Agile vs. Waterfall: The Blue Ocean Explains Why Agile Wins

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development life cycle.

5. Process Documentation

Agile -  Agile also derives its philosophy from other knowledge domains, most notably - Lean. Hence, the focus on process documentation is limited to the extent that useful and meaningful value added information required for the specific task is maintained and is available to the user. The mode of storage of information is also very flexible and the information could be stored in the form of audio, video, text or any other type of storage.

Waterfall – The method focused heavily on having documents for all the steps followed during the development life cycle. This led to extra effort spent for documentation and which did not add value as many times, the documentation developed was so extensive that there was no sufficient time to go through the documentation created. This led to wastage and it also compromised on the principles of Lean Thinking.

6. Risk

Agile –  Focus on iterative, incremental, risk based and client driven software development ensured that the highest items of risk were addressed in the initial stages of the project. In Scrum/XP, the initial sprints/iterations ensured that the highest risk items were addressed initially based on the prioritization carried out by the customer in association with the project team.

Waterfall – As the method and the life cycle steps followed were sequential, the risk items were not addressed appropriately and there were generally greater issues pertaining to risk that were still not addressed during the later stages of the project.

7. Business Value

Agile –  No matter what development disciplines are required, each agile team will contain a customer representative . This person is appointed by the stakeholders to act on their behalf and makes a personal commitment to being available for developers to answer mid-iteration problem-domain questions. At the end of each iteration, stakeholders and the customer representative review progress and re-evaluate priorities with a view to optimizing the return on investment and ensuring alignment with customer needs and company goals. Hence, the focus on business value is paramount.

Waterfall – As the customer observes the product/service only after all the steps have been completed, the lag time ensured that no adequate business value could be addressed in a short period of time. This led to significant problems during the later stages of the project.

8. Individuals and Interactions

Agile –  Team composition in an agile project is usually cross-functional and self-organizing without consideration for any existing corporate hierarchy or the corporate roles of team members. Team members normally take responsibility for tasks that deliver the functionality an iteration requires. They decide individually how to meet an iteration's requirements.

Agile methods emphasize face-to-face communication over written documents when the team is all in the same location. Most agile teams work in a single open office (called a bullpen), which facilitates such communication. Team size is typically small (5-9 people) to help make team communication and team collaboration easier. When a team works in different locations, they maintain daily contact through videoconferencing, voice, e-mail, etc.

Larger development efforts may be delivered by multiple teams working toward a common goal. This may also require a coordination of priorities across the teams.

Generally, in Daily Scrum, team members report to each other what they did yesterday, what they intend to do today, and what their roadblocks are. This standing face-to-face communication prevents problems from being hidden.

Waterfall – The emphasis on individuals and interactions was limited and more focus was given to ensuring that the sequential steps followed were adhered strictly and sign-offs were obtained from one phase to the other.

About the author

Badri N. Srinivasan's picture Badri N. Srinivasan

Badri N. Srinivasan is working as head of quality for Valtech India Systems in Bangalore, India. He has extensive experience in process implementation, organizational change management processes, and process improvement initiatives in the travel, retail, manufacturing, banking, and financial services domains. He is a Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) and Project Management Professional (PMP).

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