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December 30th, 2019

3 Questions to Ask Before Switching from Waterfall to Agile Development

You have to be Agile these days. That’s what all the Agile true believers say.

But those are just words if you’ve used waterfall methodologies for years. Perhaps you’ve suffered through a worst-case waterfall project — wasting millions on software that’s obsolete when it hits the market. You know you need a better way, especially with technologies changing so quickly.

Agile methodologies have proven their superiority to waterfall across a vast range of use cases. But where do you start? All those books, articles, videos, blog posts and conferences devoted to Agile are overwhelming.

Before you charge headlong into the Agile ecosystem, it’ll help to answer three fundamental questions:

  1. Are you ready to prioritize time-to-value?

Everything about Agile boils down to producing value quickly. Agile teams of about 8-12 people build a high-quality minimum viable product (MVP) as quickly as they can — typically in less than a month — and then rely on user feedback to fix bugs and add features in future iterations.

This is a sharp departure from waterfall developments, which prioritize scope, schedule and budget. Waterfall works fine if you anticipate little or no change in a project. But change is inevitable with most technology projects, so you have to be able to adjust on the fly. Where should you adjust first? Agile says, “let’s prioritize the changes that drive the most value.”

  1. How will you address resistance to change?

Agile is a mindset, so you have to change how your people think about getting products to market quickly. That change starts in the C-suite and runs all the way through to your managers and technical teams.

A shift this substantial cannot happen overnight. You need training programs and a game plan to implement your changes. At DMI, we’ve helped dozens of companies make the shift to Agile and scale it over time. We’ve learned that even highly regulated companies like medical device manufacturers can thrive with Agile methodologies. Making your culture more Agile is central to making this happen.

  1. Can you measure Agile performance?

Metrics are the one authentic advantage of waterfall — you always have data on budget, scope and schedule. While these suit the needs of CIOs and their C-suite colleagues, these stats don’t measure the right things in the Agile world.

At DMI, we’ve learned you need to quantify value, quality, progress and productivity — prioritized in that order — to measure Agile success. In fact, we have developed a proprietary formula for Agile metrics that rival the clarity of waterfall data. If you’re interested in Agile metrics, ask us about APIX (Agile Performance IndeX).

Measuring the right things in the right way can make all the difference in Agile development.

— Brian Andrzejewski, vice president, business transformation services

Tags: agile CIO Waterfall

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