Agile project management has been on the rise as a trend in project management since the early 2000s, and is increasingly popular as an alternative to traditional project management methodologies, especially among software development and IT teams. When you’re trying to decide which project management methodology to use, it’s important to understand some of the key differences between Agile and traditional project management approaches, as each have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Agile vs. Traditional Project Management: Differences
What Is Traditional Project Management?
Traditional project management takes a linear approach, often referred to as a “waterfall approach”, to project management. This means that all the phases of a project are completed in a sequential order, with one phase being totally finished before you can move on to the next.
In the classical project management approach, each project follows the same lifecycle. The phases of a project using this methodology are usually initiation, planning, execution, monitoring, and closure.
Each phase of a project’s cycle in the traditional project management approach typically has a checklist of activities that need to be completed before the project can flow into the next phase, hence the term waterfall approach.
Phases of the Traditional Project Management Approach
What Is Agile Project Management?
Agile project management is a more modern approach to project management and is very popular among software development teams. Unlike traditional project management, Agile follows a non-linear process and focuses more on teamwork, collaboration, and flexibility, as opposed to a strict sequence of activities.
Agile project management takes an iterative approach to project management, in which projects are time-boxed into short sprints. A sprint typically lasts from 2-4 weeks, and at the end of each sprint a working product is released.
In Agile project management, there is less focus on planning beforehand and more emphasis on reviewing the product after each sprint and incorporating things like client feedback in order to continuously evolve and develop the product as new iterations are delivered. Each iteration ends in a release, followed by review and feedback, followed by another iteration, and so on as many times as needed until a project’s close.
Agile vs. Traditional Project Management: Advantages and Disadvantages
The traditional approach to project management has some benefits including defined objectives, highly-controllable and well-defined processes, as well as more accountability and documentation for the project manager.
Some of the disadvantages of a traditional approach are that, due to its more rigid structure, it is less flexible and can run into budget and timeline issues on larger, more complex projects. Since an entire project is planned at the beginning, there is less room for adapting to large changes that happen along the way.
An Agile approach to project management has the advantages of being very flexible and adaptable. In Agile methodologies, delivery of products is predictable (at the end of every sprint), which means that it is less likely to run into issues with budget and scheduling.
Since there is less initial planning and customer feedback plays a large role in Agile, it is much easier to adapt to changes along the way. However, the lack of a rigid structure and emphasis on client feedback can also be disadvantages of Agile project management. For example, if the client is not sure of what they want, a project can easily fall off track and too much lands on the shoulders of individual developers.
How Do You Choose Between Agile vs. Traditional Project Management?
For smaller, less complex projects, traditional project management offers a clear path to successful project completion. On the other hand, for highly-complex projects, Agile offers a more adaptable approach.
If you manage projects with changing priorities and requirements, then an Agile approach might be best for your, whereas if you manage projects with clear requirements and recurring activities, then a traditional approach might be more up your alley.
It’s important to know that there is no right or wrong approach to project management. Ultimately, it is a matter of experimenting and finding what works best for you and your team.