Agile-Waterfall Hybrid Project Management: The Detailed Guide (2023)

Crossing a Gantt Chart With a Kanban Board: Agile-Waterfall Hybrid in Project Management

When you’re mapping out a project, do you ever find yourself getting caught in a web of “shoulds” and “musts”?

“We should let the team work independently, but we must let key stakeholders oversee and gauge progress.”

“We must stay within budget, but we should allow for the flexibility to adjust and tweak the deliverable.”

The waterfall and agile methodologies provide clear, but very different, guidelines for project planning. Waterfall has more of a linear, fixed approach, whereas agile is about working in small batches, reflecting, then pivoting. And dancing in and around these guidelines is a real trick.

Each approach has fierce defenders and critics as well. Take Jay Sutherland, who developed the agile scrum framework: “[Waterfall] is slow, unpredictable, and often never resulted in a product that people wanted or would pay to buy.”

That’s a pretty scary outcome! You certainly don’t want to pull out a gantt chart if this is the result you’re going to get!

But, then, taking a purely agile approach means never having a timeline and budget at the get-go. Is this really possible in every scenario?

Sometimes, when you’re stretched between the “rules” of a project management methodology, and the requirements of the project at hand, the path forward is to silence the critics and, as Frank Sinatra would say, “do it my way.”

How do you determine if your project requires a combination of both agile and waterfall? It has to do with asking the right questions at the beginning.

Definitions of Agile and Waterfall

Software development and project management have many approaches. Perhaps it’s an oversimplification to divide them into the two camps of agile and waterfall. Within agile, for example, you have scrum, kanban, lean, crystal, and extreme programming, each with distinctive practices, ceremonies, and tools.

Nevertheless, waterfall and agile represent two central, and in some respects opposite, approaches, so let’s briefly define each, and look at their pros and cons.

Agile-Waterfall Hybrid Project Management: The Detailed Guide (1)


Waterfall is a big-picture, top down approach to project management. The leader determines the goal, and then working backward, plots all of the steps to achieve it. The budget and timeline are set from the start.

(Video) Project Management: Waterfall, Agile, & Hybrid Approaches

Success is measured by how well the team stays on the pre-set course, and whether or not it fulfills the criteria outlined in the contract.

Waterfall is great in that it provides certainty around the scope, budget and timeline. Oftentimes a client has fixed requirements, and so waterfall assures them of key milestones and a delivery date. It also sets deadlines for a team to work toward.

However, large waterfall projects suffer from a phenomenon you might call over-planning. It’s impossible to predict every step in a monthslong project, and so oftentimes the plan provides an illusion of certainty. After a few months, the team easily gets way behind, and is forced to work long hours to meet deadlines.

Additionally, its fixed, myopic structure often leads to an outcome where a team has worked and worked to create a deliverable that the end user doesn’t even like, or never uses.

Agile-Waterfall Hybrid Project Management: The Detailed Guide (2)


Agile is an iterative approach to project management, where an autonomous and self-motivated team produces work in small batches. After seeking feedback from key stakeholders, it reflects, then creates more work. Success is measured by a team’s ability to maintain a continuous pace of work from one iteration to the next, and by feedback from the client.

Agile’s collaborative approach means all stakeholders communicate with the development team throughout the project; they get to see ongoing progress and aren’t holding their breath up until the end. The deliverable, then, is more likely to suit the client’s needs.

However, since the team reflects and pivots at the end of each sprint, an agile team can only look four to six weeks ahead. It can’t work around a fixed timeline. And an agile project can’t have a budget at the beginning of a project, as the method permits changes to the deliverable, even late in development. Since an agile team works independently, a manager cannot oversee and course correct, either.

As you can see, waterfall plans a project very differently from agile. Each method has distinct benefits and drawbacks.

Agile-Waterfall Hybrid Project Management: The Detailed Guide (3)

6 Questions to Measure a Project’s Agile-Waterfall Meter

It’s really rare that a project would fit perfectly into a pure agile or waterfall approach. Most, rather, fall on a spectrum between the two.

