Agile vs. Waterfall Hybrid Methodology



The deadlock between Agile and Waterfall processes has continued in venture administration discourse for many years. Software program growth groups thrive in Agile environments, however an absence of administration help is likely one of the main obstacles to Agile transformation. A venture supervisor working within the software program business for any size of time has in all probability encountered a C-suite that wishes them to “do Waterfall.” However what precisely does that imply in apply?

For years, research have proven a optimistic relationship between the usage of Agile frameworks and venture success, and it might be tempting for a venture supervisor to consider they only must promote their company officers on Agile’s outcomes. Nevertheless it’s equally necessary to know what higher administration likes in regards to the Waterfall methodology. When you perceive the monetary safeguards that Waterfall affords the C-suite, you may craft a hybrid framework that may bridge the hole between Agile practices and enterprise Waterfall as soon as and for all. The start of that understanding lies in Waterfall’s principally untold origin story.

The Murky Origins of Waterfall Methodology

Most individuals in organizational administration affiliate the time period “Waterfall” with the chart under, which comes from “Managing the Improvement of Giant Software program Techniques,” an influential tutorial paper written by Winston W. Royce, PhD, in 1970. Royce’s illustration is broadly credited as the primary expression of Waterfall growth.

The Waterfall model, a series of steps from System Requirements, Software Requirements, Analysis, Program Design, Coding, Testing, to Operations.

The crediting of Waterfall growth to Royce’s analysis is likely one of the unusual ironies of the software program business. In his paper, Royce by no means makes use of the phrase “waterfall” or advocates it as an efficient system; he really presents what would come to be often known as Waterfall as a cautionary story—an instance of a course of that’s “dangerous and invitations failure” as a result of it doesn’t account for the required iteration wanted amongst software program growth levels.

Royce was not alone: 18 years later, Barry W. Boehm, PhD (who would quickly grow to be director of DARPA), used a really comparable illustration, once more for instance of a problematic software program growth life cycle, and proposed iterative growth as a good different. In 1996, virtually all the software program business endorsed an iterative growth cycle referred to as the Rational Unified Course of (RUP), which was itself a synthesis of finest practices universally acknowledged by software program engineers.

This raises a giant query: Why would anybody in administration push again towards the usage of Agile over Waterfall, a framework that since its inception has been seen by business consultants and professionals to be at odds with environment friendly growth practices?

OpEx vs. CapEx: The Monetary Case for Waterfall

The explanation Waterfall stays in favor requires just a little data a couple of enterprise operate that growth groups seldom take into consideration: accounting.

In double-entry accounting, there are two sorts of bills: operational bills and capital bills (additionally generally known as OpEx and CapEx). Any expense lowers the online income of an organization, however an operational expense—similar to lease, payroll, or insurance coverage—lowers it extra. The cash is spent, and is subsequently now not on the books. A capital expense—similar to actual property, manufacturing facility tools, or workplace furnishings—lowers income much less due to an accounting approach referred to as depreciation, which distributes the expense over a number of years. Additionally, as soon as an asset has been bought, it’s thought of a part of the corporate’s web price.

Between 2000 and 2002—even because the Agile Manifesto was being developed—the company world was rocked by a pair of main accounting scandals, beginning with the US vitality firm Enron. Put merely, Enron (with the alleged complicity of accounting agency Arthur Andersen) hid main losses from buyers by deliberately mismanaging operational bills and capital bills. This was half of a bigger scheme to fraudulently inflate its income, and subsequently enhance its inventory market worth, by billions of {dollars}.

Shortly thereafter, a comparable scandal occurred at US telecommunications firm WorldCom. WorldCom additionally hid losses by purposefully miscategorizing operational bills as capital bills, and the 2002 session of Congress reacted by passing the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Included on this invoice’s provisions had been new guidelines that made firm officers, such because the CEO and CFO, personally answerable for shareholder losses that occurred due to an absence of due diligence.

With regards to software program growth, CapEx versus OpEx is an particularly advanced difficulty: CapEx appears good on a stability sheet, permitting firms to report a greater working revenue and borrow bigger quantities.The draw back, nonetheless, is that capitalization standards have advanced and require documentation, critiques, and approvals—all of which may drastically hinder the software program growth course of.

That is the place venture administration performs a central function. Within the wake of this laws, CFOs wanted a security mechanism that they might level to: a administration model that would show that they had met the necessities of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. The Venture Administration Institute had an answer: the phase-gate course of (also called stage-gate). This Waterfall approach makes use of a collection of “gates”—pauses the place government approval could be wanted for growth to advance. By defining a stage that contained solely CapEx-eligible exercise, and isolating it from all different levels, CFOs may show that that they had exercised due diligence when itemizing an expenditure as a capital expense.

The phase-gate process: Establish Scope, Build Business Case, Develop, Test and Validate, and Launch, and five gates. Gate 3 is for capital expenses.

