Agile vs. Waterfall: Establishing a Project Management Solution that Works for You

Whether you have a small task force of highly engaged workers or lead a team within a large, multi-faceted organization, how well you and your employees manage projects can either make or break your business. And while businesses have been forced to do more with less for the past few years, it’s vital that the project management aspect of your business is clearly defined and well-oiled to ensure everyone’s success.

However, with different types of solutions available for your team to practice, it may be difficult knowing what works best for you and which system yields the highest productivity and least communication conflict. Before choosing a system or platform, it’s important to start with the basics. And most project management solutions fall into two categories: Agile and Waterfall. Let’s examine both, outline the benefits of each, and determine which works best as a foundation for your organization.

The Waterfall Development Methodology

Originally developed by computer scientist Winston W. Royce in 1970, the waterfall method follows a specific approach to project fulfillment by ensuring users follow predecessors to move throughout the stages of a project’s life. This linear method uses a logical and reasonable approach allowing leadership to know exactly what stage they are in during the development process.

Agile Iterative Project Management

The agile approach to project management uses a non-linear, iterative process during the lifecycle of a project. This continuous iterative view of a project as a whole allows employees to update and adapt as they work on the project. Whereas the waterfall method requires workers to finish a stage before moving on to the next, the agile method allows work on all stages throughout the process. This approach cultivates a more collaborative, autonomous, and flexible work environment, while allowing small wins throughout the process.

Pros and Cons of Agile vs. Waterfall

Workfront, the online project management system/software by Adobe outlined the pros and cons of these two methods. And with a user following of more than 3,000 companies, including the world’s top 10 brands, Workfront knows a thing or two about project management. Here are their views on the pros and cons of the two project management methods:

Pros and Cons to Using the Waterfall Method:

Pros:

  • Waterfall’s meticulous upfront planning results in detailed project plans.
  • The project scope, cost, and timeline are clearly outlined, so clients know exactly what will be delivered.
  • With a clear outline, even if a team experiences turnover, a new member can step in and contribute without derailing the timeline.

Cons:

  • With a strict blueprint, departure from the original plan is difficult.
  • Testing is done at the end of the Waterfall project, and the final QA phase takes significant time.
  • With a Waterfall project in motion, if a client’s needs change, they can’t be addressed.

Pros and Cons to Using the Agile Method:

Pros:

  • Revisits and rewrites of steps are encouraged to achieve the desired results.
  • Agile projects tasks are tested in flight, allowing for faster delivery.
  • Frequent delivery allows for quick changes in project direction while maintaining project scope.

Cons:

  • Agile doesn’t set a strict schedule, which, if not managed, can be difficult under a tight deadline.
  • Changing project requirements may cause problems in other areas of the organization.
  • Agile requires a consistent team. A weak link in the Agile team or management could result in wasted time and money.

For more information about these two methods and the art of mixing the two, download this guide from Workfront.

Regardless of which project management platform you chose, make sure it fits your organization, culture, and production needs. There are pros and cons to all methods, so it’s important to weigh your options before making a decision. Also, remember who will be using the methods most: your employees. Ask them to weigh in their thoughts and concerns.

What type of project management method do you use? How has a focus on management systems helped your company reach your goals? Let us know in the comments section below!

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2 Responses to Agile vs. Waterfall: Establishing a Project Management Solution that Works for You

  1. Tracey Kay September 6, 2022 at 3:31 pm #

    Thanks for your thoughts, Tracey! I believe all “cons” can be leveraged into “pros” when it comes to agile, as well as waterfall. My thought is it’s important to think of the positives of both templates in order to be the best leader. Blending is a great idea!

    • Refresh Leadership September 13, 2022 at 3:36 pm #

      Thanks for your thoughts, Tracey! I believe all “cons” can be leveraged into “pros” when it comes to agile, as well as waterfall. My thoughts are is important to think of the positives of both templates in order to be the best leader. Take the best of each, drop the worst of each. Blending is a great idea!

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