Is Agile Cheaper?

PMI Durham Highlands Chapter

Kevin Aguanno is the agile practice lead for Procept Associates Ltd., one of PMI’s first Registered Education Providers, specializing in training and project and programme strategy consulting. Author of over 30 books, audiobooks and DVDs on project management topics, he teaches agile methods at several universities and at conferences around the world. He spends most of his time helping large, complex organizations integrate agile project management methods into their governance frameworks.

If you ask a group of individuals what benefits they expect to achieve by adopting agile methods, you’ll usually hear “faster delivery,” “higher quality,” “cheaper” and “lower risk.” Out of these, “faster” is the most common.

While agile does allow a team to deliver a solution in phases (which means earlier delivery of value), the overall project may not get completed much faster—at least not until one reaches higher levels of agile maturity. Other benefits are easier to achieve at lower levels of maturity, including higher quality (due to continuous testing) and lower risk (due to prototyping early to test risky design or technical assumptions). Faster delivery can be elusive as it requires many other practices to be well established for the project team before they can experience overall project timescale compression. The benefit of “cheaper,” however, may be illusory.

Agile’s Cost Mix is Different
Let’s compare an agile project and a waterfall project building the same deliverables. The outputs will be exactly the same for this example. The only difference will be in the process of how the deliverables were created, not what was created. How would the costs differ between the two projects?

  • Project management: The work efforts of the project manager (or ScrumMaster) …

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"It is impossible to travel faster than the speed of light, and certainly not desirable, as one's hat keeps blowing off."

- Woody Allen



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