For decades, project managers had one traditional and well-trod path in managing new projects. This is the Waterfall methodology, which divides a project into phases, using a sequential and linear approach. It’s named Waterfall because each phase flows downward to the next, with the work broken down into a series of steps.
It helps to recall that project management came out of the engineering field, where projects are usually complex and large in scale, with the project team and client agreeing on the deliverable early in the process. This makes planning and design a straightforward process, since everyone understands the deliverables, the design more complete, and progress can be easily measured, as the full scope of the work is known from the start. In addition, the process workflow can be used over and over again for similar-type projects.
But if there weren’t limitations to the waterfall methodology, there would not be options to choose from in project management. This is especially true for software development projects, from which the agile method of project management arose because the traditional approach was not a good fit.
Agile project management uses an incremental approach, separating a project into phases, usually referred to as “sprints.” Each sprint has its own requirements, prepared before the phase begins. This can be daily, weekly, or whatever makes sense for the phases the project is split into. This is a major change from the Waterfall method, where requirements are set at the project outset. The advantage into breaking down development work into small phases, with each completed in a narrow time frame, is that changes that occur mid-project are limited in scope and don’t necessarily have a ripple down effect on the project.
Another major difference is that for each sprint deliverables are prioritized based on customer input Then, at the end of the sprint, the project team and the client can review the work, adding changes to or notes for future sprints.
The Agile method was developed because of known disadvantages of the Waterfall, but Project managers should weigh the advantages versus the disadvantages of the two systems for the project in hand.
At Boost Midwest, our expert project management team can identify the best approach for your project. We are also able to step in mid-project to evaluate if the project methodology is suitable or should be changed for a better outcome or to measure a project’s success after its deliverables are met to evaluate best practices for your next project in hand.