How To Ease Your Transition from Waterfall to Agile

Crawl, walk, run.

These three words are a common phrase that we at Advisicon use when we engage in Project Portfolio Management (PPM) consulting for our prospective and established clients.

Just today, I met with a client whose current growth, volume, and complexity of their portfolio is forcing them to rethink their current method for planning, executing, and monitoring their projects. It goes without saying that they need to update the technology to facilitate and support those projects. Their growth has been organic, rising from its beginning as a small nonprofit and emerging as a player in the Portland, Oregon metro area.

Not surprisingly, they’ve used the Waterfall approach to manage their projects—in part because of the vertical they compete in, somewhat because more traditional processes evolve over time. However, another part of it is due to a lack of awareness of alternatives to traditional project management.

One of the most underrated ways to improve your project’s management is simply to select the proper method. You may have heard such terms as Wagile, Scrummerfall, or Agifall. As you can guess from the names, each of these items describe a hybrid approach to project management, merging elements of both Waterfall and Agile approaches. These paths have developed because not all organizations are suited for the full adoption of Agile. According to PMI’s Pulse of the Profession, 89% of surveyed project professionals stated that their organization implemented hybrid project management practices.

Why are they doing this?

It’s about getting results. The PMI study, The Drivers of Agility, found that companies operating with a high degree of agility bring significantly more projects to a successful conclusion than those who don’t. Of the companies exhibiting a high degree of agility, 68% used agile methods, 71% predictive, and 72% used a hybrid methodology.

Yet the lure of Waterfall over Agile remains strong, even in organizations that have made the switch intellectually. Because at its core is a promise: Everything’s going to work out exactly as we planned. Many organizations would find it easier to make the transition to Agile if they got this kind of assurance. But the reason Waterfall has failed is that it can’t deliver on the promise. Agile can.

Getting Started

You may ask, “How can I start incorporating Agile sprints into my traditional project?” You can start by evaluating your current project schedule and determining if there is a particular phase where you could try embedding the Sprint concept. Microsoft has made this process rather simple in the subscription version of Microsoft Project. Once you have embedded the Agile Sprints into your existing Project schedule (as shown in the screenshots below) in Microsoft Project, you have the ability to transform a traditional GANTT chart into Sprint or Task Boards.

Take Time to Train Staff

“My organization doesn’t have anyone on staff who is certified or highly experienced in Agile. Does that mean I won’t be successful in trying to incorporate it?”

Not necessarily.

Like any project, regardless of what methodology is preached by the organization, it comes down to some core concepts, including communication, collaboration, and planning. The end goal is always delivering value and ensuring customer satisfaction. For any new endeavor, it’s crucial to get buy-in from your stakeholders by presenting the potential benefit. Invest in some training.

Additionally, there are plenty of free resources and videos that will help you move forward with your transition from Waterfall to Agile. Begin collaborating but remain flexible since some will buy in immediately while others may require more convincing.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

When moving to agile, the need to communicate on a consistent basis becomes critical. Placing everyone together in one location to report on their progress will help leaders understand where pain points are emerging. It will also foster an environment that creates the best solutions to these types of issues.

In this environment, it’s also important to be ready to react quickly to any potential changes. A lack of communication can significantly hamper these initiatives. It will ultimately lead to an outcome that doesn’t fully meet stakeholder requirements. By establishing a clear line of knowledge sharing, teams will be able to keep up with adjustments and aid in project completion.

Stay Flexible

Flexibility is the key in Agile development. Over-emphasizing procedure stifles creative channels. While minimizing the importance of process is ineffective in building a sound platform.

The key is to formalize a development platform that facilitates innovation while equally ensuring performance. Teams work together under consistent project management. The processes that encourage creative innovation and quality functionality reveal themselves through team interactions.

Beginning with the least amount of process control you see to be required, then add more as situations and circumstances indicate. Strategically balancing process and innovation to maneuver development through shifting circumstances and conditions will get you the most outstanding results.

Ready to Dive In?!  

Ok, check that. Ready to ease into it? Remember those three words. Crawl, walk, run. It’s all worth it when you’ve formulated a plan that will pay off. We recommend starting with small teams and projects to inspire early successes.

If you’re looking for help transitioning from Waterfall to Agile, we’d be thrilled to support your team. It’s what we do best! Get in touch with us so we can talk strategy for your specific situation.