For example, when a project has hard deadlines and a huge initial investment, a lot of planning needs to take place at the beginning. But, if the project entails research and discovery as well, the plan would also require some flexibility.

Determining where your project falls on this spectrum means asking the right questions at the beginning. Here are some to cover.

(Video) When, Why, and How to use the Agile-Waterfall Hybrid Model (BEST MODEL?)

1. How Much Innovation Does the Project Require?

Sometimes, a project has a pretty clear goal with a definite list of requirements. Consider building an airport. Right from the start, it’s easy to delineate everything that needs to be accomplished, from runways, to departure gates, to luggage collection, to waiting and dining areas. Of course there will be some unknowns, possibly related to regulations or weather delays.

But in a scenario like this, where most of the project is known from the start, a waterfall approach to planning makes the most sense.

However, other projects have a big question mark around the final deliverable. Consider a marketing campaign for a new product. Determining the content of the advertising, where it’s broadcasted, and even the audience, requires extensive research into the customer, and their preferred methods of communication. Plus, the deliverable is likely to be adjusted depending on how the market responds to the advertising.

That is to say, you can’t plan for requirements at the beginning if you have no idea what the final product looks like. In these instances, an agile approach, which allows for pivoting and adjusting, works better.

2. How Certain is the Scope?

Some projects have such a clear deliverable that the scope isn’t likely to change much at all. Plus, the final deliverable is fairly stable.

Consider building a dock. From the beginning, it’s fairly easy to determine the size and the exact materials required. Additionally, the dock may well last twenty or thirty years, with minimal repair.

When the scope is clear, and the final deliverable is stable, then a predicative waterfall approach is the way to go.

On the other hand, many projects require constant updates and tweaks, even during the production phase. Something like software needs updates as soon as it’s released, and periodically thereafter.

These projects benefit from an agile approach, which anticipates making changes late in the game, and pivoting if necessary.

Agile-Waterfall Hybrid Project Management: The Detailed Guide (4)

3. What is the Impact of Making Changes?

On some projects, making an adjustment is hugely disruptive and expensive. Consider laying the foundation of a building. Making changes to its size and location after it’s already been laid incurs huge increases to the project’s cost and timeline.

In this instance, you can’t just wing it. It’s crucial to plan everything carefully at the beginning.

With a project for something like a software system or an app, however, it’s relatively simple to adjust buttons and tweak features. This doesn’t add a lot to the project’s scope.

(Video) Implementing Agile-Waterfall Hybrid: Theory and Reality

In these instances, where you’re looking for more flexibility, and changes don’t make a huge impact, then a flexible agile approach wins the day. Over-planning only gets in the way.

4. How Final is the Deliverable?

Sometimes a project’s deliverable is pretty set in stone. To get literal, consider a stone walkway up to a house. It’s not really going anywhere after it’s completed. In this instance, it’s necessary to study the project beforehand, which means taking a structured waterfall approach.

Other times, the deliverable can change rather easily. For example, a marketing campaign can be delivered in piecemeal, and be continually tweaked to reach different audiences. In this instance, an agile approach makes the most sense.

5. Which Method Reduces Risks?

When initial investments into a project are really high, then it’s no time for trial and error. It’s necessary to plan everything out beforehand, and a lot of research needs to happen before the project even begins, in order to reduce the risk of losing the start up costs.

Other times, too much planning actually increases the likelihood of creating a sub-par deliverable. This is actually why Sutherland invented scrum, as alluded to in the introduction. Software development, generally speaking, must be open to constant change and adjustment.

When a fixed plan increases the risk of producing poor quality, then an adaptive approach is best.

6. How is the Project Limited by Safety and Regulation?

Some projects are really encumbered with legal and safety requirements, for example in the areas of banking and credit cards. When this is the case, the project manager would lean toward a structured, waterfall approach, in order to give the project a strong framework.

In sum, various kinds of projects are more suited to either a waterfall or agile approach. Asking the right questions allow you to make this determination, and in turn draft a good development plan.

Most of the time, a project is on a spectrum between the two. You usually won’t have a scenario where something is purely waterfall or agile. This is why a hybrid solution is necessary.

