16 March 2011

Comparing agile and traditional project management

If I were writing an academic paper comparing traditional and agile software development/project management methods I would start my literature review with some of these.  Any suggestions for where to extend it?

I'd also need to understand that the waterfall model is not really practiced. It’s just a straw man for an argument.

I'd ask myself,
  • What are the common characteristics of real world ‘traditional project management’?
  • What divergences do we have to the agile manifesto content?
  • How are the ‘agile methods’ different?


  1. Check out Glen Alleman's blog "Herding cats". He has written a lot about it, often with good references.


  2. Anonymous12:56 am

    The idea of comparing Agile methods to the Project Management Discipline is akin to comparing Six Sigma to PM Methods. Both Agile and Six Sigma would apply PM concepts in different ways, but the fundamental skills and concepts of project management apply. I would argue that Agile is more of an organizational discipline than a project management discipline. How many project managers are truly in a position to go into an organization and say "we are going to use Agile" and everyone responds "so be it". I would guess none. However, any PM worth their PMP should be able to go into an organization and help install fundamental concepts of good project communication, risk/issue management, stakeholder management and scope/cost management. These concepts apply no matter what "organizational" approach you use.

  3. If you're looking for a book as a resource, Michele Sliger and Stacia Broderick literally wrote the book: The Software Project Manager's Bridge to Agility.

    When it comes to people to get good data from, I recommend Michele Sliger, Mike Cottmeyer, and Dennis Stevens.

  4. An academic paper? Check out:

    "Using return on investment to compare agile and plan-driven practices in undergraduate group projects," by Rundle and Dewar, published in the proceedings of the 28th international conference on Software engineering

    "Software quality and assurance in waterfall model and XP: a comparative study," Khalaf and al Jedaiah, published in WSEAS Transactions on Computers, December 2008

    "A comparison of software cost, duration, and quality for waterfall vs. iterative and incremental development: A systematic review," Mitchell and Seaman, published in Proceedings of the 2009 3rd International Symposium on Empirical Software Engineering and Measurement.

  5. Also check out Agile Project Management: A Mandate for the 21st Century by Karen R. J. White. You can read my review of it here.

  6. I would seriously consider the thought provoking points around Agile and systems think in Management 3.0 by Jurgen Appelo:


  7. The "waterfall isn't practiced…it's a strawman" comment seems to be all the rage right now. But the reality is there are plenty of organisations that believe that waterfall is the right way to do projects and *do* practice it. Here's just one advert as an example:http://www.theitjobboard.co.uk/IT-Job/Technical-Development-Business-Analyst/8154819/en .

    Regarding agile management, I would take some time to look at what David Anderson has to say: http://agilemanagement.net/

  8. Anonymous6:02 pm

    Craig, you may also want to check my post Agile or Traditional Project Management? http://stanyanakiev.com/2011/04/06/agile-or-traditional-project-management/
    I think it will be useful for you and there are also some references.

  9. @Stuart, I hear you about the straw man. I think there are quite a few line managers who think these models are actually working, but no-one delivering from the trenches does.

    Take a look at these two articles from decades gone by for further discussion;

    A Rational Design Process: How and Why to Fake it by David L. Parnas, and A Rational Design Process – It’s Time to Stop Faking It by Mary Poppendieck.