Agile and Waterfall – the secret of unlocking the power of both

As the principal partner of Solutia SDO, Jackie Clark has had a direct role in managing the people behind the technology that’s transformed businesses across Canada. When IT projects stall, this seasoned leader, who’s had a front seat watching tech transform business in Canada, knows how to manage people to get projects running again. This bi-weekly column is for leaders working on enterprise-wide projects searching for insight on navigating the issues and pain points that hijack success. We’ll be sharing the most common questions Clark hears from her clients and her responses to them. Do you want your project management problems solved? Leave a comment with your question or  Tweet Jackie @sdosolutia.

I read this statement lately in an IT blog: “Every project manager can successfully integrate agile in a waterfall environment to improve project predictability, cost effectiveness, and ultimately success.” Based on my experience,  I’m not sure I agree. What about you?  

Agile was once viewed by project management professionals as a fad. Not the case anymore. In the 18 years since the Agile Manifesto was written by a bunch of guys (no girls involved, unfortunately) sitting around a ski resort, agile has matured; it has moved from the fringes to become a core methodology used in the majority of enterprise organizations today. As I’ve pointed out in a previous blog, it’s not a silver bullet. So back to the question – are project managers typically successful in their application of agile methods in an enterprise context? Yes! But only if they have the knowledge to unlock the power of agile!

According to the Project Management Institute:

“A project is a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.” This is in stark contrast to the ongoing nature of product management: “Product management is the discipline and business process governing a product from its inception to the market or customer delivery and service in order to generate the largest possible value to a business.”

A project is all about the creation of something, but when that something is created the project is done. Projects are not concerned with the ongoing improvement or enhancement of a product over the entire life cycle of that product. Product management is concerned with the life cycle of the product — from conception, through development, and eventually to discontinuation. This is the sweet spot for agile methods.

Agile in mixed waterfall/agile environments is complex. It is imperative that project managers keep a strict eye on the differences between the product requirements and the project requirements.

If you understand this simple difference you can apply agile to projects with success.

Jackie Clark
Jackie Clark
Program and change management expert in digital and data transformation, and technology system reengineering.

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