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Agile or Waterfall – Choosing a project management ideology

Agile and waterfall sit at opposite edges of the software planning spectrum.

The agile strategy plan an IT project in small increments of work. The idea is that it’s easier to manage small chunks and to incorporate learning as work progresses. You can easily change priorities in the plan, allowing you to more accurately hit the mark.

To work effectively, agile needs a smart and confident project manager. Without a strong focus on project goals, it’s easy to make mistakes with priorities in such a quick feedback loop. It’s the manager’s job to fight for the project’s best interests. And if they don’t, the project may waste resources iterating on low-value work.

Waterfall describes detailed software building plans. Specifications and schedules are set at the beginning of a project. The implementation phase follows the plan until the software is complete.

Its attraction is the ease in understanding the project scope, time frame and cost estimate. But the larger the project, the riskier waterfall planning becomes. Waterfall handles unknowns and feedback poorly. To manage it, embrace and schedule for potential changes to the plan. Incorporate Continuous Delivery in the plan and schedule slack time – take some tricks from the agile playbook.

In theory, waterfall is easier to manage. But, it takes a lot of experience and resources. It takes proper planning to investigate possible edge cases, account for unknowns and ensure the goals are met. Agile is often misinterpreted and used as an excuse for sloppy goals, refusing deadlines or even avoiding project management altogether.

When to use one over the other requires experience – there’s no simple ”if this, then that” rule to apply. Different projects call for different types of project management. They both have merits, and a combination of the two is often the best option.

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Hi, I'm Christoffer Lejdborg! I believe software has tremendous potential to transform your business in amazing ways, but people are too focused on the technology instead of the business case.

I've worked with companies such as BDO, Grant Thornton, Nobina Technology, Run My Security and Whenever.

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