Agile or Waterfall?

A co-worker of mine has been reading a SCRUM book and asked my opinion about which project management methodology is better, Agile or Waterfall. First I had to think hard about and really define SCRUM as a process of working rather than a methodology.

But as we were talking I told him that I believe each one (waterfall & agile) is good for different types and expectations of projects. For project sponsors who know mostly what they want, when the want it and how much they are willing to pay for it, clearly Waterfall is the way to go. But if there was an ongoing project where the project sponsor isn’t completely clear and strict in their expectations, then Agile would be the way to go.

Maybe I have not managed very large projects, but from my work experience, mostly what is needed is a list of tasks on a document or spreadsheet with a task owner for each on a space where everyone can access the list. Over time I have tried several different project/task management tools, and, unless everyone has bought into using it, we have always reverted back to the plain old “paper” list, or electronic version of a paper list.

While this conversation was floating around in my head, I ran across an article which explains how many of the ideas of Agile can be incorporated into a Waterfall project. I’m glad the author wrote the article. In my opinion, the ideas showcased are just good practice for any company/project: allow staff who are interested in the project be able to work on it, communicate often with project stakeholders, be open to changing requirements, etc.