Hybrid ( Waterfall/ Agile), is it a solution or hidden problem?(Aditya)
Hybrid Approach – Pros and Cons
In the last two decades, many information technology projects uses agile approach for the project management. There are several advantages for the agile approach as compared to the waterfall methodology. One of the most important aspect of the agile approach is the instant deliverables which the end user can see and feel. It provided an edge that users can provide their feedback and request for changes leading to the easy and low cost change management.
However, many scholars, practitioners and leaders come up with a hybrid approach of waterfall and agile methodologies to manage the project. In the hybrid approach of project management, the scope of the work and the detail requirements are defined during the initial phases of the project. The agile approach kicks in during the development and the testing phase. These phases are iterated with the due planning and prioritization of the user’s requirements. It is obvious that the engagement of the business stakeholders are high during these iterations. The higher stakeholder’s engagement help facilitates the acceptance of the deliverables as well as the identification of any issues. It theory, it seems to be a noble approach where the team has firmed up the requirement to a certain extent and then progressively elaborate it during the progress of the project. The schematic diagram is shown in Figure 1 below.
In the hybrid approach, part of the requirement gathering phase, design, development & unit testing and a part of the user’s acceptance testing are iterated. Another hybrid approach is where only the development, unit testing and the user’s acceptance testing is iterated. In either way, design is elaborated based on the additional requirements, technical challenges and the testing outcomes. There are several challenges that came up during a 50M USD Dodd-Frank project implementation at a major Canadian bank using the hybrid approach.
One of the biggest challenge with the part-iterative approach is the requirement. Like the waterfall model, the hybrid approach expects a firm requirement with the first level of Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). The punitive deadline was imposed by the federal agencies but the scope of the work and the high level requirements were not clear to the federal agencies and the business users – a clear indication to follow the agile approach. On the contrary, we followed the hybrid approach and even after seven months of intensive discussions, hundreds of meetings and with several hundred pages of requirement documents, the features were not clearly prioritized. At one point, there were hundreds of features with priority 1 as explained subsequently in the article below.
Managing Stakeholders and their expectations were another key source of failure in the hybrid approach. Obviously, for a large project the number of key stakeholders are higher making which is key factor in deciding the complexity of a project. In most of the cases, key stakeholders represents specific business areas and for them their requirement is of highest priority. After several joint meeting, discussions and brainstorming sessions, the team was unable to come up with distinct list of prioritized features. Other than the political nature and ego clashes between the key stakeholders, interdependencies between the features was the key contributing factor.
For many of us the hybrid model was an unchartered territory. During the initiation and planning phase of the project, no one realized the fact that we will not only need a strong project manager but we will also need a Scrum Master – a stronger one. The project manager will manage the entire project while the scrum master will take care of the iterative processes and the releases thereafter. The additional cost and finding the right Scrum Master was not the main concern. The challenge was syncing them together as all of the scoping, estimation, and scheduling was done by the project manager without any input from the scrum master. One of the lessons learned from this project was to include the scrum master early on in the hybrid approach and involve him/her in the scope definition, estimation, and scheduling processes.
Undoubtedly the hybrid approach helps in faster delivery, easy change management, end-user focused deliverables, better productivity and more. However, it also imposes some of the constraints such as firm (or at least good understanding of the) requirement, predefined and agreed upon processes, intense communication in a distributed team – which is mostly the case today and additional resources. There are certain projects where the hybrid approach will be useful. However, it is impossible to label the approach as a problematic.
Published at pmmagazine.net with the consent of Aditya Lal