Quality Assurance and Project Management

May 12 2013   5:38PM GMT

Why Waterfall Failed To Manage Projects

Jaideep Khanduja Jaideep Khanduja Profile: Jaideep Khanduja

Everyday a large number of projects are getting ordered signed worldwide leading to its kick off. But a big chunk of this does not get signed off and completed as per the stipulated timelines. The committed deadlines go haywire and lead to customer dissatisfaction in all those cases where a project is not completed in time. The scenario is universal all across the globe and not specific to any particular location. Any delays in project lead to extra amount of money and time. Major factors that lead to project delays are change in requirements, miscommunication, lack of documentation and clarity within the teams, lack of collaboration within teams, sponsors, clients and stakeholders.

Engagement factor going low within the team and among other stakeholders is also one of the major factors that leads to project delays and failures. Traditional project management that is also known as waterfall methodology, having its own legacy way of handling a project with its own set of rules and procedures. It is probably the rigidity factor in this model that does not let it finish successfully in time. Waterfall model, though goes into minutest of the details of project management, lacks in one major aspect and that is lack of flexibility in order to manage unforeseen risks and thereby managing them.

It also does not focus on human factor. Waterfall model does not promote engagement and collaboration among team members thereby results into lack of harmony among various stakeholders of project viz a viz the progress of project.

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  • tusharmiglani
    You have raised and interesting topic and I agree in parts with what you have said. But a couple of reasons which you have stated for project delays:
    a) Proper change management
    b) Lack of collaboration within teams, sponsors, clients and stakeholders

    hold true not only for Waterfall methodology but for Agile as well.
    To give you an example, I have seen a lot of agile teams struggling with questions like:
    a) What to do when a stakeholder wants to push an urgent change in middle of a sprint ? In India, this is a very common issue.
    b) What to do with showstopper defects. Should we fix these in current sprint or put them back in the product backlog to be tackled later ?
    c) What would a QA do with their estimates, if the Devs don't give them  builds on time in the middle of a Sprint ?

    If such questions are not properly tackled, you will get the same kind of delays with Agile as you would expect with Waterfall.

    Other important aspects which you have mentioned :
    a) Lack of documentation
    b) Managing unforeseen risks;
    are more true for Agile than a Waterfall as you can see traditional projects containing hundreds of pages of documentation and a proper risk management plan but is not present in an Agile project.

    I wouldn't call Waterfall method a complete failure because there are a lot of companies which still use it and are doing good and may get offended if I call it a fail :)
    But from my perspective, the biggest factors why a waterfall method does not produce desired results and Agile scores over it are:
    a) Lack of transparency and visibility to the stakeholders :  Requirements change over a period of time. What is needed today may not be needed tomorrow. Stakeholders don't get to see what they want till it gets too late in the cycle.
    b) Bigger feedback loops: Analysis spanning over months, development spanning over months and finally by the time QA gets back to Devs to solve an issue it is almost an year.
    10 pointsBadges:

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