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The Benefits of Agile vs. Waterfall Development when Outsourcing IT

For decades, the vast majority of both in-house and outsourced development projects were handled in a similar manner with a traditional approach referred to as “Waterfall development.” Familiar in many ways to how project management occurs in spaces outside of IT, the Waterfall approach works from a base of estimated/fixed fees while taking projects through a distinct cycle of unique steps until finally reaching completion. In recent years, however, many development teams have embraced a new approach to managing projects—Agile development.

Agile (which is based upon incremental “sprints” as opposed to clearly defined stages) and Waterfall development methodologies differ in many ways, and each comes along with its own set of pros and cons. When approached correctly, however, Agile can come along with several benefits. This is especially true when it comes to outsourcing, as contrary to what many people believe, outsourced IT and Agile can pair together quite nicely with the right framework.

Here are just a few reasons why Agile methodology (if implemented correctly) is superior to Waterfall, no matter how large or small in scope a project happens to be.

1. Quick and Easy Changes

One of the cornerstones of Agile as an approach to development is the fact that projects are sprint-based as opposed to stage-based. Zooming in, this factor is highly beneficial when it comes to any needs for changes and re-writes. Once a stage is passed in Waterfall development (ie: design), it’s often difficult to revert course. Agile readily addresses this disadvantage by relying on incremental feedback from one iteration to the next, which means any changes that need to be made can be addressed in the next sprint.

2. Enhanced Client Satisfaction

While there’s no shortage of factors that can play into a dissatisfied client, development that’s moving in the wrong direction—or worse, has already moved in that direction—surely sits at the top of the list. This is a problem that most often exists as a result of taking a Waterfall approach, whereas Agile allows for more regular and consistent input from a client who is attempting to achieve their vision. If something looks or feels “off,” adjusting course to ensure a quality end product that matches up with the expectations held is far easier when working from an Agile framework—something that both clients and development teams tend to learn the hard way with Waterfall.

3. Flexibility in Approach (“Pure” vs. Hybrid)

Anyone concerned over Agile being too starkly different from Waterfall as an approach to managing development projects will be happy to learn that “Pure” Agile is just one way to utilize the methodology. For those who still find a lot to love in the estimate-based path outlined by Waterfall, a hybrid strategy that combines both approaches can be extremely beneficial. With hybrid Agile, scoping and estimating exercises are performed in concurrence with agile practices for a holistic way of addressing projects both large and small. Though sprints can sometimes be lengthier when a hybrid approach is taken, the associated enhanced management of scope makes up for the extra effort.

4. Less Bugs and Missed Deadlines

Missing development deadlines can occur for a number of reasons, with a lack of thorough testing (and subsequent last-minute discovery of bugs) being the most common culprit. Though there’s no surefire way to ensure that missed deadlines won’t occur with any given project, in-depth testing with each sprint when taking an Agile approach is one of the best places to start and can make an enormous difference in the long run. After all, everyone would prefer to catch bugs during the development cycle as opposed to discovering them after implementation—this is exactly what makes Agile such an effective methodology if testing is prioritized throughout the project.

5. Issues Can Be Addressed by Setting the Right “Rules”

Just as with anything else, pitfalls when utilizing Agile in an outsourced IT scenario can certainly materialize. By setting the right “rules” at the beginning of a project, however, many of these hurdles can be overcome before they even materialize. Proper internal leadership for managing issues and ensuring the business is well-represented is crucial, as is ensuring any changes in scope are extremely well thought-out instead of falling into the trap of endless iterations. So long as effective communication and a solid framework are established between an organization and consulting company, the vast majority of these types of headaches can be nipped in the bud.

At Momentum3, we tailor our approach to each client’s goals and needs, avoiding a “one-size-fits-all” mentality and instead highlighting the differentiators that set the companies we work with apart from the competition. Questions? We’re here to help, no matter how large or small of a project you have in mind. Contact us today to learn more and to discuss how Momentum3 can help turn your vision into a tangible reality. 

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