November 11, 2013

Water-Scrum-Fall

Category: Management — David @ 7:47 pm

The first time I heard the “water-scrum-fall” term was at PMI-SV Annual Symposium of 2013 at a presentation provided by Roger Kent with the heading of “Waterfagile or Agilefall? Rethinking Knowledge-Work Process Model.” Quite frankly I have mixed the two methodologies – whenever a mixture suited my project. But what does it really mean? This topic came up at our PMISV meetings members putting light on its definition. Below are extracts from our conversation at Mountain View breakfast meeting. I have also added a few points expressed by our members attending PMISV-job search meeting on February 4th, 2013.

A hybrid of “Waterfall” and “Agile / Scrum” methodologies means that you are in-between waterfall or agile. Hybrid solutions work well during the transition period. An example is when tests were all paper based. Then we had a mixture of multiple choice tests that were partially computer based, with paper backup. That is a hybrid model of testing in both digital as well paper-based methods. Now there are organizations that provide computer-based tests only; such as Prometric. Another example is hybrid automobiles; our infrastructure (or even our transportation dependencies / habit) is not ready to fully adapt our transportation into electric power. Yet we are using both gasoline based as well as electric powered automobiles. This is because our transportation industry is in a transition process. However, when electric powered automobiles are well accepted and when we create supporting infrastructure for this model, we will move out of the hybrid mode and fully adopt to electric cars. Going back to water-scrum-fall, some are comfortable with waterfall method, and experience some better results using agile practice. Yet they implement portions of each during their process. Most of our top 500 enterprises have used waterfall for years and decades. Yet their experienced leaders observe better results using Agile and Scrum; hence they use a hybrid model to successfully oversee their projects and portfolios.

A myth of agile is that the final result of our project is fuzzy! That is not true. We just manage the process; including customer engagement from the beginning, so that we have more successful projects -a process in which the customer’s expectations are fully integrated into the product. However, agile methodology works where it is proven to work. We still use waterfall with all its maturity in our large and small projects as we have decades of documented processes using waterfall, like most construction projects. On the other hand, an IT infrastructure project like a data center upgrade / consolidation project could have a waterfall planning with scrum method of roll-out – hybrid model!

I would like to open a question to my readers: what about hardware, or a mix of hardware-software projects? Would be better to stick to waterfall, use agile, or come up with some sort of water-scrum-fall?

Disclaimer: This is an extracts from PMI-Silicon Valley Chapter’s group meetings held regularly in Mountain View and Sunnyvale, California. Many thanks to active participants of our meetings:

Carol Blanchar, Soheil Bouzari, Roberto Bruce, Katie Creegan, Karen Ferguson, Ron Green, Michael Jones, Nathan King, Chris Munson, Scott Petersen, Scott Spetter, Brian Wanner, Ray Williams, Terry Archuleta, David Bakhtnia, Sumadhi Lourduswamy, Melissa Pflum, T. Mallie Brathwaite, Paul Diamond, Raj Kamdar, Valentine Miller, J. Lynn Stuart, Kevin Thompson, Anup Deshpande, Wendy Tsoi, Carl Angotti, and Steve Deffley.

2 Comments »

  1. This is a great topic, David. I like to draw a distinction between a hybrid program and a chimera, i.e. process that is a one-off mix of practices extracted from different standard processes.

    Organizations of any size typically have, and need to have, a variety of processes. Some of these may be Agile, but it is not usually the case that all are. When each type of work is managed through a process that works well for it, you have a hybrid program that is well designed.

    One common example of an effective hybrid program is the usef of Scrum to develop software, Kanban to manage IT Operations, and a plan-driven process for IT infrastructure development.

    What I recommend against is pulling pieces from different processes to create a chimera. For example, a process that is nominally Scrum, but which writes requirements as Product Requirements Documents and uses a Gantt chart to measure progress, usually underperforms relative to a genuine Scrum process.

    I recommend identifying the best process for the kind of work an organization or portion thereof does, and developing good interfaces between different processes. In my experience, this approach is more effective than using one process everywhere, or creating chimeras that work well nowhere.

    Comment by Kevin Thompson — November 12, 2013 @ 3:29 pm

  2. Thank you for your comment, Kevin.

    Information you provided clarifies planning (on the choice of a process) to prevent confusion in execution. Appreciate your input.

    Comment by David — November 14, 2013 @ 11:09 am

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