Defining Waterfall vs. Agile vs. Hybrid Sprinting Project Management Methodology

September 30, 2022

Defining Waterfall vs. Agile vs. Hybrid Sprinting Project Management Methodology

By Kimber Householder

A project management methodology is a set of guidelines and procedures that will help project managers organize projects for maximum effectiveness. Fundamentally, it's a structure or checklist to follow that aids in effectively managing the project process.

Project management (PM) is crucial for teams and organizations, but for it to be truly effective, it is vital to ensure your team, project, organization, and goal requirements are gathered and properly mapped to the methodology. Over the last few years, organizations are shifting from a traditional waterfall strategy to a more agile approach. However, a large majority employ a hybrid strategy consolidating relevant pieces of each approach. 

We will discuss the key characteristics and variations between these strategies as well as explore the differences between a waterfall, agile, and hybrid project management methodologies.

Waterfall Methodology

Waterfall Methodology is also known as Secure Development Life Cycle (SDLC). SDLC is divided into several phases such as:

  • Requirements
  • Analysis and Design
  • Coding / Development
  • Unit Testing
  • Integration Testing
  • User Acceptance Testing
  • Deployment

According to the waterfall project management methodology, only once the prior phase has been finished, can the subsequent phase begin with a deliverable and/or document needing approval between phases. 

  • Pros
    • The project timeline, scope, and budget is established up front
    • There is a definite start and end to the project as well as the included phases
    • Resources can be planned to roll onto and off the project based on the phase needs
    • There is a clear exit and entrance to each phase with defined documentation
    • Having a fully completed phase allows an understanding for everyone involved of the solution which leads to a simpler method to update the product or process in the future
  • Cons 
    • The more phases that are completed, the more difficult it is to change scope without impacting the timeline and budget
    • There is less flexibility for any ebbs and flows of requirements, priorities, and resources


The Agile Methodology

Growing unhappiness with the traditional linear and rigid traditional project management approach led to the development of the agile project management methodology. The focus started to shift the direction to more frequent project reviews and schedule adjustments. The more iterative models allowed teams to make changes as needed throughout the project. 

  • Pros
    • Requirements and functionality can be added, removed, modified, and improved throughout the project
    • Bugs or process kinks can be identified and fixed earlier in the process
    • Clients can provide feedback at the conclusion of each sprint to adjust priorities, requirements, or design details as needed
  • Cons 
    • There is no defined start and end to the overall project and interim phases making the project feel as if it goes on forever
    • Requires a cross-functional team that is dedicated to working together, as well as a knowledgeable scrum master who can plan and allocate sprints effectively. A project may be doomed if problems arise with either the scrum master’s skillset or within team dynamics.
    • Project scope will vary as it progresses or when quick turnaround is necessary which can lead to less documentation

The Hybrid Methodology

After experimenting with the new agile approaches, PMs realized it was difficult to manage the budget and expectations of stakeholders.  Waterfall was far too structured.  This led to a hybrid approach being defined.  

The hybrid approach combines the best aspects of agile and waterfall methodologies. A hybrid approach aims to allow for both up-front requirement definition planning and budgeting, while allowing for a more agile approach for design, development, and testing.

  • Pro’s
      • This process is more adaptable than strictly waterfall, but provides the overall project definition, scope, and goals that are typically required by stakeholder
      • Provides the ability to ease the cultural transition in organizations that desire to rely more on straight waterfall or agile approaches. 
      • Testers can prepare test scripts from the “requirement” documentation while coding takes place simultaneously
      • Development, testing, and implementation of components can be rolled out separately which provides a phased approach to go-live
      • Design modifications may be able to be introduced earlier in the process without causing catastrophic impacts to timelines
  • Con’s 
    • Compromise is needed which could lead to decision paralysis if not managed
    • Deliverables are sprint based rather than phase based which could make the details more difficult to track
    • Continuous administrative intervention required to resolve team conflicts could result in a waste of time and effort
    • Multiple variations of the hybrid approach exists which can make it difficult to adopt when resources are moved in and out

Which Approach Makes Sense for You?

In deciding which approach to adopt for a project management methodology, the best advice is to take time up front to plan ahead. Decide how you will decide on the method, before deciding on one. 

  • A waterfall approach is probably the best option if the scope, clarity, and impact of stakeholders is the priority. 
  • Agile approach is a better approach when there are concerns around committing to irrevocable activities or decisions
  • The hybrid will allow you to create a project management methodology that fits your unique organizational structure, project needs, and scope requirements.  Perhaps the best of both worlds.

There is no one size fits all solution, particularly when it comes to you and your team’s skill set. Be aware of your possibilities, limitations, and available resources, and plan accordingly.

Talk to Idenhaus today to see how your cybersecurity fits into your project management, and everything else in your organization. Not sure what you need quite yet? Check out our resources like our webinars, case studies, and videos.

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