Agile Project Management Methodolgy

While researching sources to use in my project management blog post, I came across an article called “Top 10 Project Management Trends For 2012” written by J. LeRoy Ward from ESI International.  The trends that Mr. Ward enumerates in his article relate to changes in the project management practice (PjM), changes in management perception of the value achieved by using project management principles and the employment landscape for project management professionals.

The full text of this article is available at  I will cover the widespread adoption of Agile in this post while my second post will cover the adoption of collaboration software tools.  Together these two trends will have a profound impact on PjM and project success rate.

Traditionally, PjM used the waterfall model popularized by Dr. Winston Royce in his seminal paper entitled “Managing the Development of Large Software Systems,” advocating a production line method to software development in which each phase must be completed before the next phase is started with little to no iteration or communication between phases.  Although it made sense to use this methodology in the 70’s and 80’s when expertise was highly specialized and computing resources were scarce, it soon became apparent that errors and changes found in later phases of development were extremely costly to address.  These errors or changes required stopping the current phase and going back to previous phases to fix or change requirements thus adding expensive delays to the project, increasing cost and in some cases completely abandoning the project due to severity of the errors discovered at a late stage of development.

With the advent of the internet and dramatic cost reduction in computing resources, alternative project management methodologies are being experimented to address inherent drawbacks in the waterfall model.  Over the years, Agile project management methodology has gained popularity. Agile uses a different approach to project development.  It attempts to provide many opportunities to assess the direction of a project throughout the development lifecycle. This is achieved through regular cadences of work which are known as sprints or iterations, at the end of which teams must present a shippable increment of work.  This iterative process allows project teams to quickly adapt to changes or error detected in an iteration. Another benefit of Agile is allowing project teams to divide a large deliverable into key components prioritized by the customer thus allowing them to introduce products faster to the market.  Customers can evaluate the reception of the product and then decide to either expand or shut down the project. 

Thus, Agile provides greater flexibility and faster time to market for products.  It ensures higher project success rates as the cadences can be setup to ensure minimal resource usage per sprint.  Highly specialized and costly resources can be allocated in the just-in-time method to optimize usage and cost.  Nevertheless, project managers should be aware and manage the drawbacks of Agile such as spinning in a single iteration and scope creep.  As long as these issues are managed properly Agile or some hybrid form of Agile will become a dominant project management methodology of the future.

What are some of your experiences using Waterfall or Agile or both?