April 07, 2017
Help! I have both Waterfall and Agile projects in my program—Part 1
By: Kevin Korterud

As both a project and program manager, I’m always keen to have projects and programs take the right first steps toward success.

In the past, this would involve selecting a unified delivery approach for all the projects on a program. The idea was to impart consistency to the way projects were managed, as well as produce common metrics to quantify progress.

It’s not that easy anymore.

Programs today have projects with Agile, Waterfall, supplier, corporate and sometimes regulatory-mandated delivery approaches.

Additionally, different arrangements made with suppliers (for example, time and materials versus fixed price with deliverables) have dramatically increased the complexity and diversity of delivery approaches within a program.

As a program manager, how do I keep all projects in sync no matter the delivery method?

Both Waterfall & Agile in my program. What’s a project mgr to do?@AccentureTech

As a project manager, how can I execute my project in concert with the overall program to maximize the value that will be delivered, while avoiding schedule and cost overruns resulting from projects not operating in harmony?

There are no single easy answers. But I have some useful tips for getting a program’s projects to operate in a synchronized manner. I’ll share a few of the tips in this post and the rest in my next post.

  1. Remember: There’s no such thing as Agile or Waterfall programs.

    Given the mix of project delivery approaches, the program needs to properly segment work to manage the budget, resources and schedule regardless of the project delivery approach.

    In addition, the schedule alignment points, budget forecast process and deliverable linkages need to be identified between the various projects.

    Typically, I find that while there is effort to plan for these items at the project level, the upfront effort for this harmonization at the program level is underestimated or sometimes left out altogether. Program managers think the project teams will figure this out themselves. This sets the program up for schedule and budget overruns, as well as overall dilution of the program business case.

    Ways for a program manager to harmonize projects on a program include:

    • Determine which Agile sprint cycles will be used for aligning data integration, requirements and deliverables with the other projects.

    • Forecast the number of Agile sprint cycles possible given the program schedule and budget parameters.

    • Use an integrated schedule to constantly generate awareness of relative project progress within a program—no matter the delivery approach.

    • Identify key dependencies between projects in the program; this can include event, deliverable and external dependencies.

    • Use active resource management across all projects on the program.

  2. Make the correct delivery approach choice before a project begins.

    The delivery approach for a project is determined by the type of work being performed and the end consumer of the project’s deliverable.

    For example, a project on a program slated to create a consumer portal would be a desirable candidate for an Agile delivery method. Another project that involves heavy system integration that a consumer never sees would be a candidate for a Waterfall approach. A project to pass data into a government system would likely have its delivery approach set by the governmental body.

    Before a project starts, program and project managers should agree on the optimal delivery approach.

In the second installment of this blog series, I’ll share more tips on synchronizing a program’s projects, regardless of delivery method. Stay tuned!

This blog post was first published in the PMI Voices forum.

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