Project Management

Agile vs Waterfall Project Management: Time Constraints

Vidas Vasiliauskas ·

2019 - Present Co-founder and CEO @ Teamhood. 2015-2019 Head of software engineering department at Danske Bank. 2017-2018 Partner Associate Professor at Vilnius University. Lecturer of Software Architecture course 2011 - 2015 Managed numerous smaller IT teams at Prewise. Co-founder of RaveIT, Eylean, No Brakes Games Certified Agile product owner and practitioner. Managed large scale enterprise projects as well as launch of small startup products. MSc of Software Engineering at Vilnius University. Hobbies: Racing, MTB cycling, Windsurfing

agile practices

Managing the time aspect of a project can play a crucial role in it succeeding or failing. In 2020 there is an obvious trend of increasing popularity of Agile project management implementation in various business sectors – from engineering to IT. There must be a set of valid reasons as to why so many businesses dedicate effort to adopt this method. So what is it that Agile can offer to optimize time management that the traditional Waterfall project management can’t?

Agile vs waterfall pros and cons for controlling time 

Clearer Priorities 

The most essential thing under a time limit is knowing what you have to do at any given moment. Agile project management is excellent at this. Depending on the Agile methodology you choose, there will be different ways of visualizing priorities. It can be priority columns, separate sections on the board, or only numbers to represent their place in line. Either way, your team will always know what comes next. They won’t have to spend time trying to figure out what happens now. Thus saving the limited hours you have.  

Measurable Progress 

Another thing that no project manager or Scrum master can live without is understanding where your team and project are at all times. With visual task boards and various reports, Agile delivers just that. 

It is easy to see how much of the work is done simply by looking at your task board, and if you ever need additional data, it is all in the reports. Such information is critical in a situation when there is limited time available. You can make important decisions on what parts of the project you have to complete now and what will have to wait. 

Performance metrics teamhood
Performance metrics

Speed Monitoring 

Understanding the speed at which your team can deliver work is another great advantage of implementing Agile methodology vs waterfall. After a couple of project cycles, you will be able to tell what your team velocity is and thus better predict what is accomplishable. That is especially relevant now in 2020 under COVID-19 which led to the increasing popularity of remotely working teams. It is crucial to be able to better estimate the time needed for a development stage and prepare both your team and your clients. Team velocity takes the guessing game out of the project manager’s hands and instead gives reliable information. 

Shedding Dead Weight 

One of the ultimate benefits of Agile over Waterfall is that an Agile tool helps a project manager better control the project outcome by realizing what work is essential. All Agile methods ask teams to divide the tasks into musts and nice-to-haves. Thus creating a transparent core that has to be completed and additional work that can be done if there is time. 

When you are under time pressure, this is great. You and your team already know not only how much you can do, but also what you should do. So even if you cannot complete all the work the client wants, you can deliver a minimum viable project that will satisfy their core needs — thus shedding the dead weight that only looks nice but serves no core function. 

Focused and Involved Team 

Lastly, Waterfall methodology vs Agile brings one more great thing to the table – a focused and involved team. Most Agile methods ask for the teams to self-manage, meaning the members are more included in the process and feel more responsibility for its outcome. 

When you feel like you are in control, you also feel the need to succeed. And with the team members behind the steering wheel, they are more likely to push and make the deadline as it is their responsibility as well. 

Difference between Agile and Waterfall project management: successful time division?

Waterfall method vs Agile

waterfall model 1
Waterfall model,

The traditional project management model follows a linear, sequential approach where progress flows downwards in one direction, like a waterfall (hence the name!). With this approach, its users divide time into isolated process stages.

Firstly, there comes initial planning, where all the features of the product are documented and pre-defined. Then, there are separate analysis, design, testing, deployment, and maintenance stages. They might last for long periods of time and ignore the changes in the market.

Naturally, this approach has a high risk of failure, as requirements in demand are constantly changing. Therefore, if its users do not revise the feature strategy, the end product is likely not to meet the customer or stakeholder expectations. 

