As consultants who drive optimisation and digitalisation, our solutions always look different since they are customised for a particular client. Nevertheless, applying a specific methodology will allow you to steer the project as smoothly as possible to ensure you meet the project goals within a specific timeline and budget. Agile and Waterfall are two very distinct —but valuable — methodologies that should be chosen depending on different priorities, teams, resources, and customer needs.
The Agile approach
Agility is fundamental to solving a problem. The Agile method is grounded in flexibility, change management and continuous feedback.
This approach to a project will rely heavily on the team working on different phases of the project simultaneously. The team of consultants drives the direction as opposed to following a concrete plan set out by the project manager. The result is a motivated and productive team that requires discipline and self-direction.
Having the team drive the direction of the project means that the project is more susceptible to change. As the team encounters various roadblocks, the way forward will change accordingly. This methodology requires the team to set short-term goals and share progress along the way. The feedback received along the way is then incorporated into the project timeline, hence the fitting name of the Agile approach.
The Waterfall approach
In contrast, the Waterfall approach clearly defines the sequence of execution and requires one phase of the project to be completed before the next phase can begin.
This approach requires the project manager to establish goals, outcomes and the project phases from the beginning. For the Waterfall method to work effectively, the team must establish project requirements early on as well as have a clear objective in mind. This methodology ensures that all parties involved are clear about the scope and deliverables of the project. Thus a big chunk of time is spent planning and gathering requirements.
The Waterfall approach is structured and sequential with little flexibility. It was this rigidity that brought rise to the Agile approach. However, the advantages and disadvantages of each method need to be considered to decipher the best way forward for a particular project at a particular time.
The Waterfall approach places a lot of emphasis on the planning phase. This is usually a lengthy and methodical process that requires alignment and sign-off from the client. Instead of focusing on the problem and solution at hand, the team may be swamped with reports and documentation brought on by an extensive planning stage.
The sequential nature of this methodology means that once a phase is completed it may be difficult and costly to revisit a previous stage. At the same time, progress is easier to measure as the full scope of work is known in advance.
Agile teams do not follow such a rigid project plan. Rather, they circle back regularly with feedback loops. Therefore, an Agile team’s project plan remains fluid and susceptible to change, allowing the flexibility to change project directions and potentially identify new opportunities along the way.
Equally, Agile may leave the team aimless with little to no structure to their daily tasks. Waterfall planning works well for predictable and recurring processes. However, the inability to adjust to external factors may leave the team in the dust of their competitors.