In this blog post, Matimba grapples with the Waterfall, Agile, Water-Scrum-Fall conundrum and identifies what are the classic Project Management elements you need to get right, for a successful project.
In rolling out projects, you juggle five key items: Money, Time, Scope, People and Risk. Underestimating any of these can lead to costly rework, under-delivery or the canning of your project.
So, are all projects the same? Well, broadly there are two types:
(1) Projects you can predict
In predictive projects e.g. Business as Usual projects or projects that an organisation has done before like a system upgrade; you typically define scope, identify milestones and tasks, select a team, create a plan and then decide your budget and timeline.
(2) Adaptive projects
In contrast, adaptive projects e.g. Greenfield or new projects like building a new software product from scratch; you are often given a product to create, a timeline, a budget and a team. You then need to identify issues to be solved, fail fast and adapt scope as you iterate to the product finish line.
Predictive projects usually follow the Waterfall approach. Waterfall projects generally answer the question why and what well, because of their formal, sequential thinking and process i.e. why are we doing this project and what should we do, but may take too long given their emphasis on planning, the critical path, sequencing and their lack of flexibility to adapt to new requirements or a rapidly changing environment.
Adaptive projects follow the Agile approach. They enable an exploratory, team based, daily process that is agile, flexible and responsive to product owner changes. They answer the question how, very well, but may lose sight of the bigger picture, the why, the what and integration,especially when part of a large programme, running multiple adaptive projects, that need to integrate.
Some organisations and projects are not wholly predictive or wholly adaptive and some can benefit from a bit of both. That’s ok!
What frameworks will help me to get to grips with Waterfall, Agile and Hybrid concepts?
Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC) (11), PMBOK or PRINCE2.
Scrum, Kan Ban, Extreme Programming (XP), Feature Driven Development.
Lean-agile, water-scrum-fall: Sometimes the reality and often desirable (7),(10)
In all three, the full buy in of a Project Sponsor or Product Owner, is critical to the success of the ultimate project and needs to be nailed at the outset of the initiative, so that when the obstacles come (and they will) there is a committed force to make things happen.
A Project, Scrum or Team Lead needs to have the following basic knowledge (which can be crammed in a weekend!):
Learn the basics of Lean enterprise practices (1),(9).
Be aware of the key points of agile frameworks such as Scrum (4).
Be aware of the key components of popular project management methods such as PRINCE2 (5) and PMBOK (6).
Understand why you are not following recommended practices from Scrum, PRINCE2 and/or PMBOK, if that is your choice i.e. map them to your organisation.
Like a story — every project has a Beginning, Middle and End. The basic project stages and some of the key deliverables (loosely based on PMBOK and PRINCE2) are:
Project Sponsor/Product Owner Buy In
Project mandate/business case
Agree on people required to initiate the project
Define product description/project scope (see “Working Backwards” (3))
Understand where the project lies in terms of business priorities
Project Initiation (Planning)
Define key decision makers (project board, steering group)
Assign project team
Approve budget/business case (even if at very high level)
Project roadmap/plan (keep high level and identify uncertainties and how to handle them)
Clarify work practices, project communication, governance, tools to use
Delivery: Design and Build (Execution)
Track work packages, Daily Scrum
Stage/Sprint - planning, review, product demos
Unit testing and User Acceptance testing (UAT)
Final delivery (Closing)
Post go-live support (PGLS) or Hyper-care
Handover to support organisation
What rarely works
No Sponsor, Wrong Sponsor or no Buy In from Sponsor
Excessive planning (if major uncertainties exist)
Starting the project without key resources
More than one person responsible for the same task
What mostly works
Sponsor who champions the project and will ensure obstacles are overcome
Identify sub-projects or streams early
If multiple products in the project have multiple product owners
Daily standup/scrum with relevant product owner and/or delivery team
Quick wins if waterfall project
An up-to-date single list of tasks / issues / product backlog
Ensure all aware at all times of the high-level project roadmap/plan and their key deliverables
A project stage/sprint of 4 weeks or less to keep momentum
Regular product demos/deliverables (e.g. end of every stage/sprint)
If in doubt, reduce scope (8)
Here's to your success!
Lean Enterprise: How High-Performance Organizations Innovate at Scale
Jez Humble, Joanne Molesky, Barry O'Reilly
This book is a must read! A 110p excerpt is available from publisher website.
Main stages of a project (Prince2)
Werner Vogels - 2006
The Scrum Guide
Available for download on site below. About 19 pages — no excuse not to read this!
PMBOK / PMP
Challenges in the Transition from Waterfall to Scrum
Project management triangle
Water-Scrum-Fall Is The Reality Of Agile For Most Organizations Today
Forrester - 2011
Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC)