Project organisation - Agile vs. waterfall method

Project organisation - Agile vs. waterfall method

Due to the constant changes in our working world, project management is forced to constantly optimise its project organisation in order to be able to work more efficiently. More and more companies tend to change from the traditional waterfall to the agile method. But what does the waterfall or agile method mean for your project? And which method is the most efficient to realise your project? This question arises before every project starts, because this is the basis of project organisation. 

In this blog post I will introduce you to the two methods and show you for which projects which method is better suited. 

Waterfall method

The waterfall method is currently the most widely used method of project organisation. It works according to the linear principle. This means that at the beginning of the project, the entire project is planned and then implemented in its entirety, usually in one go. 

This method makes it possible to complete the project in a short time and to a predefined plan. The focus is on high-performance work. 

Another advantage is the high degree of planning reliability. Due to the ordered structure, complex projects can be planned and executed in detail. Furthermore, this method shows the interdependence of the individual project steps, as each step is dependent on the previous one. Thus, there are no overlaps and the project flows linearly from one project phase to the next.

Other advantages of this approach are that a detailed quotation and a foreseeable "project end" / "go-live" already exist at the start of the project.

Of course, the waterfall method also has disadvantages. 
Due to the flexible client participation during the development process, there is a great risk of too little communication and exchange between client and agency.
In addition, during the development process - due to the dependencies of individual process steps - adjustments can only be made with additional effort and schedule delays. Not only one task is postponed, but all subsequent steps are affected by the adjustment. For this reason, it is very important to work out a realistic plan and clear rules at the beginning of the project.

Ablauf von der Wasserfall Methode | © w-vision AG
© w-vision AG

Agile method

In the agile method, work is done step by step. The project is divided into so-called sprints. Sprints refer to incremental sub-steps. They each correspond to a fixed time unit, which is filled with tasks. As soon as a sprint has been completed, the result is discussed by the entire project team (client and recipient). Then the corrections are made and the sprint is rolled out. Depending on the planning, the individual sprints can also overlap.

Through the regular exchange with the client at the so-called fixed events (refinement, planning, review, retro), the entire project team always has an insight into the progress. This specifically prevents misunderstandings and increases the flexibility to make adjustments at short notice.

In addition, a reduced, early GoLive is possible through the building sprints. However, it is important that the sprints are continued at a suitable pace. Because in such a case, the live solution is rarely rudimentarily complete.

Controlling is also very qualitative with this method. Bugs and errors in the live application are greatly reduced through continuous testing and communication.

However, the project can be drawn out due to the many consultations with the client, which means more time and at the same time more costs.

Furthermore, predictability is very low, because agile processes cannot be planned down to the last detail.

In addition, in an agile project, the risk lies in not completing the project on time, as unexpected changes occur frequently.

Ablauf von der agilen Methode | © w-vision AG
© w-vision AG

Conclusion: Agile vs. waterfall

The main difference between the methods lies in their approach to planning, development and roll-out. Agile projects are more adaptable. Whereas waterfall projects are based on structured planning, with project participants focusing on their own personal performance.

Unterschiedlichkeit der agilen und Wasserfall Methode | © w-vision AG
© w-vision AG

My recommendation

Which method you should choose now depends strongly on various factors, such as project size, budget or time management.

Basically, I recommend the waterfall method for smaller projects with clear requirements and goals. Project examples:

  • House conversion
  • Website (relaunch)

For larger projects, where you are more flexible in terms of time and adaptability is desired, I rather recommend the agile approach.

  • Website developments
  • PIM

In my opinion, the agile method is the more interesting one. Especially because the contact to the client is always maintained and he can always communicate possible adjustments during the project. In addition, even before the end of the project (which is not necessarily defined), you always have new features after the respective sprints.

Nevertheless, I don't want to advise against the waterfall method, because this method is the less complicated process and leads faster to the end result, which means less time and therefore less costs. Moreover, the waterfall method makes much more sense for short and firmly planned projects.

Alina Fischer

Mediamatician Trainee

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