Agile vs Waterfall Project Management

"agile vs waterfall" "eating the elephant"

I'm going to step out on the vulnerability limb here a little bit and just say that I don't know a lot about project management theory and methodology. I love what I do, and most of the things I'm good at I've learned by making mistakes.

As I've started to plug into the virtual PM community via Twitter (#webpm #pmot) and other sites I follow, I've learned that there is a HUGE need for digital/web PM collaboration. There are some other #webpm's out there blogging on the very subject, but it seems we haven't yet figured out how to make it all happen. Here's a primary reason I would go wherever, whenever for a #webpm conference.

Agile vs Waterfall Project Management


I've done the research. I've read the manifesto. And, I'm intrigued by the idea. But how do I get started? I've dipped my toe into the water just a little bit on a few projects, but it was mostly in the design phase; trying out a more agile approach to design vs the traditional waterfall method.

If we are going to adopt agile PM, then I would be the one to implement it, but without any resources to really talk to, I'm uncertain of how I would transition the entire PM process to agile!

Here's the little I know:


Agile is a project management style (right?) and SCRUM is an agile methodology. Also, agile principles were developed in response to software development projects, so most of the arguments against waterfall PM, which include developers isolated from customer needs, low project visibility, not meeting timelines and noticing it too late, process taking so long that by the time it's done business objectives have changed), are software development nightmares that have little relevance to the types of digital projects I've worked on.

Why I'm intrigued by the Core Values agile has to offer:

core values of agile development

These sound great. But, what do these actually mean in relation to my actual projects? What kinds of process changes would I have to make and modify? How the heck does client sign off and approvals work in this framework? These are the things I would love to have a candid conversation about with some PM peers.

Also, I have never really experienced most of the disadvantages listed here for waterfall in my projects. What intrigues me about agile PM is the opportunity to have a more flexible and successful project management process for all teams involved, but I'm having a hard time extracting that from what's available to me via Google searches. Plus, all the classes and training I've looked into are time intensive and expensive, and I'm not convinced I want to invest in something I'm only intrigued by at the moment.

comparison of agile vs waterfall


Sprints, Stories, ScrumMasters, Backlogs...right now I'm just trying to learn the new language! I'm very intrigued by what SCRUM has to offer, and this diagram I came across has been the easiest thing for me to digest.

scrum process mechanics

I'm particularly interested in the Sprints concept and breaking the project into smaller "phases" and focusing on those. In some ways, we have a similar process right now. Which brings up some more questions, how do I really know if the process we are using at Venveo is waterfall? Could it be more of a waterfall, agile hybrid? What types of things would define our process as waterfall? These are the things I would like to know before I can say out with waterfall and in with agile. 

So all this to say, I'd love some feedback on this from other PMs in the industry. Please share your successes with agile PM and how you got introduced to it. How do your clients respond to this process? How does your team respond? Let's get the conversation started!

    11 Comments Read below or add one

  • bob Jun 02, at 12:01am

    I was in your situation about 4 years ago at Rackspace here in Blacksburg when I was first asked to implement Scrum in our development organization.  As a Project Manager with little to no experience with agile software development, I put myself through a crash course. 

    The biggest thing I’ve learned over the past several years is that agile is not just a project management style, it requires buy-in across all aspects of your business, and impacts how you do business, engage and deliver products to your customers. 

    I’ve learned a lot about what/what not to do when implementing Scrum and the importance of continual improvement.  If you’d like to discuss further, hit me up!  I’d be glad to share my experience.


    • Crystal Vitelli Jun 04, at 09:20pm

      Hey Bob, Thanks so much for the comment! I would love to chat more! I think the biggest challenge for me right now is to get a firm understanding, and then see how that could apply to things here at Venveo.


    • Tawn Aug 03, at 03:22pm

      Bob,  I am very curious to hear about your experience in more detail.  Would you be available for a chat?


      • bob Aug 05, at 05:48pm

        @Tawn - Sure.  Shoot me contact info via DM on Twitter - @blackowich


  • TSOKOLO Jun 29, at 06:12am

    I have been invited for interview and requested to make presentation on agile and waterfall processes for project execution…please assit with short summary on how the two processes work?


  • Thorsten Aug 27, at 06:31am

    Hey there,

    I just discovered this post by chance and would like to give some hints. Agile is not just the Manifesto, some principles and some values. Agile has not just several frameworks like Scrum, Kanban, XP ... Agile becomes more and more and mindset. Yes, there are the KeyValues. But what is very important in my opinion is, Agile is about human being, trust, creativity, fun at work etc. ...
    Agile itself and maybe the frameworks like Scrum are explained in just some minutes. What makes it hard is to live it.

    Just to give a short food for thought - we love to say ‘stop doing Agile and start being Agile’ - please, think about this, it’s a good starting point to think about the mindset.

    If you want to know more about Agile or want to adopt it to your needs I can recommend to go to Agile conferences and exchange with other Project Managers, Coaches, ScrumMaster, ProductOwner and Entrepreneur’s…
    Most of the Agile Conferences are very cheap as they are organized in a non-profit way - there are also some others which are really expensive like Scrum Gatherings - but perhaps you start looking for an Agile Coach Camp…

    Agile is pragmatic, empirical and it sounds that you’ve already made some Agile experience - learning by doing mistakes. This is a core point in the Agile world. By having fast-feedback-loops, like every second week, you’re able to inspect your mistakes and failures and can adapt. Embrace failure and see them as opportunity to learn - next time you’ll fail better… =:-)

    Good luck with discovering Agile…

    p.s. if you want to see Agile outside SoftwareDevelopment, have a look at - building a 100 mpg with Agile & Lean


    • Crystal Vitelli Aug 27, at 10:54am

      Great insight, and I completely agree. I recently took an agile approach with a recent project and learned a lot, but mainly that I need to focus on a mindset change. Thanks for the comment. I’m looking forward to “thinking” more agile!


    • Abe Sep 13, at 05:44pm

      Thanks for the info. I’m applying for PM jobs in the e-commerce sector and have across this question about agile several times.  Do you know of any website that offers some detailed insight on this approach?


  • Sasha Oct 04, at 02:01pm

    Hi Crystal,

    I recently joined a project focussed community for PMs called Skillsharks and you might want to check it out There.‘s content already there in the form of videos, webinars and the like but you can also post questions. From what I understand the community is backed by a project training company, their instructors and in house experts are really active in the community. I’ve only been a member for a few weeks but it’s proven useful. I just checked and there are quite a few Agile resources already there. I pay $25 a month which is doable for me since I don’t have a large training budget.

    Check it out, maybe you’ll like it and maybe I’ll see you there.


    • Crystal Vitelli Oct 09, at 05:39pm

      @ Sasha thanks for sharing that resource! I’ll be sure to ck it out.


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