Waterfall project delivery is legally dead, long live agile

Ok, not strictly true but when the US DoD decides that due to the continued failure of waterfall (read: traditional) project control, all projects must be agile it sends an interesting signal to the outside world. If you believe the proponents of Agile/Scrum, there has been a twenty-fold increase in the demand for Agilists over 2012 and this pace is showing no sign of slowing down. Adding weight to the argument of an agile approach is the success of many new startups who live and breathe the agile approach.

So, with the reported death of Big Design Upfront (BDUF) the question raised is “where does that leave the majority of organisations who are trying to maintain existing waterfall environments and projects” and the answer, in most cases, is keep calm and carry on. Agile is so inherently different to conventional waterfall that the challenges of converting are not as simple as revising the project plan. Agile comes from adopting a product perspective, proper collaboration, usability disciplines, stakeholder involvement and technical debt management – all things typically missing in a BDUF project.

It used to be that the IT department had an iron grip on what was delivered and often no comprehension of what the user base really wants and why. The driver for this change is money; the savings are made in terms of cost  of development, cost to re-work/scrap and lower technical debt investment. It is often said that in time of war the greatest innovation and invention occurs and one could argue the war now is on fat development budgets and organisational waste.

Going forward we’re going to see the growth of emergent design, continuous deployment and a permanent prototype approach to delivering not just software projects as almost everything benefits from the agile. We’ll all have to understand and embrace this new thinking as it will certainly move into the core of general management and business strategy.

Welcome to Agile.