There is a tug of war between those who truly believe and promote agile project management method and those who swear by traditional project management methods like the waterfall. But there is a better option which is gaining traction called Hybrid project management.
Agile proponents argue that short duration sprints help teams to focus on important tasks and discover problems with design assumptions and development processes much faster.
In addition, Agile can react faster to market changes and help to bring products to the market faster.
The traditional project management proponents argue that large projects especially those which combine multiple disciplines require traditional methods like the waterfall.
The latter group argues large projects need to adhere to processes that guarantee the outcome will match the requirements and specification.
The truth as always is somewhere in the middle. The best method used depends on the size and complexity of the project.
Combining the two project management methods is called Hybrid Project Management.
Hybrid project management is better suited for the majority of projects than agile or waterfall methods.
With the exception of very small projects which for them Agile is sufficient, most other projects should use the Hybrid method.
How Is Hybrid project management organized?
The hybrid approach includes all the principles and elements identified in both agile and traditional methods.
In the hybrid method, the project is broken down into manageable components either by discipline (hardware, software, mechanical, etc) or by functionality.
This work breakdown is accomplished by using a process called Work Breakdown Structure or WBS.
When multiple disciplines are used in a project, one discipline might use agile (software) and waterfall is used by others (hardware, mechanical, manufacturing, etc).
I am a strong believer that disciplines like hardware development, manufacturing, and mechanical development can benefit greatly from the hybrid approach by combing both agile and waterfall from planning to execution.
When a project is broken down in terms of functionality, the waterfall is used to map out the path from requirements and specification to development, testing, and final release to the customer.
Each component is then specified in more details and developed using agile project management method.
To give an example let’s assume we are working on developing the next great electronic gadget.
The components of this gadget include Electronics, software, mechanics, display system and so on.
WBS is used to plan the high-level development road-map for the gadget and what is needed to complete the development from start to finish.
Agile is used to develop, refine and release each component and sub-component defined above by the WBS process.
The beauty of the Hybrid project management approach is that all high-level tasks, their interrelationship (dependencies), and final product delivery are defined by Work Breakdown Structure method.
Agile is used to speed up the development of each component and its sub-component in the plan.
This hybrid approach makes for better quality products with less development time and faster reaction to market changes.
After each component of the project is broken down into tasks which may take anywhere from one month to a few months, the Agile method comes into the play.
These components are broken down further into four to six weeks product releases called sprints. Here all methods used for agile project management method are applied.
The outcome of each sprint is testes and sent either to market (if applicable) or used as the base for the next sprint.
A few years ago I wrote an article called structured Agile in Collaboration Corner blog. In that article, I argued that Agile and traditional methods don’t always fit project requirements.
A new approach which combines agile and waterfall will be a far more effective option for most projects.
In the hindsight, I believe the name Hybrid project management is a much better description of this method than structured agile which I used before.
To learn more about agile project management, read an article I recently wrote about agile called Agile project management – A tutorial.
Check also, the in-depth review of the work breakdown structure and waterfall method to learn more about how WBS works and if it is right for your projects.
If you are in the process of buying project management software read project management software buyer’s guide it is an excellent resource for choosing the right project management software for your needs.
For more information about Hybrid project management, read the hybrid PM manifesto. It includes the details you need for implementing the Hybrid methodology.
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Recently I wrote a Case Study about the use of Hybrid project management. In it, I cover what was learned in a large project done by one of our clients using the Hybrid project management method.