 Microsoft Project


Pro’s for the traditional/waterfall model

  • Clearly defined result
  • Time, resources and quality are budgeted up front

Con’s for the traditional/waterfall model

  • Product or service is only finished at the end of the project
  • When the end product is ready, it is done. There are no further iterations
  • There is a need for a lot of documentation
  • Scope creep can be very costly due to late response to changes

Agile Methodology

Agile Methodology

The completely opposite to the traditional/waterfall approach.  Its origin is found in software development. The Agile Manifesto is the document that describes the Agile methodology and the core values:

Individuals and Interactions over processes and tools

Working Software over comprehensive documentation

Customer Collaboration over contract negotiation

Responding to Change over following a plan 

Organizations are struggling to find a suitable approach for Agile in all departments of the organization. This, in my opinion, is mainly due to the fact that it is found rooted in the software development departments. And therefore wasn’t designed for all types of organizational projects.

The Agile approach tools of choice are Excel, Jira, VSTS (or Azure DevOps as it’s now called) Basecamp and Trello. As well as some tools that are highly focused on a specific niche. An Agile “project” could look something like this (example in Microsoft Project):

Agile project
Pros for working Agile

  • Fast time to market for a first iteration and working product/service
  • High focus on quality delivery

Cons for working Agile

  • Not all products seem suitable for this approach
  • No clear end in sight
  • It requires a team to be fully assigned to the product/service
  • Difficult to negotiate budgets to upper management

    Cons for working Agile

Making Agile and Waterfall model work together 

  1. Agifall approach.

As the hype for Agile Project Management is slowly subsiding, there are more and more people that believe that Agile is not the holy grail of project management. We are coming to a more mature understanding of the overall complexity of projects in general. There are so many factors that come into play among others: politics, resource availability, budget, client’s needs, communication difficulties.

Maybe we should look for a solution that is best of both worlds. 

Maybe we can find a way to combine the Agile and traditional Waterfall methodologies. There are multiple sources that advocate a Water–Agile–fall approach. This approach will help to reach a finished product if followed properly. 

This includes ample documentation and clear goals from the start. But, it also includes an Agile part where a team will have sprints to improve the product in the phase where real development is done. This enforces fast delivery and high quality with a lot of client interaction. 

In any case; pure Agile and pure Waterfall companies are hard to come by. So, most organizations are pushed to integrate Agile into a Waterfall world, mainly because of certain departments in the organization work more towards Agile than Waterfall and the other way around. Now, let’s see the two popular hybrid methodologies-

  1. Water-Scrum-Fall approach 

Water-Scrum-Fall Approach
Water-Scrum-Fall Approach

Water-Scrum-fall model is the one model which allows the blending of Agile and Waterfall methodologies. The teams like Business analysis and Release management teams conform to the traditional Waterfall model, whereas the Development team and testing team adheres to the Scrum method in a limited way. 

In Water-Scrum-Fall approach, the processes in the traditional Waterfall model are mixed with the processes of Scrum framework model. The Waterfall processes like planning, requirements gathering, budgeting and documenting the project’s progress are integrated with the timeboxed, iterative version of Scrum during the product development. The mixing of Agile and Traditional Waterfall strategies is done if there are enough details to start the development phase.

Water-Scrum-Fall model Usage

Organizations use this approach in the following conditions-

  • When the project needs in-depth details in the planning phase to make a precise budget estimation. Because, if the project processes are well-planned, then the management can also feel secure to portion out the funds for the project implementation.  
  • The natural tendency of the developers and testers to look at the Agile practices during the development phase. This happens because the Agile methodology provides them the chance to collaborate as per the needs of the project.

 AgiFall methodology  AgiFall methodology

The motto of getting the best of Agile and Waterfall gives birth to the concept called AgiFall. This approach was first presented at Vancouver Digital Project Managers Meetup Group. It consists of the mixture of Waterfall and Agile principles. The aim is to increase the speed, decrease the cost, and most importantly improve the quality of the end-product.  

The AgiFall approach carries out the Waterfall processes like planning and requirements phases activities in an Agile manner. These activities are broken into the user stories and prioritized them in the Sprint. In this method, you don’t need to wait for one phase to finish to begin the next one. This means that you can carry on with the development process while the planning phase is going on. in AgiFall model, the development phase implements the Agile principles.

