Navigating the intricate web of ICT projects in Australia’s federal government requires a deep understanding of both the Waterfall and Agile methodologies.

To break it down, the Waterfall approach is a linear, sequential process best suited for projects with predictable outcomes and minimal changes. In contrast, Agile is characterised by its flexibility and iterative nature, making it ideal for endeavours where adaptability is paramount, and feedback loops are continuous. So, when presented with the dichotomy of these two methods, how can ICT professionals seamlessly integrate the structured progression of Waterfall with the dynamic adaptability of Agile?

In the public sector, the challenge of blending these methodologies is real. While the systematic progression of Waterfall ensures clear milestones, timelines, and deliverables, Agile’s continuous feedback mechanism allows teams to make rapid adjustments in response to changing requirements and stakeholder feedback. The discussion isn’t about cherry-picking one over the other but rather about creating a synergy that harmonises the strengths of both.

The Waterfall legacy

Despite Waterfall’s methodical approach and its intuitive alignment with the passage of time, a complete reliance on its rigorous upfront planning, particularly in projects fraught with variables and change, can be detrimental. When crafting bespoke ICT solutions, especially those tailored to the unique nuances of Australian legislation, a one-size-fits-all, linear plan will fall short. Expansive projects that start with years of planning and massive resource allocations can be abruptly terminated due to shifting political landscapes or unanticipated changes, leaving behind nothing tangible to show for substantial investments.

The Agile revolution

In contrast, Agile offers adaptability. However, this does not imply that government projects can be pure Agile ventures. The reality of the federal government domain – marked by budgetary restrictions, legislative directives, and a spectrum of stakeholder interests – is best met with a tempered approach. The essence of Agile, which thrives on continuous engagement and stakeholder feedback, may often clash with these fundamental constraints.

Harmonising Waterfall and Agile

In merging these methodologies, the solution emerges. History provides context: the Waterfall-aligned PRINCE methodology evolved to PRINCE2, emphasising the pivotal Project Initiation Document (“PID”). This shift addressed the challenges posed by numerous linear projects executed simultaneously. At the same time, in the Agile world, the shift from SCRUM to the more encompassing scaled agile framework (SAFe) addressed similar complexities on the Agile end.

The strategy for successful ICT delivery in federal sectors lies in selecting the right tools from both Waterfall and Agile toolkits. The journey often begins with a robust Managing Successful Programs (“MSP”) program plan, laying out the project’s blueprint. This foundational Waterfall planning sets the stage, after which individual PIDs for each sub-project come into play. With these foundational stones set, the pivot towards Agile execution becomes the next logical step.

An interesting juncture emerges when we consider PRINCE2’s hierarchical product blueprint and SCRUM’s ordered product backlog. This intersection becomes a catalyst, fostering the smooth integration of both methodologies. After charting the initial course, teams can adopt the SAFe approach, gearing up for iterative planning intervals (PI) sessions.

Technical execution and beyond

On the technical front, an emphasis on cloud-based delivery can be transformative. Beginning with foundational milestones like infrastructure scripts, the journey progresses to a consistent release cycle, starting with a minimum viable product (“MVP”). Engaging senior management throughout, ensuring transparency, and emphasising regular functional software showcases can solidify stakeholder trust and foster collaboration.

The path of combining Waterfall’s predictability with Agile’s adaptability may be riddled with challenges. However, with a strategic blend of both methodologies, federal government projects can navigate these challenges, ensuring alignment with core business objectives and ensuring ICT projects’ success.

If you are poised to harness the best of both Waterfall and Agile in your ICT endeavours, GoSource can help. Agile delivery to public sector requirements is our core business.