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Delivering projects on time, on budget, and on quality has been and will always be the core challenge every project manager faces. Critical Path Method (CPM) has been the de facto standard when planning and executing projects, which is the fundamental approach to classical or waterfall project management. On the other hand, Agile project management is being pioneered and is getting more traction when the incremental approach is favored while focusing on customer needs.
In most cases, both these methods are equally valuable and useful. As such, more project managers are merging them to create a hybrid project management approach that utilizes both.
Hybrid project management is getting more and more attention. In fact, it was named the top trend in the Project Management Radar 2021. That is why we have created this article. To help people learn more about it and answer some of the common questions.
Hybrid project management is a technique where high-level project phases are planned using the waterfall approach and project phase work (actual tasks) execution is done the Agile way. (As defined by PMI.org) It is rather easy to draw conclusions that some of the above-mentioned challenges can be “cured” by combining Agile and Waterfall into one. The result of the combination is also logical. But achieving that combo is not easy or trivial, hence certain conventions must be established.
While there are many project management methodologies to choose from or even combine, in our humble opinion there are only two real contenders based on popularity and their inherent differences – Waterfall and Agile. To be able to make a reasonable choice – first, we should understand the specifics of each methodology.
Essential specifics arising from waterfall project management
✅ Great for well-defined and strictly known outcome projects.
Essential specifics arising from agile project management
✅ Great for projects where the end goal is not clear enough or there is no clear way to achieve that goal. Failing the initial end goal can also be a positive outcome resulting in saved time and cost. Projects with a high risk of being pivoted tend to manage such risk better when being done the Agile way.
Before we dive into actual hybrid project management tools we need to clearly understand what is the logical way of merging these two ideologies. This is why we provide simple examples to get you up to speed with this potentially game-changing approach.
First of all, we will use the waterfall approach only for high-level deadlines, deliverables, and contracts with customers:
Secondly, introduce Agile execution cycles for project tasks
Finally, make sure you can monitor progress and steer accordingly by:
It is highly recommended to follow the best practices of Agile ceremonies to ensure there is a process in place to continuously raise the quality of work being done and approaches being taken.
Shortlist which is not limited to suggested ceremonies (practices/meetings):
Bonus technique from classic project management
5. Lessons learned / broader retrospective after each project phase
The simplest example of Hybrid project management can be given with a traditional IT project where it is required to develop software alongside its infrastructure. While it is natural to go for Scrum in the software part, it is not so in the infrastructure part. Procurement, vendor management, and installation are classic waterfall with dependencies. Hence we provide this oversimplified example just to visualize the idea of how such a hybrid approach can work.
If you want to learn more details, keep reading the post or view the Teamhood PM product page
Since there is this great Agile manifesto to draw a line where to focus while working with the methodology, we think it would be great to do the same for hybrid project management and propose a hybrid project management manifesto:
In essence, it is about creating high-level plans and ditching detailed work breakdown schedules. It is about focusing on why somebody is requesting a project, what is the expected value? Lastly, it is about collaborating and solving impediments instead of spending time to negotiate a fine-tuned contract for all the possible outcomes.
This is of course opinionated and based on our and our customer experience. Feel free to propose modifications or better versions by contacting us.
Everything depends on the following aspects:
If you have ticked all 5 with a YES then you have the potential to run your projects the hybrid way and enjoy the benefits of hybrid project management. If not, then you should perform necessary actions to make a majority of those points a YES, before starting your first project. Having knowledge is not enough especially when combining techniques/methodologies. You need well-seasoned people who will steer the process and project both on bright and dark days. From our experience, the hardest part could be to convince project stakeholders to do it differently, especially if stakeholders are external parties. Aligning and proposing the benefits can be a project in itself!
We are big believers in comparison tables to put things side to side. Comparing methodologies is not easy but still, can be done side by side to the most extent. Here you will find a comparison of methodologies on the following aspects:
|Waterfall project management||Agile project management||Hybrid project management|
|Project Work Breakdown Schedule||Project Backlog||Phase Backlogs|
|Detailed project planning||Iteration planning||High level planning + iteration planning|
|Early definition of project goal||Agreement of goal with constant learning and adapting via smaller goals||Agreement of goal with constant learning and adapting via smaller milestones|
|Focus on stages||Focus on early result||Focus on end result for each phase|
|Emphasis on documentation and details||Emphasis on value delivered||Emphasis on value delivered|
|Fixed budget||Variable budget||Flexible or fixed budget|
|Well defined goals||Unclear or estimated goals||Estimated or well defined goals|
|Long to medium duration||Short to medium duration||Any duration|
|Great when resources are partially available||Works best when resources are fully available||More flexible when resources are partially available but still works best with full availability|
|Time critical delivery||Fast paced delivery||Time critical delivery combined with fast pace for early learning|
|Fixed scope||Unknown/variable scope||Fixed or somewhat variable scope|
|Harder to change||Easiest to change||Easier to change|
|Precise estimations||Abstract estimations||Abstract estimations|
The unfortunate problem which majority of professionals undergo is that their companies are either far invested in CPM or Agile. Resulting in tooling which is also far stretched to support one of those methodologies.
What should be the core features of a tool to support Hybrid project management?
We at Teamhood strive for the hybrid approach values and our software is tailored to meet the Agile, Waterfall, or Hybrid Project management approach altogether.
If you are keen to see for yourself how can Agile be combined with classic project management sign up for a Free Teamhood account today!
This heavily depends on project team experience and motivation among project stakeholders. It can vary from extremely fast adoption during few months of piloting towards extreme crash and burn trials for years.
We recommend watching a video about Teamhood project management use case in case of tooling perspective. Otherwise we recommend finding project managers who have experience and can share stories. Ideal place could be your local PMI chapter or Agile meetup.
It would be less popular choice and would mean that smaller amount of examples and resources are available. Though essential idea would not differ much from combining Waterfall and Agile.