Can Agile and Waterfall Hybrid go with each other?

Today, backlog management replaced the comprehensive documentation due to the evolution of techniques. This can be the best example of successful adoption of the hybrid model. The Waterfall-Agile hybrid model is most suitable for the projects which expect that the team should address and deliver the constantly changing requirements within a limited period of time.

When the Manager has to implement a particular methodology during the Planning phase, the best way is to select that methodology which matches the project needs. Additionally, the team should have crystal clear understanding of the hybrid model and its implementation knowledge. Otherwise, it will result in a failure spreading a mess with no benefits.

Final notes

I hope you liked reading my first article on the Knowledgehut. The screenshots I took came from the Office Insider version of Microsoft Project Pro for Office 365. I’ve done a video on how to get the office insider version. This is the version that includes the newest features released by Microsoft. Such as the Agile board I’ve used in the example of Agile.

Keep Planning with Waterfall, Executing with Agile, and Speed up the Product Development process!

If you like to read more about Agile and Waterfall, here are some great articles I found interesting to read. Click to read a relevant article which I found interesting.

Erik van

Erik van Hurck

Blog Author

Erik van Hurck is a senior PPM consultant working with Projectum, a Nordics and Western Europe based Microsoft Gold partner. Erik’s contribution to the community has awarded with the status of Most Valuable Professional by Microsoft. It is Erik’s goal to help current and future users of Microsofts Project and Portfolio Management software to achieve the most while making their experiences with the tools as enjoyable as possible.

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2 comments

Deepak Singh 27 Nov 2018

Thank you Sir for very detailed article

Blessy Princes 28 Nov 2018

Do you have any branches in Hyderabad or I have to take online course?

