Project Process and Management: Agile vs. Waterfall

Project process and management refer to one of the most important parts of any project so it needs to be seriously taken into consideration if you want to make things happen. Project management can be concerning all sort of activities, from building a house to creating computer software or building a company website. Thus, every activity can be seen as a project that needs to be well planned, organized, managed, and controlled properly in order to provide the desired end results.

There are several project process and management techniques that we could take into consideration when building your project management process, but we’ll be focusing today on only two of them: waterfall and agile.

What is Waterfall Project Process & Management?

The Waterfall Model, or also called Traditional Project Management, is a “sequential design process, often used in software development processes, in which progress is seen as flowing steadily downwards (like a waterfall)” by following some precise project process management steps.

This traditional project process requires that you first define all the details of the project, such as the goals and the specific tasks allocated to specific persons or teams, and then you proceed by working on it step by step until your are finished. The specific project management steps that you need to pass through in this traditional project management model must all be completed and handed off before moving forward.

project process

Waterfall management programs require proper documentation on every specific phase and this makes it one of the most systematics methodologies that could be used for project management.

The advantages of Waterfall project process and management are that it is a great methodology for both client and development teams where there is a fixed and strict budget and schedule for deliverables. It is also a good method for ensuring that all the tasks are completed to expectations.

On the other hand, Waterfall project management has several disadvantages. The first one would be that it is highly inflexible. Due to the fact that deliverables and the whole project process are defined upfront, there is no room for change. And if there is no change there is no room for learning or improving the project. Thus, change becomes a problem. Moreover, there is a chance that the project doesn’t go as planned and this might also cause several other problems that couldn’t be solved without the embrace of change. Finally, projects that follow this traditional management project process can take a long time to complete because each phase takes proper time for documentation and deliver results; therefore a finalized project could take much time to get completed.

What is Agile Project Process & Management?

The Agile Project Management is “an iterative method of determining requirements for engineering an information technology development projects in a highly flexible and interactive manner”. Agile is best suited for projects that may be too complex for a customer to understand before testing prototypes.

Agile was created as a response to the traditional project process methods and was developed to encourage important key team members to focus on rapid, small, and interactive changes. The management process does not settle a 100% end goal but small teams start working on the project guided by a settled direction where the only limitation is time or budget. To make this more clear, let’s take and example: so you have 3 weeks to build something that leads you to this not 100% defined goal. The teams start working and creating it in “sprints” of 2 to 3 weeks and then deliver something fully functional. Now, based on the completed deliverables and experiences that the team members had gained while building, you decide the goals for the next “sprint”. Agile project process allows you or the client to change the direction because of something learned in “sprint” no. 3, for example. You get more knowledge and experience and you provide a product that satisfies our client’s needs.

Agile has many advantages over the traditional models. Project teams are able to quickly create functionality and features that can be reassessed and improved over time. Also, the product can be released on the market more quickly as each sprint guides the team toward the right direction and the implementation of changes makes it easier to finalize the project. There is also the knowledge and experience gained by the team members while shifting from one direction to another and dealing with both change and the unknown.

As for disadvantages, some people may consider that even though with Agile project management you are able to save money and time on the overall project, every sprint and shifting direction can require even more money, time, and other resources in order to be completed. Here at Joy Group, we think that every change comes with a cost, but no change or a later stage change would require way more money. So we think that even though Agile’s changes require more money and time at every “sprint”, they prove to be beneficial for the success of the project process.

Project process confrontation: Agile vs. Waterfall

Agile and Waterfall methods present highly opposed characteristics. While the traditional project management method has been criticized for not being able to adapt to changes, Agile is embracing change on every “sprint” and is most suited for those who want continuous improvements. The Waterfall method comes with a structured process suitable for clearly defined projects while Agile presents a more flexible structure that can be applied in many flexible projects. Waterfall includes a sequential process with specific project management steps while Agile involves highly collaborative “sprints” that lead the way and shift directions. Waterfall methodology is a process that requires clearly defined requirements upfront and is completely managed internally while in Agile method requirements are expected to evolve and change, and it involves customers or any other external perspective that could lead to important changes and solutions.

Here are other important characteristics that differentiate Agile and Waterfall

 agile vs. waterfall

Conclusion: Choosing a suitable project process

Choosing between Agile and Waterfall models may seem difficult, even so if you’re not so familiarized with any type of project management. But even so, there are some specific factors that can tip the scale for a traditional or iterative approach. So you need to decide whether the terms and requirements are stable or likely to change, how closely or separately are the project teams going to work, and what are the critical resources that need to be involved in the progress of the project. Thus, after knowing all the factors involved in the project process, you will get a pretty good idea about what type of project management method to use for a guaranteed success.

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