Agile-Waterfall Hybrid Project Management: The Detailed Guide (5)

Models of Agile-Waterfall Hybrid in Project Management

Even after you’ve determined where a project falls on the agile-waterfall spectrum, it’s hard to know practically what the planning should look like. Do you continue with scrum ceremonies, and utilize a gantt chart at the same time?

The solution is really tailored to the individual, but here are two models of what a hybrid approach could look like in an organization.

Fixed Planning With Iterative Development

One hybrid approach that teams find effective is a waterfall approach to large-scale planning, and an iterative approach to shorter incremental development. Let me show you what it means.

(Video) Hybrid Project Management for Agile and Waterfall Initiatives

On the quarterly and yearly calendar, the organization looks at where it wants to be, and plots significant milestones on a gantt chart.

Next, it takes these items from the gantt chart, and puts them into the product backlog, breaking them down into tasks suitable for sprints. Then, it organizes sprints around these tasks, and reflects and pivots, etc.

The quarterly goals may be adjusted based on the increment and feedback developed during the sprint.

Staggered Agile-Waterfall Approach

When an organization is really large, and has many departments and managers, a pure agile approach is totally unrealistic. Take a monthslong project like a website redesign. Just letting the team independently complete the project over several months wouldn’t cut it for many of the managers. They’d want to see a plan and periodic progress.

At the same time, many facets of the project require tons of research. And so the deliverable would change and adjust as the team talks with various departments around the content it wants on the website.

These requirements mean that the approach must stagger between waterfall and agile. The development is iterative for a few stages, working in small batches, seeking feedback, reflecting, and pivoting. Then, it switches to waterfall in order to meet manager requirements.

Well these are just two examples of what an agile-waterfall hybrid can look like. It’s good to experiment with a few mix ups, and to reflect on what works best for you.


Although both agile and waterfall offer their own distinct project management methods, you needn’t be held bound by either of them. It’s possible to balance the two, and finding the right combination depends on your particular situation.

Most projects have a lot of bends and turns, and entail research. And so some flexibility in the planning is necessary. However, any project with huge start up costs, a huge deadline, or a steady scope, benefits from a predictable waterfall planning.

So keep your kanban board and gantt chart handy at all times!

Whether you’re resorting to waterfall or agile, Teamly has tools to help you and your team plan and stay connected throughout. Come visit and sign up today!

(Video) Hybrid Project Management


What is waterfall Agile hybrid methodology? ›

Agile-Waterfall hybrid method

As defined by Erick Bergmann and Andy Hamilton, the Agile-Waterfall hybrid typically allows teams developing software to work within the Agile methodology, while hardware development teams and product managers stick to the Waterfall approach.

What is the difference between waterfall Agile and hybrid? ›

Agile project management strives for adaptability, while Waterfall strives for predictability. A hybrid approach that marries the two can be challenging to implement but beneficial for some projects.

What is Agile and waterfall project management? ›

Agile and waterfall are two distinctive methodologies of processes to complete projects or work items. Agile is an iterative methodology that incorporates a cyclic and collaborative process. Waterfall is a sequential methodology that can also be collaborative, but tasks are generally handled in a more linear process.

What is hybrid project management framework? ›

As Merriam-Webster explains, hybrid means “having or produced by a combination of two or more distinct elements.” So, with hybrid project management, you're essentially taking two (or more) different project management methodologies and combining them to create an entirely new method.

What are the 5 stages of waterfall methodology? ›

Phases of waterfall project management differ from one project to another. But generally, you can group the activities of the waterfall approach into five stages: planning, design, implementation, verification, and maintenance.

What are the 7 phases of waterfall model? ›

The waterfall model is a sequential design process in which progress is seen as flowing steadily downwards (like a waterfall) through the phases of Conception, Initiation, Analysis, Design, Construction, Testing, Production/Implementation, and Maintenance.

What are Agile and hybrid methodologies? ›

Agile is an approach, and software executes that approach through scrum, kanban boards and a lean methodology. Therefore, a hybrid project management software offers multiple project views that give project managers the ability to work with different project management methodologies.

