Hybrid Projects: How Can Waterfall and Agile Work Together?

While it’s tempting for proponents of Agile methodologies to claim they work best for every development project, that’s simply not the case.

While Agile project management methodologies can generally be used for any development project and will often provide some powerful benefits, situations definitely arise when more traditional methods like Waterfall are the smarter way to go.

For example, large, enterprise-wide development efforts in which the user is being led through a standardized process are completed more efficiently using Waterfall methods. On the other hand, teams developing mobile applications – which must be highly flexible and quickly updated due to the nature of the ecosystem they’re created for – will likely find Agile methods more conducive to success.

However, in the real world of project management and development, many projects are not completely black or white. They actually benefit most from a hybrid approach that takes advantage of the strengths of both Agile and Waterfall methodologies without allowing them to get in each other’s way.

Blending the Best of Both Worlds

How can Waterfall and Agile work together to the benefit of the project?

First of all, it’s important to understand where each method’s strength lies.

Agile methods generally allow for faster iteration and more frequent releases with subsequent user feedback that can be worked into future development. Waterfall methods tend to greatly lessen the number and severity of errors that will affect the end user.

So, in many cases, the optimum project combination incorporates significant planning and QA input early in the development process to mitigate errors while introducing Agile processes to the release schedule and user feedback opportunities, allowing for faster and more controlled improvements.

Pros and Cons

Of course, blending these two methods into a hybrid project requires some level of compromise from both sides.

In contrast with a strictly Waterfall project, a hybrid project has to give up some level of certainty in exchange for the flexibility afforded by the Agile aspects of the development process. Similarly, in contrast with an Agile project, a team working on a hybrid project may find their freedom limited by Waterfall’s planning, budgeting and scheduling constraints.

Through adequate communication and effective cooperation between team members and diverse teams, however, the hybrid approach can often be the most effective means of completing complex projects with shifting requirements.

For more information about how to determine which projects will work best as hybrids and how to blend Agile with traditional methods seamlessly, you’ll probably enjoy our online training series, “Recipes for Agile Governance in the Enterprise (RAGE)”.