Project Management: Waterfall or agility?

There are thousands of definitions and most are not applicable to small businesses. The literature on project management assumes that you have staff dedicated exclusively to those projects. But in most small businesses we are CEOs, project managers, secretaries, functional analysts and whatever it takes.

When you cannot separate unique project roles, what does project management mean?

In two words: managing projects is to get results in the current account.

I have worked in many companies where a project was described as “successful “despite not producing real results. For example, completing a software development project that no one will use is considered a well-managed project as long as it finishes on time, within budget, and completes the agreed upon scope. In business like ours this is no good. If you want a new website and get it on time, within budget and with the number of pages you wanted, but does not capture customers, the feeling of failure is greater than success.

When the importance of a project is not the project itself but the end result, apply a project management agile increases the chance of success.

For those who do not know the agile methodologies, there are two general ways of managing projects: Waterfall and Agile (i.e. waterfall and agile).

The difference lies in the time that elapses between realizing that your project is going bad and making the decision to repair it. To see it more clearly, let’s see how each method works using the simile of a river that carries water to the sea:


“With the cascade method you wait until the entire volume of water drops to the next level before opening the damper that allows it to continue descending. So you cannot go on to the next level until all the water has passed through.

“With the agile method you want every drop of water to reach the sea as fast as possible, even if you do not wait for the others. In this way, they open the way and provide you with information on how safe or confusing it is. Once you know the way, the rest of the drops go faster and with fewer problems to the sea.

Let us now give an example to see the difference. Imagine that you need changes so that your products adapt to the new tastes of consumers.


You hire a team of specialists, conduct a market study, send qualitative surveys, etc. Finally you approve a prototype of the final product and you order it to produce in large quantities, based on the market studies and the results of the surveys.

First year result: If you manage to bring the product to market in a year and earn money within those first 12 months, it is that “you have joint”. The normal thing is that you recover the investment over the following years if the product sells well. If it is not sold, you will not recover the project investment. Your great idea turns into losses.


Ask your regular customers about this product what improvements they would apply or if they would buy your new product. You can offer it at different prices to see which price raises the best answer. When you are clear what price they will pay and what product they want, offer it to them. Produce few and let them use it. Ask them to post their answers on social networks and read each answer (especially negative ones). Go back to producing a little more, and listen to opinions again.

First Year Result: You have stopped producing when the product is no longer sold. If by bad luck you did not get good opinions in the first installments, you have saved thousands of euros in production, storage and destruction of stocks. Otherwise, with each game you sell, you recover money, even if you do not earn big margins.

And do not forget that you have made your special customers feel special, that they will now be your best sales ambassadors.

It seems clear that Agile gives faster results at lower cost. So why are projects still being planned with Waterfall?

Because you can start them at any time, you only need resources (mostly economic and human). The Waterfall projects are easy to execute: hire a consultant and you deliver ready to produce.

It is not easy to get involved with an agile project from one day to the next. It requires preparation: you need to have documented and categorized all the purchases of your customers in the last months (or years); It demands that you have segmented and analyzed; Asks you to expose yourself to being criticized and accept those criticisms with joy.

Agile is uncomfortable because it shows the truths very soon and leaves little room for self-deception. It’s great to save yourself great annoyances, but it sets you up against great truths.

The project management Agile requires more than mental organizational changes. It forces you to abandon your ego and listen to your clients without a consultant. With a Waterfall project it is easier to stop listening to the market, create the product of your dreams and then you will go out and sell it. Waterfall allows you to be hiding in your cave without the contact with real clients for longer. Agile forces you to sell from the first day, from the moment of the idea, to validate neither it before investing nor a euro.

And you? What projects do you have on the table? Are you ready to listen to your customers’ opinions about your ideas?

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