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Topics: Agile, Schedule Management, Scope Management
How to manage Agile projects with waterfall customers?

So, we are faced with the challenge today of re-designing our internal project management methodology to support the use of Agile-SCRUM by our development teams, despite working with customers who are still very much in the Waterfall frame of mind.
Has anyone else managed to successfully implement such a blended solution, and if so what tips would you give me?
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That is a good question. I have been faced with the same dilemma. I will be very interested in any responses you get.

I have been involved in transition of projects from waterfall to scrum. Here are my two cents.
1. Train, Coach and Mentor the stakeholders
2. Show the benefits with small wins
3. Be patient
4. Get help from Agile coaches
5. Start with small projects
6. Agile is not a silver bullet for every project, we can execute projects in waterfall if the requirements are clear.
7. Have clear conversations with business partners. They may not spend time with you in the beginning but try to explain about Scrum and how it is going to help the organization
8. Be a servant leader
9. Ready to face hardships and look for better results

You have to explain to the customers the benefits of this new approach and get their buy-inotherwise it will be a very difficult transition. You might have to do this once, twice and thrice until everyone is on board.

I did that using DSDM and using Scrum. First of all, take into account that Scrum is a framework that you must fill with the tools and techniques best fit for you then it is great for what you are looking for. Before all that, take into account Agile is a practice and approach. Agile is not about to use a method/framework/process, did not start with the Manifesto then you can use Agile practice with any type of process, waterfall for example (I am doing that from long time ago). Just to comment, what you are facing with your client is similar about I am facing with one of the my main clients in my actual company: compliance people. For example, for audit proposes, we need to maintain a project schedule which has no sense when you use Scrum for example. But here I am, maintaining the project schedule. So, perhaps in my case facing this type of situations is quit simple because I mentioned I fully understand that Agile can be used with any type of method and process. At the end, you have to divide this situation in two: do you will use an Agile based method/framework or not? If you will use an Agile based method/framework then you have to see how your client will be inserted on it and that depends on how you will interact with your client. The most conflictive in this situation is reporting and change management.

Paul -

This is a hybrid approach - it can work if there are clear working agreements in place between your team and the client's team on the level of support needed to successfully apply an adaptive lifecycle.

Water-Scrum-Fall is a common (anti)pattern in such cases. The client provides their detailed requirements up front and doesn't wish to be closely engaged in the delivery process, but the delivery team produces their deliverables following an agile delivery approach...

1 reply by Denise Morrow
Nov 08, 2018 7:44 PM
Denise Morrow
I managed my project this way. Exec Team signed off on "hybrid" project charter but were not wanting to be involved in how we did it as long as we were on track. The team used an Agile DSDM approach and we were able to show how effective this way of working is. The Exec Team were astonished at how much we achieved. Furthermore the team remained focused on the solution and were not stressed out with all the changes in the business and project that happened during this period.

You need to identify what aspects of the project might still require more of a waterfall approach and which can utilize more agile techniques. Two very important things to consider is lead time of deliverables, and dependencies between project elements.

Take a construction project as example. Some aspects of the architecture might not be well suited to iteration, like changing the foundation of a building. If utilities or whatever else might drive a change later, the cost and flow can blow up the project so these need to be known and planned up front. Other aspects can allow much more flexibility like floor plans and d├ęcor, so long as they don't exceed the capabilities of the architecture.

This is where a "rolling-wave" type approach comes in. Long lead aspects get planned out in detail early and an overall timeline is created, but other more flexible aspects are roughed out early with detailed plans left for later. What becomes very important is knowing *when* the decisions need to be made before changing them has a cascading effect through other aspects of the project. That's where the waterfall helps lay out when parts of the project need to be locked down, and also where the phases of agile development must or can occur.

We have been faced with a similar problem lately in an IT project. Here is how we addressed it.

Some of the limitations with Agile is its lack of long-term visibility (unless the product roadmap is for next 2 years), output predictability (deliverables can take multiple iteration to get the final refined product) and lack of traceability (minimal documentation and mostly technical assets). This sometimes puts the management in a dicey situation with customers, as there are both contractual and financial implications on delivery.

We felt that the problem was not in the Agile execution but more on a communication standpoint. That is, how we connect an agile execution, to a more waterfall manner of reporting.

We created two-layer process - Project Management and Product Management. The Project management always deals with customer projects with a set of requirements, delivery dates, clear business requirements and follows a waterfall model. Milestones are kept high level and way apart to accommodate many sprints and revisions to happen. However, the execution of the project itself (product management) follows an Agile path.. we take multiple sprints to delivery the same requirements, refining it over a period of time and progress towards the delivery. While each scrum is self managed (like an Agile process), the overarching project management tracks the overall progress on the milestone and report back to customers periodically keeping them happy.


Who are your customers and what is it that they really need? Why do they think they need a "waterfall" project, or do they just want dates? If you can meet or exceed contract requirements, why do they care how you develop the product?

If they really want a predictive project plan, then they need to present you with a clear and detailed set of requirements, then wait for the project to be planned out, then wait for the entire project to be completed before they get their final deliverable. Warn them that scope changes will cause contract re-negotiations.

If they allow for emerging requirements, are interested in getting more value faster, and are willing to participate in the development process, then they should be excited that you're using the Scrum framework. They can participate in regular sprint reviews to ensure they're getting the product they want before the final delivery date.

You should work with them to find out what they really want and why, but if they are paying customers, then let them have the final say.

We deal with it now, it's extremely frustrating but choosing a hybrid approach before diving right into "agile" helps them adjust and change gradually.

In a recent Fly Over Bridge Project for the Municipality of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, the Main Contactor has awarded a 3D Animation product to a well-known Media Production Studio, to show the kinematics of the proposed construction methodologies, in order to facilitate external communication and stakeholders engagement.

An hybrid V-Model has been contractualized with the Media Production Studio, consisting of a Modified Waterfall approach which provided a sequential development methodology with feedback mechanisms so that technical shortcomings identified during the 3D animation development could be incorporated preventing possible overcosts and time schedule overruns.
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