Agile and Traditional Project Management

A quick reference guide for the seasoned project manager

When would we use Agile vs traditional project management?

Traditional project management, also called ‘waterfall’ project management, works very well when the customer needs are well defined, standards to follow are clear, and changes are not expected—for example, when building a highway, a bridge, or a commercial ship. These projects have their share of complexities in terms of planning, nevertheless, the project scope is executed as planned.

Agile project management is more appropriate in an evolving market where customers dictate the requirements, such as new car models, accounting software, apps, web or mobile-based services. Changes are frequent as customers are invited to test prototypes and mock-ups, providing continuous feedback throughout the product development process. Even once the products or services are released, customers will ask for new releases with additional changes.

Agile can be used for long term projects where it is known that customer needs will evolve. A few examples are online investment banking products, cruise ships, aircraft, cities, higher education, and surgical equipment to name a few. All of the given examples are based on real applications of Agile methodology, not on fantasy.

What is the main difference in terms of response time and time to market?

Agile aims at delivering a minimum viable product or service out in the market when customers require it and then deliver updates, as customer needs evolve. Think about smartphone apps or cameras.

In traditional or waterfall project management, the goal is set, and delivery time is planned to achieve one roll-out. Think about a new subway or train line.

Does Agile require more money than traditional project management?

Overall, the first release of an Agile product or service will cost as much or less, as the focus is kept on the must-haves and the key customer requirements. The difference is observed for the next product or service generations. The Agile techniques force the project team to develop a basic platform or foundation, like a web infrastructure, or a car dashboard structure. Next releases of the product or service become cheaper than if they were managed in the traditional way. Two very well known examples of this cost reduction are the Ubisoft video games and General Electric’s X aircraft engine series.

Original article written by Alex Boussetta for Abacus.