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Other than being a coach to the team to explain Scrum processes clearly and enforcing the practice for Agile, the Scrum Master should have basic technical and project management knowledge.Effective collaboration with the Product Owner: This is regarded as one of the key qualities of a Scrum Master. An effective Scrum Master should be able to collaborate with the Product Owner. While the role of a PO is to convey the user requirement to the Scrum team and push the team towards it, a Scrum Master facilitates a seamless execution of the processes. Together, the Scrum Master and Product Owner build a strong relationship with the team to provide the best results.Empathy: A Scrum Master develops many skills while working with team members. He/She builds his/her skills to develop emotions and to learn what the team members feel. This way, (s)he builds a strong connection with the team and understands their problems while also suggesting effective solutions.  A strong understanding of servant leadership and facilitation:The role of the Scrum Master is not to assign the tasks to the team, it is all about supporting the team members in achieving the project goals. Servant leadership, which is one of the fundamental qualities of a Scrum Master plays a key role here. By serving and encouraging the team in every way possible, a good scrum master always helps the team members attain their full potential. Needless to say, this has a direct positive impact on the business value they create as a team.A relentless approach to continuous delivery:A successful Scrum Master always tries to improve the way a team works. The best way to do this is to arrange the retrospective, where each team member identifies what went well and what went wrong in the initial Sprint. The team members learn from the mistakes and this leads to continuous improvement.A good relationship with the team:A Scrum Master may act as a team leader, but he/she doesn’t have the authority of a true manager. Eventually, a Scrum Master has to be cordial with the team members, if he/she wants to influence specific actions.Product, market, and domain knowledge:A Scrum Master need not have end-to-end technical knowledge and domain skills. However, a fundamental understanding of the product, markets, and software development processes, makes it easier for them to address challenges in project delivery.Encourage a self-organizing team:A scrum master should know when to express his views and should mostly allow the team to be self-organizing. That said, he should be actively listening to the team members’ inputs and learning points and guide the team to perform better in subsequent sprints.What are the essential skills of a Scrum Master?Though the Scrum Master role is complex and challenging, a diverse skill set allows them to become a great Scrum Master. Here are the Scrum Master competencies that help him/her succeed in the project:1. Organizing the teamKnowing the rules of the ScrumCommunicating internally and externallyReporting the status of the team membersCollecting the team members in the Sprint PlanningGuiding clearlyResolving the impedimentsEfficient facilitationImplementing collaborative engagement tools and techniques2. Improving the teamForming a good teamManaging the technical debtImproving team members’ activities by providing feedback and motivationImplemented continuous validated learningResponsible for making a change3. Establishing a self-organising teamDisplaying a servant leadershipExecuting the Scrum valuesDecide according to Agile methodologyOwing to the team members’ responsibilitiesInvolving every team member in planning4. Planning bigDiscussing with the team membersFinding and fixing the cross-team problemsImproving the cross-team technical practicesRoles and Responsibilities of a Scrum MasterThe Scrum Master’s role is pivotal to the success of a team. He/she is a process leader who helps the team understand Scrum values, principles, and practices. Some organizations practice rotation of Scrum Master roles among the team members; this is, once again, up to each Scrum Team.However, the roles of the Scrum Master include:The Agile framework custodian and process owner for the team.A facilitator and Servant Leader who never discourages but encourages and expects self-organization from the Agile development team.Build close collaboration across roles and functions in the organization, works on matters collectively and is not individualistic.Protect the team from distractions which include both external and internal.Remove impediments, so the team can focus on the development of work and tasks.Scrum Master is not typically a manager or lead, but he/she is an influential leader who does not do direct command and control.Scrum Master is a coach and advisor to the team and discussed issues encountered.Scrum Master should be equipped with basic technical and project management know-how, this is so that he/she understands the problems and is able to provide proper guidance and advice to the team.With Scrum gaining widespread attention in just about every sector, top industry majors like Microsoft, Honeywell, Ericsson, Bank of America, Cox Automotive, KPMG, etc. are focusing on the integration of Scrum into their existing frameworks. This trend has prompted more industries to invest in Agile and Scrum training.  Let’s see some more benefits of having a certified Scrum Master on a project.Why should you be interested in getting a Scrum Master Certification?Scrum has become the finest choice of organizations to deliver more value to the customers. In State of Scrum 2018 survey, 85 percent of the respondents say Scrum continues to improve the quality of work life. At the same time, 81% of Scrum Masters who received certification agreed that it has significantly helped improve their practice.Listed below are the reasons and benefits of having a Scrum Master certification (CSM).1. In-depth knowledge of Scrum:If you have not implemented Scrum before, earning the certification will help you to learn the Scrum skills effectively. With this certification, you can level-up your knowledge with the basics of Scrum and you will be able to:Make customers happy and satisfiedDeliver better quality product in less timeMaintain team collaborationLesser defectsFlexible working strategyTake a quick decision on an issue2. A number of companies moving to Agile:Nowadays, organizations are required to speed up their product development process to deliver fast according to the changing needs of the customers. This helps organizations to stay viable. Scrum produces in iterations and its self-organizing teams deliver products of maximum value. Due to this reason, a number of companies are shifting to Agile.      