Waterfall to Agile Transition – Drivers

In this article. we look at what drives large, established organization to undertake a waterfall to agile transition. Contrary to many younger companies or even startups, who have worked in a agile fashion from the beginning, and know nothing else, our large, established clients are different. They typically feature:

  • large, complex application landscapes, often tightly coupled.
  • established processes, methods, tools to analyze, design, build, deploy and operate software and features.
  • large to very large business and IT departments with highly specialized people/teams, typically organized by business domain/system/platform/task.

Building a new feature or product thus requires collaboration of many of the specialist resources, both business and IT. Implementation of these products and features has a ripple effect  across the application landscape (e.g. affects the front-end system, customer databases, billing and payment systems, finance/controlling, etc. etc.).

Because of these interdependencies, these organizations typically bundle changes into large releases that are scheduled well in advance, and occur from once to a few times per year.

The downsides are:

  • long-term, detailed planning is required, resulting in high planning efforts.
  • large volume of change introduced with every release (in lean terms: large batch size), requiring massive preparation, coordination, testing and debugging efforts.
  • long time-to-market, because the long-term plan does not invite frequent changes and reprioritization.
  • high implementation efforts (high cost per feature)
  • little incentive for continuous improvement – one can hide a lot of imperfections in the software development lifecycle and the underlying processes and tools if you are on a annual release cycle.
  • does not promote a ‘stop and fix’ culture
  • perpetuates the high degree of specialization in people and teams.

Now with digitalization shaking up every industry, and nimble competitors appearing everywhere, these downsides are no longer sustainable for clients – change is inevitable.

Is agile a solution? We will look at this in our next blog. Stay tuned.


3 Replies to “Waterfall to Agile Transition – Drivers”

  1. Very insightful article. One additional driver could be change in technology itself. Earlier we saw the likes of Cobol being moved out with more intelligent coding platforms. In the same way, we are now seeing “packaged” and “framework” based configurable enterprise solutions replacing custom solutions. The integration of such systems will works best only from framework level to business layer., an ideal case for Agile.

  2. I fully agree Ajay! On another client project, we see a massive system being build up as an ecosystem of micro services build on standard frameworks, quite a bit of custom development and specialized packages.

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