In recent years, agile has taken the world of project management and software development by storm. Everyone seems to be talking about this project management methodology. The business world is changing rapidly and that’s why businesses are looking for processes, approaches, and methodologies that could help them run a business without any glitches.
While there are tens of different project management approaches, but the final choice should be made keeping the nature of the business and its requirements in mind. Out of all the methods, traditional (Waterfall) and agile methodologies are often pitted against each other.
If you’d like to know how both approaches differ from each other and which one should you choose for your next project, you’ve come to the right place. Below down is the detailed differentiation of both project management approaches.
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Let’s move forward and check them out:
What is Traditional Project Management
Traditional project management is an established methodology where projects are run in a sequential cycle. It follows a fixed sequence: initiation, planning, execution, monitoring, and closure. The traditional project management approach puts special emphasis on linear processes, documentation, upfront planning, and prioritization. As per the traditional method, time and budget are variable and requirements are fixed due to which it often faces budget and timeline issues. For every step, there are tools and techniques defined by the standard methodology PMBOK® which are followed by project managers.
Interestingly, it also includes other methodologies such as PRINCE2 which is followed by various organizations under UK government and private companies like Vodafone, Siemens and others. It is also called the Waterfall model.
Benefits of traditional methodology
- Clearly defined objectives
- Controllable processes
- Clear documentation
- More accountability
What is Agile Project Management
While Agile is a general approach used for software development, it relies heavily on teamwork, collaboration, time boxing tasks, and the flexibility to respond to change as quickly as possible.
The agile manifesto has four important values:
- More focus on individuals and interactions than processes and tools
- Working software is more important than comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration is more vital than negotiation
- The process should respond to change rather than blindly following a plan
Benefits of agile project management
- Flexible prioritization
- Early and predictable delivery
- Predictable costs and schedules
- Improves quality
- More transparency
Agile follows an iterative process where projects are divided into sprints of the shorter span. Unlike the traditional approach, less time is spent on upfront planning and prioritization as agile is more flexible in terms of changes and developments in the specification.
Difference between traditional and agile project methodology
The table down below shows the major differences between the traditional and agile project methodology.
|Characteristics||Agile approach||Traditional approach|
|Scale of projects||Small and medium scale||Large-scale|
|User requirements||Interactive input||Clearly defined before implementation|
|Involvement of clients||High||Low|
|Development model||Evolutionary delivery||Life cycle|
|Customer involvement||Customers are involved from the time work is being performed||Customers get involved early in the project but not once the execution has started|
|Escalation management||When problems occur, the entire team works together to resolve it||Escalation to managers when problem arise|
|Model preference||Agile model favors adaption||Traditional model favors anticipation|
|Product or process||Less focus on formal and directive processes||More serious about processes than the product|
|Test documentation||Comprehensive test planning||Tests are planned one sprint at a time|
|Effort estimation||Scrum master facilitates and the team does the estimation||Project manager provides estimates and gets approval from PO for the entire project|
|Reviews and approvals||Reviews are done after each iteration||Excessive reviews and approvals by leaders|
Why is Agile preferred not traditional PM approach
Many developers and project managers prefer to use the agile methodology for a variety of reasons. Some of them are discussed below:
When it comes to making changes in the product or a process, agile methodology is much more flexible than the waterfall methodology. While working, if team members feel that there is a need to experiment and try something different than as planned, the agile methodology easily allows them to do so. The best thing about this methodology is that it focuses more on the product than following a rigid structure.
Unlike the traditional approach, agile methodology isn’t linear or follows a top-down approach. So, any last-minute changes can be accommodated in the process without affecting the end-result and disrupting the project schedule.
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In agile methodology, everything is out there and transparent. The clients and decision makers are actively involved from the initiation, planning, review, and in the testing part of a product. Whereas in the traditional approach, the project manager is holding reins of the project, thus others don’t get to make the major decisions.
The agile methodology facilitates team members to view the progress right from the start to the end. This level of transparency plays a significant role to constitute a healthy work environment.
Ownership and accountability
One of the striking differences in both project management approaches is the level of ownership and accountability that each provides to team members. In traditional project management, a project manager is the man of the ship which means that the entire ownership belongs to him. Customers are also involved during the planning phase but their involvement ends there and then as soon as the execution starts.
In the agile methodology, every team member shares ownership of the project. Each one of them plays an active role to complete the sprint within the estimated time. Unlike traditional project management, everyone involved in the project can easily see view the progress from the beginning to an end.
Scope for feedback
In the traditional approach, every single process is clearly defined and planned from the beginning of the project. The project has to be completed within the estimated time and budget. So, any big change or feedback that might push the deadline is skipped. Whereas agile management allows constant feedback that is helpful in providing better output.
Due to high acceptance for feedback in agile methodology, it has become the first choice for many project managers and software developers. They can respond to customer requests as customers get to validate each iteration that enables them to deliver a high-quality product or service within the delivery time.
Owing to its linear approach, the traditional project management methodology is majorly used for small or less complex projects. As discussed earlier, this methodology isn’t a fan of sudden changes and avoids them strictly as it would take the team back to square one.
Agile could be your best bet in terms of managing big and complex projects. Whether your project has multiple interconnected phases or one stage is dependent on many others, choose agile as it is a better fit for complex projects.
How to choose the correct approach
In reality, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ methodology suitable for every project or organization. The choice to implement a methodology largely depends on factors such as the nature of the project, size, resources involved among others.
Most of the times, smart project managers decide which methodology to adopt during the beginning or initiation of the project. He takes the final call in agreement with other project sponsors and people involved in the project planning process. Below down are some factors you can take into consideration while choosing the right methodology for your project.
- Take a look at the project requirements. Are the requirements clear? If project requirements are unclear or tend to change, choose the agile methodology. And, the traditional methodology fits best to a situation where the requirements are clearly defined and well understood from the first go.
- Consider the technology involved in the project. The traditional project management methodology is more appropriate if no new technology or tools are involved. Agile methodology, being more flexible than the former allows more space for more experimentation with the new technology.
- Is the project prone to unwanted risks and threats? Considering the rigid nature of the traditional methodology, it’s not advisable to go this methodology. However, risks can be addressed sooner in the agile approach, it seems like a better option in terms of risk management.
- Another important factor is the availability of resources. The traditional approach works best with big and complex teams and projects. Whereas an agile team usually consists of a limited number of experienced team members.
- The criticality of an end product depends a lot on the nature of the chosen project management methodology. As the traditional method involves a documentation, it is very much suitable for critical products as compared to the agile project management methodology.
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In this tussle between the traditional project and agile project management, the latter turns out to be a clear winner. When you involve developers and customers in important processes, the end result for the clients and working experience for everyone involved is much more rewarding than implementing the traditional style approach to project management.
Other benefits include high quality, more productivity, better business value, fewer costs, and quicker time-to-market speeds. Moreover, considering the dynamic nature of businesses these days where changes are happening every next moment, sticking to agile methodology will be a better option for companies.