There are a number of different project management methodologies around and they all have one thing in common: to help manage a team’s work processes via rules, structure and communication to ultimately reach the completion of a project. However, despite this same goal and their similar sounding jargon, they all have significantly different methods that set them apart. Looking at four of the most successful, what are the differences between Waterfall, Agile, Kanban and Scrum, and which should you choose?
Initially, we should consider the first two, as they are fundamentally different. Waterfall is one of the oldest project management methods around, originating in Construction and Manufacturing where each part of a project is dependent on the previous part being completed. It can only be used in this linear fashion, where a project moves from one phase to the next and you cannot revisit a previous phase. It is a very structured way of completing a project with stages agreed in advance, so if working simultaneously or requiring flexibility is your preferred method, it’s not for you.
Agile is the opposite of Waterfall – allowing flexible, simultaneous workflows – and projects are broken down into smaller subsets. This works best for teams who may adapt their process if the project requirements change, or on projects that need regular revisions or testing, such as software development. Team members can stop and change direction without disrupting the project.
Both Kanban and Scrum are really specific types of Agile methodology, adhering to those flexible principles rather than the rigid Waterfall ones, but each with their own ways of implementing them. Kanban’s primary feature is about improving team processes. It uses a Kanban board to show incremental work in progress through to completion, helping teams visualise bottlenecks or where problems in their process lie. It allows teams to easily adjust and correct their workflow processes to keep projects on track efficiently.
While Kanban is all about the process, Scrum is all about speed. Projects are broken down and planned into short “sprints” – set time periods where certain elements of the project will be completed – by a Scrum Master facilitator. There are daily meetings on progress to ensure that everyone is on the same page and it also has its own visualisation method to show a live status to all team members.
Choosing a methodology depends on how your team works best and the nature of the project. Each has its own restrictions and advantages, depending on whether speed, process or workflow is most important. The crucial thing is selecting a method and sticking to it – they are not interchangeable and in fact using elements of more than one would have the adverse effect and most likely slow a team and its project down.
If you need project management expertise in any of the above methodologies for your team, contact us today.