Agile vs. Waterfall: Is It Time for a New Project Management Approach?

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Agile and Waterfall are two common project management approaches. Waterfall is one of the most traditional project management frameworks. Agile methodology evolved in the early 2000s as a more flexible alternative for projects with abstract constraints.  

Waterfall  takes a linear approach with extensive planning upfront, where every step of a project occurs in sequential order. Each step must be completed in full before the next step can begin. Projects are often divided into stages that focus on major milestones and big deliverables. It’s ideal for projects that have set paths with clearly defined parameters. 

Agile, on the other hand, is an iterative approach that focuses on continuous deliverables by completing multiple project phases or tasks simultaneously. Projects can be broken up into many smaller cycles or ‘sprints’ that evolve as the work progresses. It prioritizes speed and adaptability, allowing for constant feedback and flexibility. 

Agile was developed to address some of the core challenges teams faced due to Waterfall’s rigid approach such as missed deadlines, the inability to address changing project requirements, and scope creep. 

Agile vs. Waterfall: Pros and Cons of Each

So what are the pros and cons of Agile vs. Waterfall? And when should an organization choose Agile over Waterfall, or vice versa? Each approach has its use cases.

Pros and Cons of a Waterfall Methodology

Waterfall served project managers well for decades before the Agile methodology evolved. 

It’s ideal for smaller projects with fixed timelines, fixed budgets, and fully defined requirements.  

Waterfall Project Management Pros

  • Defines project requirements early on
  • A more methodical and structured process
  • Provides a concrete project scope & timeline
  • Takes less coordination with teammates and clients

Waterfall Project Management Cons

  • Doesn’t allow for flexibility or new learnings
  • Harder for team members to share work
  • Uncovering new requirements can cause delays
  • Projects can take longer

Pros and Cons of an Agile Methodology

Agile, on the other hand, is built for more complex projects with flexible budgets and timelines. It fosters collaboration across many contributors and stakeholders. 

Agile Project Management Pros

  • Teams can get started without having every detail defined
  • Short, immediate deadlines promote productivity and efficiency
  • Better suited when speed is an important factor
  • Easier to involve clients in the process
  • Easier to demonstrate constant progress
  • Easier to expand the scope

Agile Project Management Cons

  • Can be difficult to keep the whole team on the same page
  • Can result in many tasks competing for priority
  • Harder to predict the timeline and budget
  • Requires contributors to be more self-directed

Signs it Might Be Time to Switch to Agile

While the Waterfall methodology certainly has a place, it doesn’t support the fast-paced landscape in that many project and software teams operate.

If you’ve been using a linear Waterfall approach to managing projects and the following issues sound all too familiar, it’s likely time to go Agile. 

  • Dependencies are wrecking your project timelines.
  • The team frequently misses deadlines. 
  • You’re missing out on opportunities to expand the project scope.
  • It feels like everyone is working in silos and there’s not enough collaboration.
  • Clients aren’t satisfied with the end results.   

An Agile approach will alleviate many of these problems. Agile project management is designed to support all types of projects and keep them on  a set path while allowing ample time and space to explore the best possible solutions. Just keep in mind that as you evolve your process, you may also need to evolve your tools.  

Introducing Agile Resource Management 

An Agile approach introduces new challenges. Everything moves faster. Iteration is constant. It isn’t just about changing the scope and tasks. It also means changing project teams and talent based on new requirements.

With Agile, it’s difficult to predict timelines and budgets, not to mention task backlog and role demand. It’s harder to keep everyone on the same page about who is doing what and when. And it’s even more critical to have a centralized view of what’s going on across the company.

Traditional project management software doesn’t inherently support an Agile approach. Project management tools are all about tasks and typically fail to address high-level business needs. You need tools built to manage change.

Enter resource management software

How Resource Management Supports an Agile Approach

To not only hyper-focus on granular tasks in an Agile environment, and get the 10,000-foot view that managers and leaders need to power Agile organizations, you need to integrate your project management software with Agile resource management software.   

With Agile resource management software (like Mosaic), you can:

  • Give managers and executives visibility into who is working on what project in an Agile, constantly changing project environment.
  • Center communication around the projects people are working on, and how their time is split (instead of just on the tasks).
  • Remove the rigid organizational hierarchies for immediate access to anyone in the company–across teams, departments, offices, regions, or continents to manage work together as a single cohesive team.
  • More easily assemble project teams.
  • Quickly move people around between project teams at any moment
  • Tap into the skills and knowledge you need to manage any project. 
  • Balance workload across the organization, while actively forecasting demand and hiring needs to prevent burnout

Agile or Waterfall: Which is Best for Your Organization?

If your business needs to move quickly, increase productivity, respond to changing requests, deliver higher-quality outcomes, and delight clients, Agile project and resource management  is the way to go. 

You’ll be a faster and more flexible organization. You’ll develop an improved process and workflow, create more engaged employees, and reduce turnover. And all this will ultimately lead to much higher utilization and profitability.  

Atlassian’s guide to agile project management will help you manage projects fast and Mosaic's guide to buying resource management software will help you manage an Agile organization.

Mosaic is the first collaborative resource solution that’s built for project-based businesses to manage an agile organization. At its core, it’s a communication system designed to give all levels of management visibility into who is working on what project. 

Going direct to the source provides a single source of truth that's a lot more accurate and always up-to-date. And by unlocking the management power of the collective team, Mosaic significantly boosts efficiency, driving profitability up by 40%.

With Mosaic connecting your workforce, you get the fastest and easiest way to find work for people and build project teams. Replacing dozens of emails, chat messages, and calls, Mosaic's AI analyzes all data in the system to understand your people. Our Project Finder sources projects for people instantly and Team Builder lets you reach across the organization and put together project teams in minutes instead of days. 

John Meyer

Founder & CEO
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