What are the benefits of the hybrid Agile model? ›

It helps to minimize risk and ensures that the system is designed to meet the user needs. From a cost estimate perspective, the typical waterfall project does a better job of being able to estimate what the cost will be as the scope is defined and the schedule is set.

What is the difference between hybrid and Agile? ›

Hybrid working is an extension of agile working. While agile working refers to more dynamic use of the physical office, hybrid working goes beyond that to also incorporate remote working locations, whether that's a home office, co-working space or local cafe.

Which methodology is better Agile or Waterfall? ›

If the project timeline is fixed and can not be moved, Waterfall will offer a more predictable outcome. If you need to get the project delivered in a short amount of time, Agile is the appropriate choice here where action and getting things built is more important than documentation and process.

What's the main benefit of agile project management versus Waterfall? ›

Agile projects are typically cheaper and can be delivered quickly. They offer greater flexibility, but also produce less predictable results due to the uncertainty and unclear nature of many of the project characteristics. Waterfall projects are typically more expensive and take longer to deliver.

Is Scrum Agile or Waterfall? ›

Scrum is a subset of Agile and one of the most popular process frameworks for implementing Agile.

How is hybrid project management implemented? ›

How To Start Managing Hybrid Projects?
  1. Focus On What Issues You Want To Get Resolved. ...
  2. Make Sure Your Team Is On Board With The Changes. ...
  3. Implement Various Hybrid Elements In Your Projects. ...
  4. Make Sure To Get Feedback During The Whole Development Process.

What is Agile project management methodology? ›

What is agile project management? Agile project management is an iterative approach to managing software development projects that focuses on continuous releases and incorporating customer feedback with every iteration.

Can Agile and waterfall work together? ›

The Agile-Waterfall Hybrid is often considered a smart approach for adopting both methodologies without compromising too much, essentially utilizing the best of both worlds.

What are the 6 phases of waterfall? ›

The 6 phases of the waterfall project management methodology
  • Requirements phase. This is the initial planning process in which the team gathers as much information as possible to ensure a successful project. ...
  • System design phase. ...
  • Implementation phase. ...
  • Testing phase. ...
  • Deployment phase. ...
  • Maintenance phase.
5 Oct 2021

What are the first 3 phases of waterfall model? ›

In Royce's original waterfall model, the following phases are followed in order: System and software requirements: captured in a product requirements document. Analysis: resulting in models, schema, and business rules. Design: resulting in the software architecture.

What are the phases of Agile? ›

It contains six phases: concept, inception, iteration, release, maintenance, and retirement. The Agile life cycle will vary slightly depending on the project management methodology chosen by a team. For example, Scrum teams work in short time periods known as sprints, which are similar to iterations.

What is a real life example of a waterfall model? ›

Now that you've grasped the several sectors in which the waterfall model used to be and is still deployed, here is a real-life example of the waterfall model at work. Here, the waterfall model is used to manufacture a tractor, with each of its phases outlining the work that needs to be done.

What is life cycle in waterfall? ›

Waterfall Lifecycle Process

One of the earliest formal software engineering lifecycle processes; an ordered linear sequence of lifecycle activities, each of which flowed into the next like a set of cascading tiers of a waterfall.

What are main objectives of waterfall model? ›

The primary goal of the waterfall method is to gather and make clear all the requirements upfront, to prevent the development from going 'downhill' without the possibility of making changes.

What are the 5 phases of agile project management? ›

There are five different phases of Agile Project Management framework that occurs within a project development.
  • Envision Phase: The envision phase is the initial phase of project management within an APM framework. ...
  • Speculate Phase: ...
  • Explore Phase: ...
  • Adapt Phase: ...
  • Close Phase:
6 days ago

What are the 4 principles of Agile? ›

The four core values of Agile software development as stated by the Agile Manifesto are:
  • individuals and interactions over processes and tools;
  • working software over comprehensive documentation;
  • customer collaboration over contract negotiation; and.
  • responding to change over following a plan.

