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Agile Project Management Instead of a Waterfall Approach

The “waterfall” image represents classic project management: a phase can only start when the previous one has been completed. However, there is now criticism of this approach because it does not allow the general conditions to change significantly over the course of the project. Is agile project management an alternative?

In classic project management, all requirements for the project result are already defined at the start; The planning and design of a product or service are worked out in detail at the start of the project. But what happens if there are misunderstandings between the project client and the project management that only become apparent late? Or if the conception turns out to be flawed? Often too much has already been defined in the project for adjustments to be possible without any problems. Then an agile approach is better. However, there are cases in which classic project management makes sense.

When is classic project management suitable?

Classic project management is still well suited if:

  • the general conditions are expected to remain stable over the course of the project,
  • the project goal can be determined quite easily at the start of the project,
  • The recipients of the project results and stakeholders are known,
  • the project topic is not very complex,
  • the “customers” of the project are stable and reliable in their expectations and
  • the technical environment or the industry does not have a high rate of change.

Projects with agile methods

Agile project methods are the better choice if the project cannot be defined during the definition and planning phase and the framework conditions only become clearer as the project progresses. This is often the case with projects in the IT environment and in technology-driven industries. Ultimately, everything that is influenced by the topics of “Industry 4.0” or “digitalization” needs agile methods rather than the application of classic project management.

With agile methods, the project team can take new developments into account during the course of the project. Assume that the project duration for developing a smoke detector is three to four years. The topic of “smart home” has been important for such applications for some time now: The smoke detector should use a smartphone application to inform the resident that the smoke detector has been triggered at home. How can the requirement be integrated into an already planned housing and the technology that has already been developed? With classic project management, the previous prototype would have to be scrapped and a new device would have to be developed. Agile methods rely on the further development of what already exists within short cycles in order to react to changes. This shortens the project duration.

You can do that

If there are no agile methods (e.g. Scrum) in your company, get fit as a project assistant and familiarize yourself with this new way of thinking. When projects start, check how reliable the framework conditions are for this project. If you have the impression that agile methods are needed for project management, explain this to the project manager. So this project can serve as a pilot with the new methods. Alternatively, you can also identify your own project that you are responsible for as project manager and implement it using agile methods.

Also Read: What Is Agility And Why Does A Company Need It?

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