What is the Difference Between Waterfall and Agile Projects?

project integration management technical Dec 19, 2021
What is the Difference Between Waterfall and Agile Projects?

What are the differences between waterfall and agile projects? We can use both methods to manage projects, but both follow different processes.

With waterfall, a project is initiated, then planned.  Requirements are developed in full before proceeding with the project work.  Finally, project execution begins, and the project manager monitors and controls project progress. Once complete, the project is tested and turned over to the client. When you create a project Gantt chart, everything appears logically, like a set of stairs or a waterfall. The client receives the value of the project one time at the end of the project.

On the other hand, agile projects are iterative. As a result, plans and requirements are less well developed.  Work proceeds in iterations, each delivering something of value to the client.  At the end of an iteration, new requirements are welcome.  They may be missed at first or based on feedback from the client.  The iterations continue until the client is satisfied with the work.

While this is a very simplified picture of the methods, it is now possible to determine when one approach might be applied instead of the other.  Because of more careful planning and requirements, it is easier to control projects' costs and schedules because both are pinned down upfront.

On the other hand, agile projects are about flexibility and not necessarily speed, as some might believe.  However, by welcoming change at each iteration, the projects' costs and schedules are much harder to predict and control - work is complete when the client is satisfied.

Therefore, waterfall projects are best when costs and schedules need to be controlled.  This is the case of fixed-price or fixed time contracts or contracts with a firm budget or deadline.  If, for example, a government project had a legislated deadline, the waterfall method would be the best approach to ensure the date was honored.

On the other hand, agile projects work best for research and development projects where the project scope is less known.  They are excellent when the client can use partial functionality and build on it over time. Perhaps they need to introduce a product quickly for competitive reasons and add functionality to the product over time.

What can we learn from these differences? First, when managing a project, do not immediately choose the project life cycle, but find out more about project expectations and consider the differences in methods before choosing one. Taking this step will lead to greater project success.


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