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Agile Success Rates Versus Waterfall

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Many folks are hesitant to adopt Agile. The old Waterfall (traditional project management) methodology may just feel comfortable to them. The idea of not having all of the documentation that accompanies Waterfall might scare some project managers. Or companies could simply not understand Agile. If you’re in this boat, then maybe some statistics will help you convince you to investigate Agile.

The Standish Group, a project management consulting firm operating since 1985, releases an annual report entitled CHAOS Manifesto. Their 2011 report focused on Agile project success rates versus Waterfall. The overall finding was that Agile projects succeed three times as often as Waterfall projects. They reviewed project data from 2002-2010 to support the findings in the report. The Standish Group report defined success in terms of budget, schedule, and feature delivery. See the following chart from that report for the actual numbers.

Agile Success Rates Versus Waterfall 

To me, the most interesting part of these results is that there was no significant change in the percentage of “challenged” projects. Agile, nor any other methodology, will be a silver bullet cure for all projects to be managed. There will always be the triple constraint of time, budget, and scope which projects can miss. However, the flexible and adaptable features of the Agile methodology allows the team to work with ever-changing requirements.

Using Waterfall, a project team is locked in to these requirements before the first line of code is ever written. While this is desirable in theory, the reality is that requirements change. Customers see a new feature that they want, or business changes and some subset of features is no longer needed. Agile gives the stakeholders and the project team the ability to inspect and adapt both the product and the process along the way. Consistently moving towards the customer’s desired outcome is what gives Agile this advantage in terms of project success rates.

What are your thoughts on these results? Have you implemented Agile and observed similar results? If you’re using Waterfall and are still hesitant, what other objections do you have to Agile? Let Braintrust address those concerns and objections. With our experienced team of Scrum coaches, Braintrust can not only address these concerns but get your team up to speed on Agile methodologies quickly and efficiently. Click on the Contact page to hear from one of our product specialists. Or, head over to the Services tab to find out more about our offerings.