Agile vs Waterfall method

As a solution to that, Agile offers a frequent review, feedback, and retrospective system. As well as breaking down work into manageable work packages and time in sprints for executing these packages. This ensures that the end product is intact with the changed state of market requirements and therefore sellable. 

In addition, this helps increase the productivity and motivation of the development team. With the time divided into sprints with clearly defined objectives for each of them, it is nearly impossible to drift off the track. Experts agree that breaking down work into small manageable sections with clear deadlines is actually the most efficient way to achieve a goal. 

Furthermore, in the Agile approach, there is constantly space for reflection and re-planning (only on demand). This empowers the team and helps structure its work and is a strong indication of what to use Agile.

Flipping the triple constraint: Waterfall vs Agile

Waterfall model vs Agile

Traditional project management is built upon the basis of the triple constraints of time, cost, and scope. Adjusting any of those variables causes a change in at least one of the others. The success of a project is dependent on balancing these three competing variables. 

In traditional project management, scope (or features) is viewed as being fixed and unchangeable at the start of a project. Time and cost are then adjusted to come up with an adequate plan. The problem is that scope frequently changes during the life of a project, which has an effect on both time and cost. As a result, all three constraints become variable as the project progresses. Very often, this results in cost overruns and late deliveries. Eventually, the market requirements may or may not be met. Stakeholders often feel unhappy with higher costs and delays. 

Today, with the new wave of innovations in the IT sector, the Waterfall model is not the exact answer to all the prevailing issues. So, other frameworks like Agile have emerged. 

When to use Agile vs Waterfall?

Agile takes a different approach by turning the triple constraints upside down. It sets the time (iterations) and cost as fixed and adjusts scope to focus on the highest priorities. It functions with the expectation that scope is the variable that evolves over time. Therefore, the goal is to deliver the client’s most important requirements within the budgeted cost and time. Agile allows for new requirements or re-prioritization as the project moves forward.

Sprint tips for Agile project management to save time 

  • Develop a proper backlog where all dependencies and priorities are in order. Appropriate backlog management is crucial to the success of your product and efficient time management. 
  • Ensure that your team understands the goal of the Sprint and how it’s going to be measured. That way you can keep team members aligned towards the same objective and save time by preventing misunderstandings. 
  • Use a project management tool like a Kanban board to track and gather information about key decisions. You’ll make following the project easier for everyone involved and increase team transparency. For that we suggest Teamhood.

Picking from Scrum vs Waterfall?

The difference between Waterfall and Agile methodologies is quite large. One approach plans in a linear fashion and the other aims to react to changes and plans on the go. If you are trying to pick which methodology will be right for you, consider how you like to work and what project outcomes you are looking for.

Waterfall methodology pros and cons

The waterfall method is usually still the standard way to go – everyone knows the way it works, there is minimal training required for the team and the project can begin immediately.

However, while some will consider the standard approach as a plus, it lacks greatly in being able to react to changes and adapt to changing circumstances. Which are especially important in these uncertain times. Thus, when considering the difference between Waterfall and Agile model think about your business type and requirements as well as training costs.

Agile methodology pros and cons

The Agile approach will without a doubt be more attractive to those working in young companies and prone to experimenting more. With a lenient view on planning and prioritizing the most important work at all times, Agile brings great rewards as well. You can react quicker, respond to customer feedback and produce a result both – on time and of quality.

One thing to note about Agile is that adopting the new method in an organizational setting will require effort. As agile is not only about the practices but also about the change of mindset that has to happen. Here is a short review on preparing your company for Agile.

So which should you pick?

There are definite benefits of Agile vs Waterfall. And if your company or team is ready to take on the changes, you may gain a new level of effectiveness and process control.

If however, you are not yet convinced, learn more about Agile first before making any decisions. The Agile transition is not an easy one and thus you and your team have to be prepared for it.


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