Effective Project Management
Effectively managing a project and team(s) is a difficult task that faces increased challenges in a remote environment. Obstacles are exacerbated by the lack of in-person collaboration and the inability to stop by a colleagues desk for a quick and informal update. However, selecting the correct project management methodology can help alleviate numerous issues and ensure that your project is completed successfully.
Agile & Waterfall Methodology Overview
No project management technique is best suited for all situations. The most common methodologies are Waterfall and Agile. Although both approaches are popular and have been around for an extended period of time, specific projects are better suited by one or the other.
The Waterfall methodology is the traditional and sequential approach that is best for projects with a well-known scope likely to experience minimal change. Client input takes place at milestones as the project transitions throughout the various phases. In a Waterfall project management strategy, each phase must be completed prior to transitioning to the following phase. These phases are clearly outlined and define clear objectives that must be accomplished before progressing.
As indicated by the name, an Agile methodology is designed to accommodate change. Its iterative nature focuses on completing certain objectives by the end of a specified time period known as a sprint. Agile methodologies are well suited for projects with unclear initial requirements. The methodology prioritizes the most important aspects of a project and relies on continuous client input throughout the engagement. Deliverables are reviewed by the client and other applicable teams after their corresponding sprint.
Advantages of Each Method
The Waterfall approach’s numerous advantages derive from its structured nature. The first of which, is that it clearly defines all aspects of the project and ultimately increases planning accuracy and detail. Consequently, this approach aligns well with fixed price contracts and government entities. Furthermore, progress can be measured through the completion of each phase as opposed to a product backlog that hasn’t been addressed.
It is less reliant on client input because it is predominantly collected at milestones. This allows the client to take a hands off approach and focus on the day-to-day operations of their business. Finally, successful completion of projects managed with a traditional methodology ensures that all items are addressed and eliminates ambiguity.
One of the greatest advantages to the Agile approach is its flexibility. An Agile approach is particularly useful when the project’s timeline is strained because it prioritizes the most important features. The sprint structure aligns with Time & Materials contracts because sprints are predetermined timeframes that specify workload.
Additionally, constant client interaction augments quality via increased feedback, additional testing, and dynamic user requirements that account for evolving needs. The constant nature of client feedback allows for frequent modification of the product backlog. This is particularly useful for a technical client that wants to get a deeper understanding of the solution. They can work through their use cases and determine if their needs will be better served by an alternative route.
Disadvantages of Each Method
Although each method is effective in its own right, they are not without disadvantages. The Waterfall methodology requires a thorough understanding of business requirements prior to beginning. The Project Manager must have a clear sense of all client needs and initially account for them throughout the various phases. Scenarios where the client is unable to provide a comprehensive overview of the requirements may force the PM to “fill in the gaps” – which is far from ideal.
Another disadvantage associated with the Waterfall approach is the risk of a final deliverable that is not in line with client expectations. Given that the client is less involved in the process, they may be surprised by the end result. However, the traditional approach hedges against this with comprehensive requirements and periodic updates.
Agile method drawbacks tend to be associated with one of its strengths, frequent client input. It requires a significant amount of coordination and cooperation across multiple internal and external teams. While this is great in theory, it may be difficult in practice. Clients may not have the resources, interest, or expertise required for the Agile approach’s mandated involvement. This is especially relevant when the client outsources the work as they hired another firm to step away.
The adaptability of the approach leads to many changes in the project’s scope. These changes affect the project’s cost and timeline. Unfortunately, this is not feasible for certain clients and situations. Moreover, low priority items may not get completed within the original time frame due to a focus on high priority items.
In conclusion, both the Waterfall and Agile Project Management methodologies include pros and cons. In an ideal scenario, the project would be completed successfully regardless of the utilized approach. However, certain client types, engagements, and solutions are better suited by one of the two methods. It is critical that you discuss both options with the client and pick the one that they are most comfortable with. Many professionals blend the two techniques to benefit from each’s strengths while minimizing the drawbacks. Recent trends have increased popularity for Agile management, but it is beneficial to gather all available requirements as early as possible.
About FinServ Consulting
FinServ Consulting is an independent experienced provider of business consulting, systems development, and integration services to alternative asset managers, global banks and their service providers. Founded in 2005, FinServ delivers customized world-class business and IT consulting services for the front, middle and back office, providing managers with optimal and first-class operating environments to support all investment styles and future asset growth. The FinServ team brings a wealth of experience from working with the largest and most complex asset management firms and global banks in the world.