Recently I had a chat with a colleague about his experience working in a large IT transformation program in a major Australian financial institution. His observation was that having spent 12 or more months on the analysis phase of the project, business dissatisfaction reached a point where the project had to be called off without achieving any tangible business benefits.

When I asked why is it that so much time was spent on just one SDLC phase I was told that this was a direct result of the Waterfall SDLC used by the organisation. Accordingly, all analysis had to be complete before design could commence and, subsequently, all design had to finish before the application build could commence, etc.

What transpired next if quite interesting. Due to the apparent inefficiencies ‘built’ into the Waterfall methodology, Agile has become a natural candidate for future large scale transformation work.

The above scenario raises a number of conceptual questions:

  1. Does the Waterfall methodology require ALL areas of analysis to be complete before ANY design work can commence?
  2. Assuming that the analysis work was built into an Integrated Master Schedule, why did it take over 12 months for project stakeholders to realise that things are taking too long? Regardless of whether or not this organisation was using EVM, and assuming they authorised a prolonged analysis phase, why the surprise when things taken so long.

At the end of the day the issue seem to boil down to a simple confusion between a SDLC methodology and a PM methodology. When constructing the WBS for the initiative, the authors of  the WBS have structured their WBS in the following fashion:

With this approach it is clear that the SDLC life-cycle has impacted the ability of the project to deliver value to the business in a timely manner.

In order to expedite the delivery process, while still using Waterfall approach, the WBS should have been structured in the following manner:

So the issue is not whether or not Waterfall is better than Agile, or vice versa. It all boils down to a WBS which reflects the project’s deliverables and NOT the SDLC phases.

Think about it.

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  6. Shim,

    Your PM versus SDLC is right on when it comes to breaking down the actual features needed into deliverable chunks. The challenge with creating such a complex project delivery structure within a large organization is the need for extremely strong project and program management to keep everything moving concurrently and smoothly. The perceived simplicity of the classic waterfall approach does manifest itself in less demands on the PMO. But as you described, the overwhelming amount of time dedicated to the analysis phase doesn’t translate into tangible delivery within stakeholder expectations.

    In my experience, I haven’t work for a large organization that has the PMO expertise to successfully manage such a large and interdependent trans-formative program of significant scale. To the contrary, I have more stories of failure like your colleague shares.


    • Hi John, thanks for your comment.

      You are spot on with your observation that a SDLC, any SDLC needs to be complemented by an adequate project management. Whether or not this is Agile or Waterfall the PM principle are unchanged. This mutes somewhat the argument of Agile vs WF as in both cases a proper PM framework is required to guard against doing it the silly way.

      Cheers, Shim.


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