Transitioning From Waterfall to Agile, Adoption or Transformation?

When it comes to approaches in software development, companies often times implement either the Waterfall or Agile methodologies to fulfill the needs of a project. Waterfall development refers to a more traditional approach where stages are completed linearly and the end result is produced when all stages are completed. In contrast, the agile approach initiates small, collaborative iterations within the process that allow team members to rapidly respond to change and produce quick deliverables Agil.

In recent years the popularity of the agile approach has skyrocketed. More and more companies are transitioning from using the waterfall methodology to an agile methodology. When making the switch, companies are faced with the challenge of how to introduce a new methodology. Is it better to gradually leave the waterfall approach or to dive right into the agile methodology?

When a company gradually introduces the new software development methodology, it’s commonly referred to as “agile adoption.” On the contrary when a company takes introduces more aggressive approach, introducing agile as the new standard operating procedure, it’s described as “agile transformation.” Whether a company chooses to transform or adopt, there will ultimately be a number of changes to project management and every day team work. With change, comes challenge. A company implementing such a change needs to be aware of the inevitable challenges.

Considerations when Adopting or Transforming to Agile

When a company switches from the waterfall to the agile software development approach, it may ultimately result in higher quality end products and more flexibility in the project at hand. However, when making the switch, it’s important to consider whether it is best to implement the change through adoption or transformation. Follow along to learn four considerations when making the switch from waterfall to agile:

1. Management Change – When implementing the agile approach, unlike waterfall, management of the project does not come from the top down. Instead, team members are empowered and encouraged to self-manage and collaborate on iterations of the project. Rather than having a project manager, agile methods employ a scrum master who acts more as a coach or facilitator to help the project run as smoothly as possible.

2. Process Change – Where waterfall relies heavily on a linear process in which stages cannot move forward until one section is complete, agile enables a team to work on the project in different stages simultaneously. The flexibility of agile enables a rapid response to change and supports testing at the completion of iterations. With waterfall, a product is tested once the project is complete.

3. Uncertainty- When implementing waterfall, a clear start and end point are laid out in the early stages of planning. This reduces the amount of uncertainty programmers may face within the project. With agile, uncertainty is a common term that programmers not only face on daily basis, but are encouraged to embrace. Uncertainty allows programmers to work in more fluid and creative ways, facilitating innovative problem solving during the project.

4. Cultural Change – The agile approach to software development relies heavily on effective communication between all members of the team. This includes group leaders called “scrum masters” and product owners. Free flow of information during a project enables the team to solve unexpected problems quickly and effectively. Implementing the agile approach implies that a company supports a culture of communication and the freedom for team members to explore new solutions and ideas. This is understood as critical for the overall success of the project.

When a company chooses to make the transition from waterfall to agile, it represents a big shift in philosophy. Considering the major differences between the two approaches, a company’s culture may play an important role in determining whether adoption or transformation is embraced. Some companies may find it easier to implement a fast transformation, while a gradual approach may better serve others. Regardless of how a company gets to agile, it is likely that this special methodology will present many benefits over the long term.

David Easterling has been leading software development companies for more than 15 years. Starting his technology career as a partner with Everest Technologies, David decided to open his own company named Prosoft in 2003. Prosoft quickly became a leading software development and IT staffing firm in Louisville, Kentucky. Recognizing a need to offer more efficient and affordable custom software, agile programming, and web design solutions to growing businesses, David founded Prosoft Nearshore in 2008, with offices in Louisville, KY, and San Jose, Costa Rica. Prior to his career in IT management, David was the Director of Sales with Zellerbach in Virginia. He holds a degree from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. David is a Certified Scrum Master and is an active member of the Scrum and Agile User Group. He is also a member of the National Vistage CEO Leadership Group.

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