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Agile Through the Waterfall

~ By Sonal Shah

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Many organisations have adopted Agile practices into their development methodologies and they have proved to be successful for the organisation as a whole. There also are many organisations that have pockets of people who wish to be Agile, but can't get traction within to make it a widely accepted practice throughout the enterprise.

I recently had an opportunity to participate in an Open Space session where we explored how organisations that are mainly guided by Waterfall methodologies, unwittingly also employed Agile practices.

I observed that most projects that were considered "top priority" projects for an organisation typically had the luxury of being situated into a team room. As much as the team initially resisted this set-up, they quickly found that the ability to collaborate and bounce ideas off of each other was quite beneficial to their success versus being bound to the walls of their cubicles on various areas of the floor. The team was able to brainstorm ideas and quickly rule them in or out by conducting mini-proof of concepts that allowed them to understand the solution in more detail and determine if it was a logical path to follow. I also learned that the communication with neighbouring groups improved; therefore, strengthening their cross-functional relationships.

These teams also had some home grown concept of a daily SCRUM or stand up. Once again, there was initial resistance. But, as the project progressed, these daily "meetings" seemed necessary to set the direction for the day. They also helped bring resolution to issues a lot faster then the traditional methods. In fact, one project manager was told that when she wasn't present to run the standup, the team then found themselves floundering on their targets or goals.

One last observation that I made was that most of the work produced by these teams was immediately being tested by the team itself or by dedicated testers. So, the solution was continuously being improved and proven out.

I realise that the items discussed above don't fully satisfy a complete Agile development shop. However, I believe they all are tenets, or rather the foundation, of an organisation that is willing to be Agile in some shape or form. This is the beginning, of an organisation that is willing to accept change to make the entire organisation successful.

I'm interested in hearing more about your observations, especially from those of you who are currently in organisations that think "Agile is Fragile" and may be challenged with slowly introducing Agile concepts into your resisting organisation. Please post your comments, so we can expand the thinking into a collaborative effort in defining if Agile truly is visible "through the Waterfall."


Sonal Shah is Senior Consultant at Solstice Mobile and offers over 11 years of IT Project Management experience. She has leveraged her knowledge of technical project management and strategic consulting to help enable successful implementations of large scale infrastructure projects at Delta Airlines, United Airlines, and The Northern Trust Company.

Most recently, Sonal worked with an industry changing start-up company, G2 Switchworks, to help them in their mission to transform the way airlines utilise technology to distribute inventory. Sonal is currently managing a security infrastructure upgrade that spans across various technologies.

In addition to project management consulting, Sonal is an active member of the Project Management Institute (PMI) and Delta Sigma Pi, a professional business fraternity. Sonal has a Bachelor of Science from the University of South Carolina, a Masters in Information Technology from American Intercontinental University, and is PMP certified. During her free time Sonal enjoys running and in the last year has travelled to Japan, China and Thailand.


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