Waterfall vs. Agile Methodology Guide
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Chapter
4

Hybrid Project Management: A Blended Approach to Agile and Waterfall Methodologies

Are you a die-hard Waterfall fan who struggles to get your dev team on board with your process? Or maybe your team went all-in on Agile, only to find that deadlines got confused or even missed?

If so, a hybrid approach could be the answer to all your Agile vs. Waterfall process problems.

What is hybrid project management?

Hybrid project management—also known as blended project management—combines different aspects of Waterfall and Agile methodologies to craft a process that truly fits your team and projects. This hybrid approach is popular among project managers who feel limited by a single methodology.

With an Agile-Waterfall hybrid model, you have the flexibility to create your own recipe for success. Choose the best ingredients from the Waterfall and Agile methodologies, and mix things up to suit your team’s particular project tastes.

Since no hard and fast rules apply, you can enjoy the freedom to experiment with your process. If one project leans heavily on software development and another requires no dev at all, that’s okay! Adapt your hybrid approach to each different project, and improve your process as you go.

What are the pros and cons of hybrid project management?

Even a process you design yourself comes with pros and cons. Let’s explore common reasons people use an Agile and Waterfall hybrid for their projects—and some of the pitfalls to consider.

Advantages of hybrid project management

Hybrid project management is all about clearing the roadblocks that keep your projects from crossing the finish line on time and on budget. Here are just a few benefits you’ll see with the hybrid method.

  • Holistic approach: With hybrid models, you’ve got to tailor your process to all of the project details, not just the scope. Taking a well-rounded approach means you’re deeply engaged in the project and truly in command of the details.
  • Focus on improvement: The best way to improve is to make note of issues, discuss them, and commit to getting better. The hybrid approach pretty much forces you to do that.
  • Best of both worlds: Agile isn’t better than the Waterfall methodology, and vice versa. Established methods have go-to practices that just work. With hybrid models, you pick what works best for you. Or you use those great ideas to modify it and create your own. Even better!
  • Ability to adapt: People hate change, but with hybrid project management, you have to be adaptable. It takes practice, but when you commit to it, it makes change easier. And that can impact teams and even individuals in and out of work. 

Hybrid approach pitfalls

No project management method is perfect. Keep these considerations in mind when you take a hybrid approach to your projects. 

  • Practical experience: If you don’t have practical experience with the models you’re combining, it can affect your outcomes. Be sure to study up on principles and practices so you can gain the confidence you need to know you’re doing the right thing.
  • Stakeholder understanding: If you’re going off script and your stakeholder is used to something different, make sure you provide the proper level of education and discussion about your process, their involvement, and any other relevant expectations that need to be put in place.
  • Flexibility required: You’ve got to commit to being flexible—as individuals, as a team, and as partners. If your team and stakeholders aren’t bought into setting a plan with the possibility it might change, you’re not ready to test new ideas.
  • Communications: Establishing new ways of working together as a successful team requires constant, clear communication. You’ll need to develop a good system for expected communications, reporting, and meetings to keep everyone engaged in the details.

How to blend project management methodologies for a hybrid approach

Crafting a hybrid project management process that’s all your own doesn’t have to be complicated. It really boils down to these simple steps.

1. Unpack the project specifics.

You can’t build a well-oiled machine if you don’t understand all the pieces and parts. So start by learning what makes your people and projects and tick.

Here are a few questions to consider as you examine your project from every angle:

  • What’s the scope of your project?
  • Is there a hard deadline?
  • Is the budget fixed or flexible?
  • Do you have a project leader steering the ship?
  • How does software development fit into the picture?
  • Will your team work on more than one project at once?
  • Does your team have experience with Agile? What about a knack for collaboration and self-organization?
  • Can you count on your stakeholders to engage when needed?
  • How do you maintain an open stream of communication?

Once you’ve gathered your project basics, use this free comparison chart to determine which project management method is right for you.

Comparison chart of Waterfall, Agile, and Hybrid Methodologies

2. Work with your team to come up with a plan.

Once you’ve determined hybrid project management is right for you, it’s time to draft a plan!

Here’s the good news: You don’t have to come up with a new project management process all by yourself. In fact, bringing your team into the conversation is a must if you want your process to truly work for the people involved in your project.

So get the team together to hammer out a plan, then discuss and adjust until everyone’s happy with the outcome and fully bought in.

3. Give your team and stakeholders a process roadmap.

With a solid plan in place, the next step is simple: Confirm the plan with your team and stakeholders. Basically, you need to share all the important details so everyone’s clear how the new hybrid process will work. Sending an email with a link to your TeamGantt project plan is an easy way to do this.

