Project Management

Agile? Waterfall? Something Else? How to Choose Your Project Lifecycle

Mass Bay Chapter

Johanna Rothman, known as the "Pragmatic Manager," offers frank advice for your tough problems. She helps leaders and teams learn to see simple and reasonable things that might work. Equipped with that knowledge, they can decide how to adapt their product development. Her recent books are the "Modern Management Made Easy" series and "Create Your Successful Agile Project."

Many people think they can only choose between waterfall and agile for their project approach. But we can use criteria to help us decide the right approach for our project—even an unnamed, non-standard approach. When we choose an approach that manages our risks, we are more likely to succeed.

Consider these possible project risks:

  1. While you have some early information that the customers want this work, you and the team see significant technical risks. You all feel as if you need to spend time iterating to verify you can create this product.
  2. You need to hit a specific date, almost regardless of the features. For example, you might need to demo some features, but not all of them. Or create several interim releases. You might need to release fixes or update the product to meet a new regulation.
  3. You’re not sure if this product will fill a market need. You and the team want frequent feedback so you can create experiments and re-plan. That re-planning will help you know you’re building something valuable.
  4. Worse, you might have all of these risks—and your managers want to contain the costs of the project.

Because each project has its own risks, you might find it useful when to choose which lifecycle. Let’s start with the technical risks.

Iterative Approaches Manage Technical Risks
Frank is a project manager whose team isn’t …

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