In today’s Project Management Office (PMO), the line between Waterfall and Agile projects is not always clear. Different projects require different approaches – regardless of what Project Managers (PMs) think or prefer. Having a hybrid, or WAgile, environment may actually benefit your Project Portfolio Management (PPM) organization as a whole. Blending the two methodologies can give a project the best of both worlds.
What Is WAgile?
The traditional approach to project management is called Waterfall. Waterfall projects logically flow from one distinct stage to another, from conception to deployment. No one moves to the next phase of the project until the previous one is complete, and no stage is ever revisited within the process.
Agile project management, on the other hand, employs shorter, more intense development cycles known as sprints. These sprints rely heavily on inter-team collaboration and customer involvement. Instead of moving from one unique phase to another, Agile projects deliver the final product in stages; team members make constant adjustments throughout the process.
WAgile is a hybrid of both methodologies. It typically occurs when an Agile project turns into a string of short Waterfalls. While many PMs view this approach as an inefficient mistake, a strong case can be made for the contrary. WAgile is simply a response to today’s development demands. It offers PMOs ultimate flexibility to meet the needs of both customers and resources.
When Do WAgile Projects Work?
The WAgile approach works when you have a project that doesn’t quite meet Agile or Waterfall characteristics. For example, it is often difficult to meet the resource requirements of a truly Agile approach; getting every team member you may need at the same time can interrupt the progress of other projects. Yet, Waterfall’s precise planning can be inefficient when it comes to resource utilization as well; personnel may sit idle as they wait for their phase to begin.
A WAgile project typically contains:
- Timeline uncertainty. There may be a project plan, but it is more short-term than long-term – and it probably includes more than one finished deliverable.
- Cross-functional overlap. While every team member has a unique skill set, each person can wear a different hat if needed to keep the project on track.
- Customer input. Increased demands equal increased client involvement. While changes can be costly, they are expected.
Using WAgile to Address PMO Challenges
No project is perfect. Agile projects don’t own collaboration – and Waterfall projects aren’t the only way to provide structure. A WAgile approach may not be preferred, but it can still allow you to keep projects aligned with business goals while utilizing best practices.
By combining both methodologies, you can address PMO:
- Balance – In order to have synergy between your projects, you need to strike a balance within your portfolio. This means that you have to be flexible to support your organizational goals. For example, if one PM prefers Agile projects, but you have a customer who wants little to no interaction, a WAgile solution can keep both sides happy.
- Optimization – PMOs often serve as a resource pool for the entire organization; top talent is always getting poached by other departments. To stay productive with a constantly-revolving workforce, you must be able to expertly optimize every resource – including equipment, funding, and time. WAgile projects can be both systematic and nimble, giving you the opportunity to optimize resources daily without sacrificing timeliness or quality.
- Visibility – Many PMOs struggle with justifying their existence. Instead of being seen as facilitators, they are seen as strict, unyielding inhibitors. WAgile projects can help soften the PMO’s image – making it seem adaptable to individual needs and situations. A PMO that is adaptable and welcomes and accepts challenges is a PMO that endures.
Recognizing the Real World
Instead of resisting a deviation from a preferred approach, it may be time to embrace the hybrid nature of today’s marketplace demands. Clients want deliverables on their own terms, and meeting those terms may require some adjustments that go beyond your standard best practices. WAgile projects can help you work comfortably in that gray area, bringing balance, optimization, and visibility to your PMO.
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