Traditional project management followers believe in ‘waterfall’ model stating it is the only solution for medium and large projects. Agile promoters argue that short duration sprints are more useful to prioritize and focus on important activities, accommodate changes and enhance overall development cycle. Everybody is correct in their own perspectives.
Various recent research, practical approaches, experiments has results, which fall somewhere in between the traditional waterfall & agile practice. Combination of both these practices is called ‘hybrid’ project management. Present global scenario states that generally ‘engineering procurement construction, infrastructure development, mechanical engineering, hardware development, larger multiple featured software products, etc.’ kind of projects reaps higher benefits by following hybrid project management.
Let’s get to the basic concept of project management. Every project is ‘unique’ and every project is full of ‘constraints’ like Scope, Schedule, Cost, Quality, Resources etc. In order to get better predictability and consistency about the project deliverables, different processes, methods, tools, techniques are used. Hence it is important to be competent in more than one project management approaches. The more you know, the more prepared you are for managing projects in challenging environments. Projects having better visibility after detailed ‘requirements analysis’ can be managed with traditional waterfall, predictive manner with known constraint of accommodating changes at later stages of the project. Projects with poor visibility, difficult to get the exact, complete requirements even after requirements analysis is performed and/or expected to have volatile requirements, multiple changes are expected during the project life cycle, are suggested to adopt iterative incremental, agile approach. There are situations where projects can be performed with the combo approach of overall project plan and work breakdown is developed using waterfall method and individual product features are detailed out for actual development, test and release using agile approach. In short ‘macro’ management via traditional method and ‘micro’ management through agile approach. Rather than saying hybrid is different methodology, I will suggest it to be a ‘balanced’ approach to get the benefits of both the project management methods.
Approach 1: Plan the complete project for certain high level baselines and tract it to meet the ultimate objective with micro level planning, development, testing using agile practice.
Approach 2: Go with agile approach till uncertainties are high and enhance the efficiency once visibility is better.
Approach 3: Go with traditional waterfall approach in creating all baselines and at certain stage of the project, start releasing the intermediate deliverables step by step to get the advantage of client satisfaction, engagement and financial receipts.
There can be multiple combinations used, as far as it satisfies majority of the stakeholder majority of the times, it is a right method.
I have used hybrid methodology on large and medium projects with encouraging results. These projects supported us to deliver product enhancements on periodical basis while keeping eye on the ultimate objective with higher probability.
Hybrid: It incorporates near term focus on product features and a larger, longer emphasis on the ultimate deliverable. This approach has the advantage of making product delivery faster and also uncovers concerns, issues at early stages of the project and hence the better ultimate results.
Method: Functionality based decomposition of the project following the waterfall approach, creates a detailed map on requirements, specifications, development, testing and release / go live. Whereas each of this component is developed using prioritization method of agile. Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) defines high level work components, packages, their inter dependencies up to the final product delivery. These work components are developed using much faster agile practice. In short it is a combination of pure WBS based approach performed with lean benefits & promptness of agile.
If we retrospect and try to analyze projects performed in last few years, we can see hybrid approach has been practiced by some senior project managers for many years either knowingly or unknowingly with various denominations. Recent past it has been widely accepted and named as “Hybrid Project Management”.
How does it really takes place?
Let’s first understand basic terminologies used in hybrid project management.
Project Team: Project team is made up of committed team members. The important, key members work full time, assigned to the project, and generally resource sharing across multiple projects is not observed here. Day to day development effort and associated activities are monitored and coordinated by scrum master.
Sprint: A pre-defined time box includes development, testing and deployment stages. For multiple tracks requirements, parallel sprints also can be performed. Every sprint has defined backlog and expected output. (Track is pre decided workflow from development to release)
Backlog: Prioritized list of activities for each component. Tasks are derived from sprint backlog and Project manager and scrum master can fine tune, modify the backlog.
Component: Individual module from the complete product requirement. (Ex. Mobile phone: Electronics circuit, Display, Wi-Fi, Software, components)
Project manager owns the entire project and individual scrum masters takes care of individual iteration. This is the very reason reporting is the joint responsibility. Hybrid through agile method includes each iteration needs collaboration between stakeholders from both the sides while testing occurs and fixes made to allow continuous development, improvement. Every iteration focuses on quality improvement in design, analysis and testing. Detection and fixing of bugs happens at each iteration. Retrospect meetings at the end of each sprint provides lessons learned which are used for improving next sprint, it also can identify certain risks which gets resolved at every iteration. Overall validity of the project and its procedures are analyzed, customer feedback is solicited for any tailoring necessary towards next sprint.
Waterfall planning: Scope, Schedule, Cost baselines are created before actual development starts. Agile planning: Sprint based planning of scope, schedule and efforts is performed
Hybrid project management entails entire project plan but sprint specific details are defined at the start of every sprint. Project manager is responsible for complete project plan creation with sprint plan responsibility lies with scrum master.
The Project Manager defines the project objectives for an agreed timeframe. Once the objective is set then there are sub deliverables such as specific product features and the schedule for these features are decided in advance. Next step is, detailing of various tasks required to develop these specific features, functionalities and user-stories. Scrum masters provides the details on how each sprint will be implemented but the Project manager has overall ownership of this phase. Project manager and scrum masters collaborate to decompose the tasks to be performed in each phase and associated efforts in terms of resource and duration. All the scrum masters are required to submit the respective efforts of the tasks from their tracks to the project manager in order to develop the complete project schedule. As the sprint begins, it is scrum master who is responsible for development, test and release work of the sprint and project manager is responsible for reviewing the sprint results.
Let’s understand the coordination work to be performed in hybrid executing environment. Project manager develops work breakdown structure with the help of scrum masters. Tasks are performed by the scrum masters identified for the sprint. Again, backlog is maintained by project manager and scrum masters together. Weekly project meeting may be conducted by project manager but daily standup and status updates is managed by scrum masters. As regards to quality related efforts, daily testing is dedicated to quality resources and developers & regression testing is conducted before every version release.
Tools & Techniques utilized:
Agile: Kanban board displaying each task progress during development cycle
Work breakdown structure, work packages, activity definition, task identification, dependency determination, Gantt chart etc.
What is important in hybrid project management is to get into the mindset of having sprint for short term delivery and organizing for the long-term product success. It is recommended to use in medium and large projects.
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