Agile vs. Waterfall: Pros, cons and compromises

In evaluating today’s two most popular methodologies—agile and waterfall—I’ve come to the conclusion that we don’t have to be a slave to either.

Whichever approach you use, including a hybrid of the two, leveraging professional services best practices will steer your project toward success.

Project manager as super hero

A strong project manager is always important, but especially for agile.

Waterfall’s structure is more rigid, and governance is more explicit. You have a project plan against which the PM keeps strict records of activities and deliverables and provides frequent status reports on the agreed-upon outcome. A PM is important with waterfall, but a lot of the PM’s work is administrative.

Agile projects have less project plan documentation, include many more discrete action items and tasks, and move at a faster pace, all of which demand an especially adept PM. Agile projects’ parallel moving parts can get away from you if you don’t have a very strong PM.

Not to mention the challenge of controlling the activities of multiple teams—a team of teams—that without a strong PM can behave like a herd of cats.

The right software for the job

A strong PM is not the only answer to keeping your agile, waterfall or hybrid project under control. He or she needs the right software to corral all the parallel and sequential activities. The right software can also help you break down big problems into manageable pieces so that the team can focus on tasks that lead to the next incremental value and overall success.

CA Agile Central, developed by experts who defined agile software, is an organizational tool that helps multiple teams prioritize and track progress, report on a variety of statuses, and enter and capture backlog and work in progress.

When multiple teams use it, it brings their overall effort together, consolidating it in one place. When several teams use the same methodology, they can more effectively manage the effort than they could with different methodologies.

CA Agile Central also offers education on how agile works. If your company is considering a move to agile—or happens to be stalled in the process—the CA Agile Central team can provide thought leadership, listen to your needs, and guide your organization through the transition and getting people to commit.

They know from experience that even for projects with more than 2,000 WIPs, CA Agile Central’s methodologies can help you whittle WIPs down to the two most important goals for your company and help you develop the discipline, rigor and commitment that lead to success.

Trusted advisors help navigate between Waterfall and Agile

No matter what a company’s objectives are, an objective, trusted advisor can help identify the most appropriate approach.

While this could be the PM, the better option is an architect, consultant or coach, a thought leader who is fully conversant in the business, knows the company’s level of maturity vis-à-vis agile and waterfall, is an expert at identifying and building a solution that meets the organization’s specific needs and guides the organization on best practices.

Waterfall still has its moments, but you must build into a waterfall plan a way to show value in 90 days or sooner—one of the hallmarks of agile.

The pace of business today means that companies simply aren’t willing to wait years and spend multiple millions of dollars before they see an outcome. And by relying on these best practices, they won’t have to.


As the general manager of CA services and education, Chris leads the global CA technologies…

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