Don’t forget to let folks know the plan is subject to change once it’s put to the test. Setting this expectation on the front end will eliminate surprises and ensure everyone’s prepared to adapt away from Agile and Waterfall processes as needed.

4. Regularly review your project management process.

Customizing a hybrid Agile methodology for your projects is not a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing. It takes some trial-and-error to get all the pieces working together just right.

That’s why it’s important to establish checkpoints for you and your team to assess your new process. Think of it like mini-retrospectives. Talk about what’s going well—and what’s not—so you can iron out the kinks along the way.

5. Make process adjustments as you go.

No hybrid project management process works perfectly right out of the gate. But embracing change and looking for opportunities to continually improve your process will put you on the fast-track to success.

Just be sure to update your plan when you do make adjustments. And—psst!—spread the word by communicating the changes to all your project peeps.

Hybrid project management process examples

Now that we’ve laid out the steps for creating your own hybrid project management process, let’s look at how you might apply a hybrid approach to a project that combines both Waterfall and Agile components.

Hybrid approach example 1

In this hybrid project management example, the Waterfall action happens on the front end of the project. Research lays the groundwork for the project kickoff, and the design phase follows a traditional approach to make room for stakeholder feedback.

Once the major decisions are made, the project transitions to Agile. Development work is done in sprints that ultimately lead up to a launch.

Example of a hybrid project management process

Hybrid approach example 2

Here’s another example of a hybrid approach that starts with Waterfall because doing research in an Agile way is next to impossible—especially when stakeholder and user interviews are involved.

Once the research and kickoff meeting are in the books, it’s all Agile from there. Design and development use an Agile approach with sprints and Scrum ceremonies. There’s also a plan to continue iterating after the project launches.

Example of a hybrid project management approach

How use a hybrid approach to manage a project in TeamGantt

Taking a hybrid approach is easy in TeamGantt because you have multiple options for viewing and managing your project. Here’s a simple process we recommend.

1. Build Waterfall and Agile phases into your project plan.

Every project needs a clear and documented plan that reflects the full scope of work you’ve got to accomplish. 

An Agile gantt chart enables you to combine both Waterfall and Agile phases of your project into one cohesive timeline. That way everyone understands how their work fits into the big picture and you have a single source of truth to guide decisions along the way. 

Let’s say you’re planning a conference event for a client and need to build a website for it. Here’s how that might look. 

Start by using a Waterfall approach to schedule the project definition, research, content, and design phases since these tasks run on deadlines, involve dependencies, and require client review and approval at various milestones.

Gantt chart showing Waterfall phase of a hybrid project plan

Then add sprints into the gantt chart to block in time for development once content and design are complete. Include a task group for backlog items so you can put them on the schedule during sprint planning.

Gantt chart showing Agile phase of a hybrid project plan

In this hybrid project example, we added a quick Waterfall phase at the end of the project to track final review and launch dates. 

Tip: Use the View Availability tab at the bottom of your gantt chart to keep workloads balanced as you schedule out each phase of your hybrid project plan.

2. Use the gantt chart to manage Waterfall project phases.

The best way to manage Waterfall tasks in TeamGantt is with your gantt chart. That’s because you can see how progress is tracking against your plan and adjust your schedule to accommodate changes without losing sight of deadlines or dependencies.

Managing the Waterfall phase of a hybrid project plan in a gantt chart

Here are a few easy features you can use to manage tasks and keep work on track in Gantt view:

Sign up for our free classes to learn how to plan and manage your projects quickly and easily in TeamGantt!

3. Use a project board to track task status in any phase. 

Project boards have a 1:1 relationship with your project’s gantt chart. Every task on your gantt chart has a card on your project board (and vice versa), and updates reflect instantly across every project view.

A project board gives everyone on your project team the ability to move cards across different status categories as they make progress on tasks. That way team members who get overwhelmed by gantt charts have a simple way to view and manage tasks in any phase of the project.

Here an example of how you might set up a project board for a hybrid project:

Project board for a hybrid project plan

4. Create a custom board to manage Agile sprints.

If your dev team likes to keep track of all their work in a single board, we recommend creating a custom board in TeamGantt. That way, they can manage cards across multiple projects and align the columns to their own Agile process. 

Just like with project boards, every card in a custom board is tied directly to the project’s gantt chart. Custom boards enable you to filter the inbox so it only pulls in tasks that are assigned to your team. This makes populating your backlog quick and easy.

Custom kanban board in TeamGantt for managing Agile sprints in a hybrid project plan

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When you’re a project manager, every minute counts. Our free project management software enables you to stay focused on the tasks that move the needle—no matter which methodology you use. 

Whip up a project plan in minutes, and watch your team cross the finish line faster. It really is that simple.

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