Agile and waterfall are two very effective and popular ways of approaching a systems implementation project such as a CRM. How does one compare to the other? In this blog post, we’ll be evaluating the pros and cons of both methodologies to help you choose the right one for your project.
The pros of Agile
The clear benefits though of an Agile approach include…
Users can better understand the solution
As your users get hands-on with the software much earlier, they can get a much deeper understanding of the solution and are more likely to be onboard with the change. This is in contrast to the waterfall approach where users have very little engagement with the software until the System Test stage which is at the very end of the implementation process.
Any potential issues are flagged and fixed before they become a problem
Configurations and Customisation to fill gaps for that solution area are done within the confines of the sprint. So, if the fit isn’t 100% right, this can be recognised much earlier and dealt with much earlier in the project.
No system testing needed which speeds up go-live
There is normally no “system testing” needed by the users at the end as the business gets access to the software all the way through the project. Users will usually have a very good understanding of the solution by the time the final sprint is finished.
The cons of Agile
Agile implementations can also have challenges and it isn’t the right approach for every business. Here are some common drawbacks:
Time-consuming for your team
Agile approach tends to work better when your development team can be totally dedicated to the project. For that reason, it demands a much higher time investment from your team, especially your business leads.
Requires project members who know the business inside and out
The people involved in the project need the power and knowledge to take important functionality and solution-related decisions quickly. So, this type of project relies on your team to understand the business, direction, what’s needed, and be empowered to make the decisions.
Potentially frequent refactoring
The Agile approach’s iterative nature can lead to frequent refactoring if the full scope of your new solution isn’t considered in the initial design and architecture step. Without a refactoring, the overall quality of your new solution can be affected which will be more obvious in larger-scale implementations or if you have many integrations.
The pros of waterfall
A long-established methodology
This method has been around for many years, and the associated documentation that is produced acts as an end-to-end guide for the solution. This documentation always forms part of the milestones for the project, covering systems analysis, design, steering group sign off, system test data and results etc.
Ability to manage large scale complex builds
ERP implementations are often mission-critical and in virtually every case, the systems are replacing existing applications. These projects are often complex in nature and demand an implementation methodology that, as a core part, manages migrations, integrations, and parallel running.
Global businesses always do phased rollouts across multiple countries or businesses and waterfall can manage these complex scenarios.
Most implementation groups have deep knowledge and understanding of waterfall due to its long-established reputation.
In contrast, Agile implementations are less mature so some implementation partners may not be technically knowledgeable enough to support an Agile implementation approach.
The cons of waterfall
New solution is no longer the right fit
There’s sometimes a large time gap between the start of the analysis and the deployment of the solution (sometimes more than 12 months). However, today’s world moves very quickly. So, the business landscape might change and the business finds that the newly deployed solution is no longer the exact fit they need.
This issue is not the fault of the implementor – it’s just that the world or the business may have changed.
Users don’t understand the new solution
The users have very little engagement with or understanding of the new software until the System Test stage. Education and System Testing both take time, and if these users haven’t been involved in the project, acceptance and adoption can be issues.
Then there’s the fact that a large block of system testing time at the end means that the time to deployment is longer.
New solution isn’t the right fit
This is different to our first point; rather than the new solution not being the right fit in some months’ time, this is where the resulting solution isn’t the right fit from the start.
If this happens (it sometimes can), it’s largely because the implementation partner didn’t fully understand your business requirements during the analysis phase, and if the business does not fully review and understand the proposed solution, then the solution provided at the end of the process might not fit the business requirements.
With waterfall, it’s almost impossible for the business to recognise this until very late, and by then, significant implementation costs and time will have been incurred.
Which implementation methodology is better?
It’s difficult to say one approach is better than the other. In truth, both methodologies are well respected and popular.
The biggest question you should ask is: Can your business spare the resources required by an Agile project? Time is a big factor - employees who have the power to make key decisions need to be involved and the members of your development team who you assign to the project need to give it their full attention
However, although Agile tends to be more demanding, there are several key benefits you can’t ignore. For example, your everyday users get the chance to try out and learn your new solution earlier on in the process. With waterfall, they wouldn’t get this chance until the systems testing stage which is near the end of the project.
The earlier your users can get themselves accustomed to new solutions and changes, the easier it will be for you to undergo change management.
Your choice of methodology isn’t the only thing to consider during an implementation…
Agile vs waterfall won’t be the only thing you’re debating. You’ll also need to consider whether you’ll be working with an implementation partner for your CRM project. Implementation projects are complex and time-consuming - can you really spare the resources to handle it in-house?
In our guide to CRM implementation partners, we cover the pros and cons of keeping it in-house and outsourcing, the signs that indicate you should be outsourcing and tips on how to choose the right partner for your business. Click the button below to have a read.