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Mixing Waterfall and Agile methodologies

A way better to manage from medium to large projects but do not create a Water-Scrum-Fall

posted on Mar 28, 2016   

Often I read about moving from Waterfall SDLC methodology to Agile to be smarter and faster in developing and managing projects. Let's say Scrum model to better understand the transition.

If I start asking about why such a kind of need, answers are often related to all those documentations and processes that encompass a Waterfall methodology.

All those gates and sign-off, initiating and planning processes that last for too long before starting the execution phase.

Yes, I agree to Scrum for the quick delivery and friendly management of the projects but too often project managers take off too much from Waterfall methodology to jump into Agile methodologies without even knowing them deeply.

I think Scrum is the most adaptive, continuos improving, valuable way to manage team and projects but I come from Waterfall project management with all its phases and processes and I know how valuable are those processes too. I know how long it does take to start a project and how long it does take for the business to have a look to the final product but I also know how good is a final deliverable.

I've been working on Scrum for the last three years and I'm still learning better pratices and requirements management techniques. I think that Agile had bought a new way to feel even the management of the requirements improving the Business analysis with new tools and techniques. In fact, managing requirement is way different from common methodologies.

Scrum as a model has lots of valuable artifacts and processes but lacks lots of control plans used in the Waterfall management. That does not mean that all the Agile models are methodologies without controls but simply that Agile models have less controls than the Waterfall one. 

For the sake of understanding, Risk management plan is the process of preventing issues before they occur and even assigning roles, responsabilities, priorities based on the project strategy and level of the risks. Finding mitigation strategies is core in a Waterfall project.

These steps help preventing issues may occur without an appropriate assessment and actions to reduce the impact. A good and deep risk assessment early in the project will prevent Waterfall projects from failure.

Scrum model, instead, does not rely to management plans for its nature but prefers to deal with some processes when they occurs.

In the scenario of risk management, Scrum does not create any risk register or plan to act for but reacts during requirements analysis for each sprint.

So even though a risky item could have been trapped in advance and a mitigation action might have been analyzed, well, in Scrum only at the time the item get ready for the cycle, only in that case the risky item can be identified but it could be too late to act with a mitigation plan.

During a Waterfall project, lots of documentation get created. These documentations will help future projects with lesson learned and lots of experience written down in a document. On the contrary, Scrum model only produces little documentation for itself, this means that other than product backlog, sprints backlog, burndown and burnup charts, no other documentation is provided for futures project as lesson learned.

For sure, those who come from Waterfall project management will provide some documentation at least for the closing phase of the project I hope, so as to leave some documentation for the futures project. But those who started project management firstly using Scrum, I guess they will never provide such a documentation.

Said that, a good mix between two of the most important methodologies may help and lead medium to large projects to success, even producing good assets documentation that usually Agile methodologies does not provide.

Transition from Waterfall to Scrum, or any other Agile methodologies, is never simple and often it happens project managers fall in mixing Waterfall with any Agile model without appreciating neither one nor the other. The right mix start from the Agile perspective, so far it means you must have a good understanding of the Scrum or whatever methodologies in order to create the right mix with the standard and most common methodology, Waterfall.