Quick-forward to the current day, and phase-gate administration has been the de facto normal for growth initiatives at public firms for 20 years—Stage-Gate Worldwide estimates that 80% of the Fortune 1000 makes use of some variation of this framework. For an Agile developer or venture supervisor, this may occasionally appear baffling. Doesn’t your CFO know the advantages of Agile? They could or might not, however both manner, crucial factor for a venture supervisor to recollect is: They don’t care.

When the CFO needs you to “do Waterfall,” it’s not based mostly on a perception that Waterfall is the simplest approach to ship software program. It hardly ever issues to them if programmers use RUP, Scrum, XP, Crystal, FDD, DSDM, Kanban boards, or another growth approach or administration framework; what they care about is capitalizing the venture with out violating the phrases of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

The excellent news is that the whole lot it’s essential do to guarantee the CFO that the venture will go an audit takes place outdoors of the particular growth course of. When you can guarantee the C-suite that their wants can be met, they need to be amenable to a hybrid methodology through which monetary considerations are dealt with through Waterfall within the starting stage and growth is finished in an Agile framework:

The first three gates and two phases of the phase-gate process, followed by the logo for Agile development.

If a venture supervisor understands what their CFO needs and might guarantee them of the operational oversight supplied by a phase-gate framework, there’s no purpose to make use of Waterfall over Agile in growth. Simply method the necessities of phase-gate administration with the understanding that its goal is monetary and authorized and doesn’t need to impression your crew’s growth work. Right here’s methods to get began:

Deal with Budgeting as Iterative … Till It Isn’t

Yearly, the company price range allocates a hard and fast quantity to capital expenditures. One small piece of that’s allotted to software program growth initiatives, and enterprise leaders negotiate for the largest slice doable for his or her initiatives. This negotiation course of often goes on for the primary two or three months of the fiscal 12 months.

Negotiation is extraordinarily iterative, so venture budgets fluctuate continuously all through this course of. Empower your enterprise sponsor by offering them with adjustable estimates. The aim right here is to determine a price range envelope, so broad choices for a number of contingencies can be extraordinarily useful. For instance, alongside a baseline estimate, you would possibly present a less expensive possibility that might be possible if cost-saving circumstances are met, like doing information migration through guide entry, or a costlier possibility if additional options are included, like a cellular app. This may assist your enterprise sponsor modify their price range request as treasury committee negotiations get underway.

These estimates should be supplied forward of price range negotiations, as a result of as soon as the treasury committee approves the initiatives for the 12 months, there isn’t any going again. Within the phase-gate system, gate 3 is the place the venture is given treasury approval. Flexibility in budgeting exists, however solely on the entrance finish of the method, earlier than this gate happens.

Perceive Materiality

Your venture management workplace (or, should you don’t have one, your monetary controller) can assist you perceive firm thresholds for materiality—the purpose at which monetary variation is necessary sufficient to be recorded: The acquisition of a field of pens could also be thought of immaterial, however shopping for new computer systems for the crew isn’t. The road the place immaterial turns into materials varies by firm. Understanding your organization’s threshold, and documenting accordingly, will endear you to anybody making accounting selections.

Share your area data together with your counterpart in finance; for instance, understanding the idea of swapping consumer tales and reaching consensus on methods to deal with the apply will keep away from the looks of impropriety. Guarantee them that if any extra expense from a swap threatens to exceed the materiality threshold, you’ll escalate it so it may be correctly documented.

Communicate the Language of Finance

If you’re not already aware of weekly standing stories and danger logs, get acquainted. Learn them. Love them. Fill them out frequently and precisely. Give them to your venture administration workplace and they’re going to love you in flip.

Most significantly, should you present venture price range stories or updates, be certain that your line merchandise titles and descriptions precisely match those you used when the price range was first accredited. If the accredited price range refers to “Epic: Authentication UI,” then that’s what you must put in your report—not “Epic Login Display” or another variation. Ignore this recommendation and you’re assured to create friction and frustration throughout all the monetary arm of the group.

Worth Delivered

When you meet the monetary necessities above, congratulations! You’re fulfilling the C-suite’s must “do Waterfall.” The capital bills are correctly recorded, and no a part of the method has required any change in how code is definitely written or how updates are delivered. Any compromises you’ve needed to make in planning have gained you allies in different departments and the C-suite. The method has additionally given you a greater understanding of how your crew can work with different components of the group, quite than toiling in isolation—or worse, working in opposition to those that are purported to be in your facet.

An Agile purist would possibly contemplate these monetary considerations to be “contract negotiations.” Nonetheless, it’s simply as legitimate to consider your monetary colleagues as inner enterprise clients. Assembly their wants on issues of finance is simply one other type of buyer collaboration. And in Agile, the client’s notion of worth delivered all the time wins.

Additional Studying on the Toptal Initiatives Weblog:

What Is an Agile Coach and How Can You Turn into One?

SAFe Case Research: Transformation Notes From the Subject

Scrum Grasp vs. Agile Coach: Why Profitable Transformations Want Each