Alternatives to Agile Approaches for Programs

Mass Bay Chapter

Johanna Rothman works with companies to improve how they manage their product development. She is the author of Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects, 2nd edition, Agile and Lean Program Management: Scaling Collaboration Across the Organization as well as several other books including the newest: Create Your Successful Agile Project: Collaborate, Measure, Estimate, Deliver. See her blogs and more of her writing at

“Agile”—often spelled with a capital “A” —is all the rage these days. And, if you can’t do the “Agile” thing, you’re not part of the cool kids. Even worse, you’re just plain wrong.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Agile approaches are wrong for some programs. And those alternatives are not strict waterfalls. Here I will present some ways to think about the kind of lifecycle that might be right for your program.

How often can you release to customers?
I like to start thinking about release frequency. How often we can release the product? This means I need to think about internal and external releasing.

First, let’s think about releasing to customers on a regular basis. The “Potential for Release Frequency” diagram helps me to think about the frequency as well as the cost of releasing:

The more the product is digital only (the left side of the continuum), the easier it is to release as often as we can. But “easier here” is relative. That’s because many organizations aren’t able to release even internally every day. Why? They don’t yet have a build system or sufficient automated tests that can support the risk of release.

Some customers, even those who use Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) products, do not want changes every day to their product.…

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