Tips for Transitioning from Waterfall to Agile

September 25, 2014
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There are many different project management methodologies out there and they all have their pros and cons. I recently started at Acquia as an Engagement Manager and have been making the shift from more Waterfall project management to Agile project management. Here are a few key lessons I’ve learned as I make this transition.

1. Agile Methods:

  • There are many different Agile methods out there. Kanban and Scrum are just two of those methods. Do your research and choose the method of Agile that works best for you based on your team’s needs and type of work.

2. Product Owner:

  • Defining at the outset of a project who your product owner is and the role they need to play will help ensure project success. The product owner is responsible for ensuring priorities, managing risk and owning decision making. Without this role, the scrum master or project manager will have to fill this role which will inevitably lead to a disconnect between the development team and your end customer.
  • The product owner may be similar to your end customer in waterfall, but needs to take a very active role in planning and decision making in order for the project to be a success.

3. Minimal Viable Product:

  • It’s essential that at the start of the project you and the customer are on the same page about what will be delivered and what is needed to reach a minimal viable project. This will greatly help your development team determine where to focus their efforts. Keep in mind that your product owner may not be your end customer, so take care to ensure all needed parties are clear on the MVP.
  • Unlike Waterfall where you have all requirements upfront, requirements may shift in Agile, but there needs to be a clear understanding of how to get to sprint completion and/or a releasable product depending on the methodology you are using.

4. Planning:

  • Do not overlook this crucial phase of Agile. Planning your sprints, grooming the backlog and ensuring proper estimation are key to success. Agile is not meant to be a means for not setting requirements or determining scope.
  • Waterfall is typically more fixed in scope from the outset. Agile allows for greater flexibility as priorities change, but these changes need to be made within the confines of Agile best practices.

5. User Stories:

  • Don’t write your user stories in a silo. Ensure the product owner is helping, if not leading, the development of user stories. The product owner should be heavily involved to ensure all requirements are included and acceptance criteria is outlined.
  • This is similar to determining the requirements at the start of a waterfall project, but should be done on an ongoing basis based on changing requirements. At a minimum these should be analyzed before starting a sprint.

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