Agile project management is an iterative method of developing and delivering software or its features. The main focus of this methodology is to put emphasis on the changing requirements while being very adaptive to them, and taking into consideration customer feedback and market trends throughout the whole development process.
It differs from other project management approaches in many aspects. In this article, we’ll discuss the main differences between Agile and traditional, so-called Waterfall methodologies, and explain why this adaptive perspective is better suited for SaaS companies. We’ll also see what Scrum and Kanban are, and talk about the main differences between them.
Agile vs. Waterfall Project Management
The Agile method of developing software or new features is very flexible and focuses on collaboration. The main idea is that the work is broken down into small, manageable tasks within a cycle called sprints.
The traditional, Waterfall method is different in that it is a more linear and rigid approach, and requirements and targets are collected at the beginning of the development. The different phases of the process are separated more, and defined by rules.
Why is Agile Better Than Waterfall?
As we have mentioned before, Agile is more flexible, and less rigid in determining the different roles and phases of the project. However, there are many more benefits of this approach when compared to the traditional one. An article by Float explains the differences between the methodologies:
- In Waterfall, the planning is linear and is always at the start of the process. In Agile, planning is more continuous, which makes it easier to adjust any time there’s a need for that.
- Waterfall doesn’t really allow any changes in the scope after the time-consuming planning stage, whereas Agile welcomes requirement changes as it’s easier for the development team to adjust anything during the working process.
- There are rigid, pre-determined timelines in Waterfall, mostly for the long term, and it is completely linear and dependent on the previous phases. There are much shorter periods in Agile, allowing the team to deliver value more rapidly.
- From this comes the next point, that Waterfall projects take longer, while Agile projects tend to be completed in a shorter period.
- As for the roles, Waterfall assigns specific roles to specific team members, allowing no space for flexibility on this, while Agile is more about the collaboration between team members and working together as a whole.
- From the perspective of testing, the Agile approach encourages continuous testing throughout the whole development process, while in Waterfall, the testing phase is only typically at the end of the project.
- Waterfall requires more in-depth and larger documentation, while Agile doesn’t require as much in this area.
- Agile has a more informal approach to communication, which is more continuous between the team and the stakeholders, and Waterfall has more formal communication means with detailed reports and plans.
In my conversation with Alan Broner, Project Manager at CommPeak, he said, “The Agile approach takes more in count the customer feedback and implements new features based also (not only) on those feedbacks. Its continuous process of improvement that makes more sense than a top-down decision process”.
All in all, we can say that Agile is more flexible, delivers features faster, and is less formal and rigid than traditional Waterfall project management.
Scrum vs. Kanban
Now, let’s talk about some methodologies within Agile, namely the two most popular ones: Scrum and Kanban. An article by Businessmap outlines the similarities between Scrum and Kanban, mentioning that both methods use visualizations and boards to track and monitor processes, and both encourage external feedback, collaboration, and open work transparency.
However, the two methods differ in many ways. Let’s break these differences down:
Scrum relies on 3 primary principles:
- Adaptation: welcoming changes and accommodation.
- Transparency: everyone on the team knows what is being done on the project.
- Inspection: there is a continuous examination of the workflow and the small parts of the project.
There are 3 defined roles in Scrum: the Scrum master, the product owner, and the developer team. They work together in short periods, called sprint cycles that typically 1 to 4 weeks. They use product backlog, sprint backlog, and product increments to track their progress.
Compared to Kanban, Scrum is more prescriptive, with more detailed and confining planning.
Kanban is a methodology that emphasizes visualization and continuous workflow. The practices of Kanban include visualizing the workflow, limiting the working progress, managing the flow, making the progress policies explicit, and improving collaboratively.
There is a continuous delivery cycle, and there are no defined roles within the team. They use a Kanban board for monitoring the progress, and change policy can be implemented at any time in the workflow.
Some SaaS companies decide to blend the two methodologies together to create a hybrid approach, called Scrumban. The structure of the workflow is Scrum with much flexibility but with the visualization of Kanban for a versatile project management approach.
In summary, Agile project management, with methods like Scrum and Kanban, is ideal for SaaS development due to its flexibility and focus on quick, iterative progress. It outperforms the rigid Waterfall method by adapting easily to changes and emphasizing continuous improvement. Obviously, you have to consider everything in your project and decide which method is the best one for you.
Farhin Imtiyaz, Senior Product Manager at i95Dev, put it very succinctly, “I would say it totally depends on the nature of the project we execute. Not every project falls under Agile. For some projects, you will have to go with Waterfall and for some, you will even have to go with a Hybrid approach. If a project is huge, I personally would go for a Hybrid model where we divide the project into various milestones followed by sprint deliveries.”