Agile or Waterfall?

Why Agile Project Management Might Not Fit Your Business

Dec 16 2016 read

The pros and cons of Agile versus Waterfall project management styles are always hot topics, and teams often struggle to decide which one to go with. Surprisingly, a mix of the two is usually your best bet - you just need the right technology to enable that kind of flexibility.

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For example, clients often come to Accelo looking for help with utilization, budgets, and costs, but also mention they want an Agile approach to their project management. The trouble there though, is that scheduling, utilization, and budgets are almost impossible to account for with a purely Agile method. To put it into perspective, project managers or VPs of operations often react to the idea of their teams tracking and logging their time (which is central to staying on top of utilization, budgets, and costs) with something along the lines of, “there’s no way I’ll be able to get my team to track their time”. They react this way because they’re probably approaching their current projects with an Agile style, and Agile doesn’t really account for time spent (which is likely why they’ve had a hard time managing projects that stay within scope and are exploring smart technology).

Agile doesn’t really account for time spent.

It’s important to note that an Agile approach has its benefits. In fact, an Agile style might work very well for small internal teams with internal projects since it allows you to test and reiterate quickly. It isn’t as strong of a solution though, when dealing with clients and external projects. That’s usually the case because, when you’re trying to hit internal budgets and external timelines for clients, it’s easy to miss the mark without some clear cut or preset milestones and timelines, so these types of businesses that have client work but use an Agile approach will often complete a project for a client, and not know if it was actually profitable on their end (since it becomes difficult to measure without utilization and time tracking). The good news? That’s exactly where some aspects of a Waterfall strategy could help.

To start, here’s a simplified breakdown of both Waterfall and Agile strategies:

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Making everyone happy.

As a project manager, you want to be on time with your work (so that your bosses are happy), and you need to make sure your projects are on budget (so you can continue getting new work). Without being able to track your team's time or utilization though, you won’t be able to accomplish either. If you're currently working with an Agile approach to project management, you probably assign a task to an team member… and end it there (maybe with a simple asterisk to have it done by a certain date). With no ability to track time expected or time completed against this task, versus how much work is left, you lose critical insight into where you team is at with their work, if they’re covering their bases, and if your project is (or will be) profitable.

Ironically, when you combine Agile and Waterfall approaches, you can create an agile-styled strategy, but with the desired structure of Waterfall. If you decide, “ok, this task is going to take 10 hours of work, and I’ll start it on Monday and finish it by Friday” then with the right technology, you'll be able to get a comprehensive plan delivered to you automatically - including the allocated time per day you need to devote for timely completion. By having your team members log time on a task you’ll know how much work is needed to complete it and tackle it in a way that makes sense for your workflow. If you only went with an Agile approach, you might have a task that’s 10 hours, but have to guess when and where to allocate time, robbing you of insights into how you should prioritize your time (because you have no centralized place giving you real-time data on your project's profitability). Alternatively, if you went with a Waterfall strategy on its own, you’d be locked into those 10 hours you allocated, with a specific date, and if client requests or scope changes occurred (which they likely will) you’d need more flexibility to adjust.

Give your team the ability to track and prioritize their workload, seamlessly.

You might've heard your team members say “I don’t know how much work I have to do so I can’t prioritize” - but when they log their time, they'll know exactly how long a task should generally take, and how much time they have left to allocate to it. Initially, you might find that team members feel that time tracking feels a little "Big Brother-esk", but in reality, it gives them the ability to understand and prioritize their own workload, so it's important to communicate that to them. With smart technology, they’ll be able to move things around as necessary and accomplish more.

With smart automation technology, your team will be able to track their time automatically in an Agile environment while executing in a Waterfall format. That’ll empower them to better prioritize and be more efficient, and it’ll enable you to deliver projects that are on time and on budget.

If you’re curious about how a team just like yours was able to spearhead growth and profitability by mixing Agile and Waterfall approaches with smart technology, you should check this out.

Additional credits: the wonderful Richard Hatfield 

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