Why Choose Agile over Traditional Waterfall?
Guest Author: Pete O'Donnell, Technical Instructor
Project management is a task that every industry can utilize. In order for projects to get done on time and efficiently, a proper set of tasks needs to be in place to make sure the team stays on target. To complete the goal, teams can utilize the traditional waterfall approach or the lesser known Agile approach. But what is Agile's connection to project management, and how does it stand up and innovate the traditional processes? Let's take a closer look.
What is Agile?
Agile is a project management approach that focuses on rapid life cycle development of a product through short iterations. It features frequent demonstrations and check-ins with customers to get immediate feedback to be used in the next iteration. When it comes to creating a product, teams are given a list of guidelines, or specs, of what the customer wants and they go off of that. From those specs, they create steps to complete the product and follow those until there's a final product and that then gets taken to the customer. What sets Agile apart though is the process. Say in two weeks time, the customer comes in to look at the product to see how progress is coming and making sure it is going in the right direction.
In this process, it sounds more time consuming but it is actually the opposite. The Agile approach requires much more interaction with the customer and more frequent feedback. Therefore, teams have better specs to go on with each step. It becomes more and more popular as companies are struggling to keep up with the ever-changing requirements in their projects and the constant moving targets that exist with customers. It also doesn't require all the design and planning that goes into traditional project management.
Traditional project management or “Waterfall" is a very linear approach; one phase falls under the next, and the next and the next and so on until a project is completed. We tend to have a very lengthy process to actually produce a product. We do a lot of design and architecture work and coming up with the requirements and then eventually, once we get that approved, we move into building the product. However, the customer really doesn’t get to see the product until it is “finished” and the project is complete. After that, if any changes need to be made it's very much a "start from scratch" situation.
Benefits of Agile over Waterfall
The main benefit is the ability to change dynamically to the customers’ wants and needs. A focus on the features that are the highest value to the customer. A short-fixed timeline that allows for immediate feedback from the customer and the ability to move deliverables into production.
It also is very beneficial for the teams who will be using it. Agile works well with small dedicated team members and lets the team load balance workloads. For example, you may need a developer and a designer for particular project and if a person has the right experience they could be doing either type of work on an Agile team. Because Agile has more frequent check-ins and demonstrations with the business, this allows for changes to be made at a much faster pace, which is good news for smaller teams--letting them get feedback faster and making it easier for them to adjust to the wants and needs of the customer.
The downside to this is that if the customer is not as available for these demonstrations, then a waterfall approach is better. For the Agile approach, we would need customers to be available throughout our project. Whereas in a waterfall approach, we may need them early on in our planning phase but we can get away with them being less available as the project progresses. Remember in Agile, because we are constantly prioritizing based on value, the only ones who can accurately set the priorities for the project is the customer.
Get the Training
If an organization is trying to get comfortable with just some basic background about Agile and how they can bring the Agile approach to their environment, New Horizons certainly has classes that address the basics, such as these courses:
- Introduction to Agile Project Management
In this course, students become familiar with the concepts of traditional project management and may have used the concepts to manage multiple projects. Students will use Agile project management.
- BA07 - Implementing an Agile Project
The course will explore how your projects can easily and successfully make the transition to an effective Agile environment.
- Agile Project Management Methodologies
This two-day course provides both the practice and the theory of planning and managing agile projects using methodologies such as scrum, XP (eXtreme Programming), and lean project management methodologies.
We also offer advanced certifications more specifically around Scrum Agile and traditional Project Management approaches. In addition, we teach Business Analyst classes that focus on requirements elicitation for both traditional and Agile projects. So let New Horizons know specifically what you are looking for and we can get you on the right path.
Some Closing Thoughts
When it comes to Project Management, the most important thing is making sure that the goal is met and your team stays on task. Agile and traditional Waterfall both work to meet the requirements set up by customers. Teams of all sizes can use either approach but it helps to be sure you are using the right approach for your team. Regardless of which one is chosen, the important factor is to make sure that the right project management tools are in place to get the job done.
Pete O'Donnell brings over 25 years of real world IT and business management experience to the classroom. He is a respected leader with global recognition in high-growth, high- availability and turnaround environments, with wide-ranging knowledge of the education, financial services, health care and professional services industries. When Pete isn’t working, he’s involved in multiple volunteer positions within youth and high school sports. He also keeps plenty busy with his blended family of 11.
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