So, is Agile better than Waterfall?

– in our opinion, yes when it comes to the iterative development of software features and online software, no when it comes to the development of large, complex, multi-element solutions. Do Agile and Scrum give a clear framework for development and continuous improvement – yes, but so do other systems. Do prototyping and a series of short Waterfall-type projects get you many of the benefits of Agile – well quite possibly, yes.

This leads to the reality in most organizations, which is to use whatever approach seems most appropriate for the project in hand – be it Agile, Waterfall or a mixture of the two.

But from a product management perspective, it doesn’t matter!

Whatever development approach you use, early customer feedback from prototyping or an agile iteration helps, but you’ve still got to understand, prioritize, and get the requirements right.

And whatever development approach you use, it still comes down to the quality of the people. Good people will do good work whatever process they’re using.

And after you’ve developed the perfect product, you still have to launch and market it. If no-one knows your product exists or understands what it can do, it isn’t going to be successful.

Don’t get us wrong – we think Agile is a great thing, but it’s not the only thing. Don’t get sucked into the hype, dogma and sometimes even religious-like zealotry … Scrum is not the only true way.

Ian Lunn
Director, Product Focus

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It’s easy to see why methodologies can attain “cargo cult” status in software development, because it is so hard to get it right, the default thing to do might be to copy someone else who you think is doing it right 🙂

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Ian – a really interesting perspective. My dev/test team has employed a variant of Agile/Scrum to good effect on a difficult software development in the past 18 months with – I think – outstanding results. The fast paced approach with insistence on working deliverables has contributed greatly to motivation amongst the team where previously morale (on this long-term project) had become an issue. Notwithstanding a difficult client, the results in quality are positive and the discipline is relatively easy to apply. But I do agree with your other points – fast prototyping is another term that could describe this, as was concurrent engineering from three decades past! Perhaps Agile is really just a modern flavour of something older?

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