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Is it really only a choice between waterfall and agile?

Is it really only a choice between waterfall and agile?

In today’s project world, you’re either waterfall or agile.  Never both.  Never something in between.  But why has it become such a big waterfall vs agile debate?  And do we fully understand the two extremes these two methodologies present?

Over the past few years, waterfall as a project methodology has definitely taken a back seat in favour of the new, cool kid on the block – agile.  Throwing around terms like scrum, lean & extreme programming has certainly become very on trend.  Unfortunately, most companies don’t quite “get it”.  They like the thought of getting things done faster and being more flexible, but they don’t actually want to align with all the principles that go along with being fully agile.

What companies should be asking themselves is:  What is waterfall not giving us? And what can we do to improve on those things?  Therefore, we’re no longer seeing waterfall as the enemy and agile as the magic wand, but instead taking a closer look at what it is we actually want to achieve and then making changes to help get there.

We’ve found that most companies actually just want to be more adaptable, and in order to achieve this goal, an iterative approach has proven more likely to lead to success.  You want to be in a position where you can test a new product, service or concept as quickly as possible to confirm whether it’s going to work or not.  Prototyping, as an example, is a great way to test something quite quickly, then make changes & test it again.  In this way you’re also ensuring that you’re getting real customer input from very early on.

We’re not saying that going agile is wrong in any way.  We’re just saying take a step back & try to understand why you feel you need to go agile.  The following questions should help to identify your main areas of concern:

  • What makes your projects difficult to manage?
  • Why do project end results miss the mark in terms of customer value?
  • Are there processes that run up costs unnecessarily?
  • How good is your quality assurance?  Have you considered using test automation to assist?
  • What is the general feeling towards the project methodology currently in place?

A full agile adoption requires a company-wide culture change.  By understanding your core issues, you can take smaller steps towards where you want to be without having to jump from one extreme to the next.  A project methodology on its own is not the be all and end all.  It’s purely a structure that can help shape your actions, but it’s not your only option for getting things done.  The key is to find the right fit for your specific company needs, be it a blend, a purist view, or something quite custom to you.

Want to talk to us about how your company can become more adaptable? Get in touch. 

Leave a comment

  1. Totally agree with you Cathy. A lot of what is in agile came from the waterfall world and then evolved, some of it good though sometimes leaving the baby behind. Waterfall has also changed and is not the same as it was last century. Understanding your objectives, your environment and adapting accordingly should be the order of the day.
    I like to say I’m more of a wa-gile person.

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