Rockall Technologies - Agile versus Waterfall

1 December 2014

There is a trend toward the Agile (Scrum) development methodology which involves delivering product in short manageable “sprints” or iterations. Financial Institutions, traditionally conservative, are also trending towards Agile methodology away from the traditional waterfall methodology. Agile does not mean rushed but can mean faster in the sense that the functionality which is of highest priority should always be delivered first. Agile methodologies are scientific and, if followed through using the now well defined best practice, will result in better and faster implementations, the results of which will be seen much earlier. Progress can be measured earlier in stages. Agile involves discipline, ongoing engagement of all stakeholders and being realistic when it comes to deciding the minimum viable solution for each sprint.

The traditional Waterfall method can lead to assumed need to define every small piece of desired functionality which must be captured during the definition and analysis phase of a project. A study by the Standish Group  has shown that on average, only 36% of the defined functionality using Waterfall is regularly used or seen to deliver value, 19% is rarely used and a staggering 45% is never used or to put it another way 45% is wasted investment. Another study shows that only 14% of Waterfall projects are defined as “Successful” against 42% using the Agile methodology. Following the principle of “we must define everything up front” as required by the Waterfall approach causes analysis phases to be elongated and ironically by the time the phase is complete, some requirements can actually be outdated hence the 45% of wasted functionality! It also leads to over engineering, missed deadlines, frustration, escalating costs etc.

Agile does not mean “build quick” and patch and further patch. It means:

  • ensuring a solid foundation;
  • building upon this foundation in manageable pieces;
  • early evidence of being on the right track;
  • providing the ability to flex to changing requirements;
  • reduced lag time from development to testing;

Agile teams are self-contained meaning the development and testing will all happen in the same sprint, typically between 2-4 weeks in duration; errors are identified early and also can be fixed within the same sprint cycle. In a traditional Waterfall method the elapsed time from development to a bug being identified in the test cycle can be 30 days or longer where as in the sprint methodology it can be as short as 1 day.

Rockall Technologies is already working with some of its clients on an Agile basis. The sense of success is being achieved much earlier than via more traditional methods and the goals of the stakeholders for each sprint are adjusted as the sprints unfold, to result in more realistic and achievable outputs. Rockall is investing, through its R&D division, in the ultimate aim of delivering all its core Product using Agile (Scrum).

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