3. New career opportunities on the go:A CSM certification will bring more new career opportunities as more companies are migrating to the Agile approach and they need a professional who will guide a team to follow the Scrum approach. Being a certified Scrum Master, your chances of getting hired by the top employers with fair salary are more.    4. Increases collaboration:When it comes to working on a complex project, it needs collaboration among the team members. As a certified professional on a team, you can build and reinforce the basic understanding of Scrum to produce a value.  5. Switch to the Agile mindset:You need to develop an Agile mindset if you have to work with Agile methodologies. As a certified person on a team, you need to start thinking in an Agile way that will avoid differences in opinions and lead to successful projects with better team collaboration.    7. Organizations yield more:It is tough for any organization to accept new processes easily as it affects the complete structure of the organization. It affects processes, management, people, and clients. In this regard, you need a knowledgeable person in your team who will make the adoption a smooth process. Being a certified Scrum Master, you will be facilitating the tasks for the team members.  8. Enter the Scrum experts community:After taking a Certified ScrumMaster certification, an individual will get a chance to be a part of the Scrum experts community of Scrum Alliance. This community offers knowledge in a way to stay updated, find the events, and provide instructions to the certified members.Scrum Master vs. Project ManagerOnce we enter the industries, we often come across the term Project Manager along with the Scrum Master. These two roles are distinct from each other though they contribute to the projects. This creates confusion between the Scrum Master and Project Manager roles when an organization is undergoing an Agile transformation.A Scrum Master works on the Agile project associated with Scrum project management principles whereas a Project Manager’s work is based on the traditional disciplined project management principles. Let’s see the differences between a Scrum Master and Project Manager. Also, if you are serving as a Project Manager and willing to become a Scrum Master or vice versa, this information will help you to take a stand on this. Before going further, let's see the roles of the Scrum Master and Project Manager in brief.1. Scrum Master duties:Scrum Master responsibilities to the Product Owner (PO)-Helps the PO in managing the product backlogHelps the PO to convey the product requirement clearly to the team members  Facilitate Scrum events to the POScrum Master responsibilities towards the development team-Guiding and coaching the teams to follow Scrum rulesRemoves roadblocks that are inhibiting the project’s progressHelps to maintain team dynamics and high-value resultFacilitate the Scrum events and arrange Scrum meetingsDirecting the team in Scrum implementationMentor the team members who are new to Scrum adoption2. Project Manager roles:The Project Manager is responsible for:Delivering the product according to the project’s requirementsDefining the project scope and planning the project activities accordinglyEnsuring that the responsibilities assigned to team members are according to their skills and expertiseReporting the progress of the project to the stakeholdersTracking the project performance against the timelines and ensuring an effective project qualityMaking sure that the project documentation is properPlanning the tasks for the team members and ensuring that the team understands their roles in the projectPreparing a project budget and getting it approved from the senior managementManaging the StakeholdersMonitoring and controlling the risks in the projectDelivering the project on time with the project constraints like scope, the budget, time, and efficient resourcesLet’s figure out the major differences between a Scrum Master and Project ManagerScrum MasterAttributesProject ManagerMakes sure that the team members are well trained to follow Agile practices appropriately. Also, SM coaches the Scrum teams and mentions the timeline to finish the projectGoalsHas defined goals like-Completing the project on time, planned a budget, and scopeSM assures the quality and knows the importance of quality.Quality AssurancePM also knows the importance of quality, but doesn’t know how to achieve it. A consultant is usually hired to fix the errorsScrum Master always tries to keep things smaller. They like to work in small teams irrespective of budget.Team SizeProject Managers like to make things large. PM works with more people and a huge budget. In this way, they improve to Program ManagerThe average salary of a Certified ScrumMaster® is $116,659 per year.Average SalaryThe average salary of a Project Manager is $75,474 per yearCertified Scrum Master (CSM)®Advanced-Certified Scrum Master (A-CSM)®Certified Scrum Professional- Scrum Master (CSP-SM)®Professional Scrum Master (PSM I, PSM II, PSM III)Agile Scrum Master (ASM)Scrum Master Certified (SMC)SAFe® Scrum Master (SSM)SAFe® Advanced Scrum Master (SASM)CertificationsAgile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)®Project Management Professional (PMP)®Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)®Certified Project Manager (IAPM)CompTIA Project+Certified Scrum Master (CSM)- Scrum AllianceAdvanced-Certified Scrum Master (A-CSM)- Scrum AllianceCertified Scrum Professional- Scrum Master (CSP-SM)- Scrum AllianceProfessional Scrum Master (PSM I, PSM II, PSM III)- Scrum.orgAgile Scrum Master (ASM)- EXINScrum Master Certified (SMC)- SCRUMstudySAFe® Scrum Master (SSM)- Scaled Agile Inc (SAI)SAFe® Advanced Scrum Master (SASM)- Scaled Agile Inc (SAI)Accreditation bodiesAgile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)®- PMIProject Management Professional (PMP)®- PMICertified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)®- PMICertified Project Manager (IAPM)- International Association of Project ManagersCompTIA Project+- CompTIAEfficient Scrum Master = Great OrganizationThe role of a Scrum Master may vary from one project to another or one organization to another but the importance of Scrum Master in a team will always be the same. The role of the Scrum Master in general is very challenging. It goes without saying that hiring a Scrum Master is the wisest decision for an organization undergoing a real transition to Agile!  
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Everything You Need to Know About Scrum Master

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