Agile or waterfall - Binary Thinking Hex No. 7

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Why has IT management become so cursed with Binary Thinking?

No. 7: Changes and projects can be delivered in an agile or waterfall way

Binary Thinking: Traditionally people commissioning a change have carefully specified their requirements and then left a project team alone for months, or maybe years, to develop and deliver a capability to fulfil the requirements. This disciplined, structured approach has been largely discredited in the IT domain as the cause of many high-profile project failures. Alternatively changes can be made in an agile way which means delivering basic capabilities in days or weeks and working closely with commissioners to add further capabilities iteratively over time. These days everything should be done using an agile approach.

Portfolio Insight: When undertaking DIY at home is it wise to use the right tools and be skilled in their use. The same thing applies to change and projects in businesses. Agile is not a panacea and if the right conditions are not in place it may not work well. Anyone who has struggled with stakeholders who insist that every last one of their requirements are critical will recognise this. So will anyone who has experienced a major phase of rework half-way through a series of iterations. There are plenty of skilled practitioners who break their waterfall projects into manageable stages and keep buyers and users closely engaged. In many cases experts will mix and match, employing waterfall techniques in some iterations to build a robust platform for later work or using rapid, iterative development to help unblock issues during requirements or design phases.

Special Bi-Modal Hex: At least two high profile analyst firms have proposed bi-modal or two-speed IT. I fear that this removes the “Thinking” from “Binary Thinking” and probably shouldn’t be treated as progress.

Two-Speed IT update: It seems one of the high profile analyst firms has back tracked on their proposal. Let’s hope the other one sees the light soon.

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