Comparing and Contrasting Agile and Waterfall Teams

By: Jacob Musselwhite

Date: April 3, 2018

In the project management field, there are several different types of methodologies that you can use, and the two most popular are Agile and Waterfall (traditional). While the methodologies are certainly different, the way that the teams work are also different. Some projects may need areas of focus that the other cannot provide and this is why the choice of methodology is so important as it also affects how the different teams work. This article will outline the differences and similarities of how teams work under these methodologies.

jacob's sprint 1 article image
Figure 1: Showing the difference between Waterfall (Traditional) and Agile Team dynamics.

Waterfall (Traditional):

Many organizations still choose to use a waterfall, also known as traditional, methodology for their teams as it allows for an easier defined goal for the group. As the waterfall methodology defines the requirements of the project upfront, this creates a defined “end” to the project for the team that allows them to work towards a goal together. This allows for the team to work together on a “release driven” schedule and delivery. (Bowes 2014) As shown in Figure 1, the work in waterfall based methodologies is organized based on the team itself. This means that along with having a defined finish date the rest of the work is allocated towards the team as a whole. (Khan 2016) As there are defined phases of work in this line of methodology the teams have the opportunity to define issues that may occur together in the development phase, while also having an easier time understanding the work as it is described as being “linear.” (Bowes 2014) While there are pros to having chosen the Waterfall method, there are also cons. As Bowes outlines in the article “Agile vs Waterfall: Comparing project management methods” a major problem is that what is needed isn’t exactly known at the very beginning as there is a research phase. Also stated is the fact that making changes to the initial requirements is extremely difficult in a Waterfall styled team dynamic as there are a lot of things that have to retroactively changed and this creates a lot of pressure on the team members. (Bowes 2014)
Agile:

The newest line of methodology that has really taken off in recent time within project management is the methodology of Agile. The team dynamic in Agile is completely different than the one found in Waterfall. As in Figure 1 the team is organized around the work which is the complete opposite of waterfall. (Khan 2016) The way that the Agile methodology affects teams is that there is a high transparency alongside more freedom for the individual team members as they all work on their own towards a similar goal. (Bowes 2014) While Agile can be beneficial to the team dynamics, it can also cause problems for certain teams. Some issues are outlined in the article “Making the Right Choice – Agile vs. Waterfall” by Ben Harden. An issue that is outlined in the article by Harden is that when using the Agile methodology, communication between team members and co-location is extremely important and may cause stress between the team members. This presents a problem as it can cause friction between different team members making it impossible for them to work together. Another problem that Harden outlines is the fact that some members after finishing their work may want to move on instead of being stuck with the same team. Finally the last con that Harden lists is the fact that the Agile methodology is somewhat focused on individual performance and work, this means that the good and bad of what is turned in is directed towards one person. This presents a lot of stress on an individual and may not be good for all teams. (Harden 2013)

Which one is better?:

While both Waterfall and Agile project methodologies have different pros and cons based on team dynamics, neither is exactly “better” than the other. Certain projects pose certain problems that allow for the management to decide what would be better for that specific end goal. Both Waterfall and Agile have many pros and cons and handle the way that teams, resources, and how work is allocated differently which makes the choice a project to project decision. In the end, Agile can be more complicated “…if an organisation and the people involved are not in a mature enough state for Agile….” (Bowes 2014).
Sources:

Bowes, Jim. “Agile vs Waterfall – Comparing Project Management Methods.” Manifesto, Manifesto, 17 July 2014, from https://manifesto.co.uk/agile-vs-waterfall-comparing-project-management-methodologies/

Harden, Ben. “Making the Right Choice – Agile vs. Waterfall.” Captech Consulting, Inc., Captech, 12 Aug. 2013, https://www.captechconsulting.com/blogs/making-the-right-choice–agile-vs-waterfall

Image Sources:

Khan, Aleem. “Traditional vs. Agile Approach of Managing Work.” TastyCupcakes.org, 31 May 2016, from http://tastycupcakes.org/2016/05/5668/

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