With Agile gaining bigger and bigger traction each day, there is no wonder why many companies are starting to adopt it and claim to be Agile. The change, however, is not overnight – it takes time and effort to implement. Due to this, many corporations choose to adopt Agile incrementally with a method that is now being called Water-scrum-fall. However, can it actually be better to use the transition method?
To answer this question, let us first explore what hides behind the term Water-scrum-fall. This definition appeared in Agile circles not too long ago striving to describe a process in which large companies choose to practice both Waterfall and Scrum methodologies at the same time. This is usually done to introduce a more efficient Agile process into some phases of the project, while leaving other phases untouched and managed in the traditional way.
Such a solution has become a great option for large companies in which some teams are pushing for change and a more flexible way to complete projects, while others are holding on to the established processes and refuse the necessity of change altogether. With Water-scrum-fall, the teams get to decide which of the two management methods is the most suitable for each situation and use it to gain the best results.
What we call Agile
After some time of such project management the mindset of the organizations usually changes. They get used to the idea of Agile, see the value of the process and Agile project management is chosen to govern more and more project phases. At this point, most of the teams start identifying themselves as Agile and slowly, but surely, the whole company is as well. However, the question of full Agile adoption still remains – how many teams have to be practicing the method, for the company to claim it’s Agile? Is it enough to implement the new method in the production phase or does it have to reach the whole company?
To put it simply, for a company to be fully Agile, all of the processes have to be. In other words, all of the phases of the traditional project management have to be done with the new method and all of the teams and management have to be practicing Agile to perform their tasks. There is really no black and white here and if the higher management is still using Waterfall methods to plan the overall vision for the company, then this company is not yet fully Agile.
In order to make the full transition from Waterfall, the company needs to gradually choose Agile for more and more parts of their project, until finally all of the steps are overturned. It is worth to mention, that making an Agile transition this way is a lot smoother and easier than trying to transition the whole process at once. In fact, if your end goal is a fully Agile process, but you have difficult processes in place, this is an option to consider. On the other hand, the full Agile transition is not what all companies are or should be seeking for and it is actually a lot more beneficial in some cases to stay within this mixed approach.
Staying within the transition
Let us imagine a traditional case of a company that has slowly come from the Waterfall management approach and has now been using Water-scrum-fall approach for some time. They have started adopting Agile methods in the project phases where it was the most needed. After the first few projects, they have witnessed positive changes and since have expanded Agile into other phases of the project, where they thought it was suitable. At the same time, they have kept the more traditional phases within Waterfall and achieved a good working model for themselves.
At this point, the company faces two options – moving forward with Agile transition or staying within this working model. For most of the Agile fans, the choice might seem clear, but in fact there are some things to consider before moving forward with the full transition:
- It will be harder
At this point, it might seem like you have a hang of the method and some experience under your belt. The fact, however, is that the parts of your process that have been the most similar to Agile have been already transformed. Now you are left with the parts that are deeply traditional snf changing them will be much harder to achieve successfully.
- It may not fit
Agile was built for execution – to optimize the production or development processes and to bring the best results forth. Since then, it has come a long way and has been successfully adopted in many fields, however it is still fundamentally different in some cases. When trying to transform your organization, you very well may find that some processes are just not compatible with what the method preaches.
- It is not worth the effort
Based on the first two point, many companies soon find out that transitioning the rest of the organization into Agile may just actually cost you a lot more compared to the benefits it is going to bring. So before you make this leap forward, think whether the improved process will bring just as much as the efforts to change it will cost.
It turns out, that in some cases becoming fully Agile is not the best end goal and instead staying with this seemingly transitional model is a lot better choice. With Water-scrum-fall the organization gets a healthy boost of productivity from Agile without the added stress of having to implement the new method in all parts of the company. The slow process adoption, lets them to reap the most benefits and identify the project phases that are best kept in the traditional Waterfall approach. While this may not be what making an Agile transition ideally looks like, for some it is actually a lot smarter and a more calculated way to move forward with change.