Agile and Waterfall: Insights from The Digital Embassy

Friday, 24 February 2017  |  Posted in: News  |  5min read

This is the second edition of our Q&A Insights Series initiative from The Digital Embassy.

We use this as an opportunity to provide industry insights from the talented individuals who are qualified experts in their respective fields within our agency.

This installment features Sara Coppins, one of the highly experienced and valued members of our Project Management team, as she offers her views regarding the Agile and Waterfall methods commonly utilised for creating and running projects.


What do you see as the main advantages to the Waterfall and Agile models?

Waterfall often works best on shorter, smaller projects that have really clear, defined requirements and are functionality wise less complex in nature. Because the project runs in defined stages, from scoping, to design, to implementation and into testing and deployment, there is less opportunity for alterations to the scope along the way. So for projects that have clear understandings surrounding the technology and key deliverable requirements, Waterfall does provide an easy and manageable foundation for project management.

With Agile, the main advantages are the collaborative opportunities it provides, both internally for team members and for the client project stakeholders. Each deliverable is proportionally broken up into chunks of smaller functional milestones called sprints. Each sprint might require involvement from a handful of resources who each are assigned tasks that contribute to the delivery of each piece of functionality. Each sprint is then designed, developed, tested and supplied to the client in a much faster manner, usually within one to two weeks per sprint.

The benefit being that the client is provided with greater involvement with the project earlier, allowing for more relevant remediation and feedback. This process assists the team internally with development, leaving no ambiguity in what they are building, and the client very quickly understands how we work, and are seeing the results of this collaboration very early on in the project timeline.


What are some of the common misconceptions toward both models?

The main misconceptions are around Agile, because it is a less understood framework for project management. But the main concern we see from clients is that it is going to be more expensive than Waterfall, when that is not necessarily true.

Agile is certainly very resource intensive, but it is also a very budget and timeline focused approach. The way tasks are allocated across sprints are all done with the overall project completion requirements firmly in mind, it’s simply how the sprints are managed and tasks broken down across the project lifecycle internally that differs. So even if a client is provided with more frequent access to functionality and design elements, it doesn’t mean that they are paying more as a result. It means the team and the client are focusing their time in the right areas, and so the budget and timeframe is being utilised in a more refined, focused way.

What many people might not know about Waterfall is that is can often include elements of an Agile framework. At The Digital Embassy we often begin by using Waterfall to clearly define and scope a project, its deliverables and business requirements, then during design and development we incorporate Agile to complete functional and tested project elements.

The instant feedback from clients regarding design styles and user experience allows for clearer insights into what the client wants to achieve. This provides the ability for our internal teams to offer further input and insights toward the project scope as it evolves. This will all take place as we guide the client through their project requirements process. It’s that old saying, ‘you don’t know, what you don’t know’ and we certainly enjoy the experience of assisting our clients through this process, and watch as the business requirements become more clear as the project evolves.

Rapid prototyping makes the client happier because they only wait a week or two to see progress and engage their relative stakeholders, allowing our hybrid approach of the two methodologies to let the client both have their cake and eat it too.


How does this hybrid approach benefit the agency?

There are benefits to the agency in visibility to team performance and it allows resources to work outside their comfort zones, with an ability to up skill.

Many developers prefer not to work on long-term projects because it can become boring, and this collaborative team environment provides quicker turnaround of projects, meaning the business development team are also happy because it allows for new work to begin.

A marriage of these two approaches benefits not only us as a team, but also the quality of the project that is delivered to the client. With greater transparency in project progress as well as more frequent communication and the regular delivery of key deliverables, the benefit to the agency is reflected in the relationship and happiness of the client.


Insights from The Digital Embassy

You can read our first Insights article featuring Development Lead, Patrick Galbraith, who discusses the release of WordPress 4.7 and his views on its implementation and the business possibilities it provides.

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