What are 3 advantages to Agile methods? ›

Agile produces important metrics like lead time, cycle time, and throughput that helps measure the team's performance, identify bottlenecks and make data-driven decisions to correct them. The Agile framework is a powerful tool that helps managers, team members, and clients.

Why hybrid model is important? ›

With fewer employees in the office, companies will need less physical space. Thus, the hybrid model reduces the cost of both real estate and office supplies. It also saves money for employees by cutting down on commuting costs.

What are the strengths of the hybrid model? ›

A hybrid model can offer flexibility and empower employees to work to their strengths, which in turn boosts productivity. By encouraging a culture that views remote work as a positive alternative to completing deep-focus tasks in the office, teams can find a good balance of creativity and collaboration.

What are the 4 main categories of hybrid system? ›

Understanding Hybrid Vehicles: The 4 Main Types
  • Mild Hybrids. One of the newest innovations in hybrid technology is that of a “mild” hybrid system. ...
  • Full Hybrids. ...
  • Plug-In Hybrids. ...
  • Electric Vehicles with Range Extender Hybrids.

What are the three types of hybrids? ›

There are three main types of hybrid vehicle; full hybrids, mild hybrids and plug-in hybrids. A full hybrid (FHEV) can run on just the combustion engine (i.e. diesel/petrol), the electric engine (i.e. power from batteries), or a combination. The Toyota Prius is the most commonly known example of this.

Why Agile is faster than waterfall? ›

Agile sees the customer as part of the implementation team and includes them at each part of the process. In contrast, Waterfall tends to spend a lot of time with the customer at the start, trying to document all the perceived requirements. But once this has happened, the implementation team usually take over.

What is the biggest difference between Agile and waterfall? ›

The main difference is that Waterfall is a linear system of working that requires the team to complete each project phase before moving on to the next one while Agile encourages the team to work simultaneously on different phases of the project.

Does Google use Agile or waterfall? ›

Google adopted a combination of Agile Scrum and Waterfall methodologies, because it let them use procedures they were comfortable with, and switch between methods based on the needs of each project.

Why do Waterfall projects fail? ›

Waterfall uses the theory that what you want at the beginning is what you get at the end so there is little, if any room, for significant changes in direction. Being an inflexible model which does not provide for feedback, it is difficult to highlight new requirements and thus change course.

What is the biggest similarity between Agile and Waterfall? ›

Similarities Between Agile and Waterfall

They perform the same activities, which include collecting requirements, designing, developing, testing, and deploying. The foundation of a project involves planning, bringing the project to life, and monitoring the project's progress in the two methodologies.

What is the success rate of Agile vs Waterfall? ›

Agile projects are 2X more likely to succeed and less than half as likely to fail than Waterfall.

Is Jira Agile or Waterfall? ›

Jira is officially an agile project management system. Even when Atlassian states Jira does 'mixed' PM, they still mean Scrumban or Kanplan. Meanwhile, various non-software industries increasingly rely on Jira and these organizations tend to practice both waterfall and agile methodologies.

Is a Gantt chart Agile or Waterfall? ›

Gantt charts come from the Waterfall project management, where a plan tracks means goals, not end goals. Agile focuses on end goals.

Is kanban Agile or Waterfall? ›

Kanban is a popular Agile software development methodology. Initially it was a method of manufacturing aimed at delivering the largest amounts of production within the shortest amounts of time. Kanban originated in 1940s in Japan. Later the methodology was applied to software development.

What are hybrid techniques? ›

Hybrid techniques are a combination of 2 or more analytical techniques that help detect and quantify components in a mixture.

What is Hybrid decision model? ›

With the analysis of the decision making methods, we are able to build a hybrid decision making system, which is a composition and cooperation of different methods and uses the optimal methods for specific contexts.

Why many organizations practice a hybrid of Agile and waterfall methodologies? ›

Agile shortens the delivery time, and makes it easy to gather feedback in the early stages to better suit customer requirements. The main reasons for using the Agile-Waterfall Hybrid model are: Shortens design, analysis and planning, but lets you define project frames including budget and time of delivery.

What are the 3 principles of Agile? ›

The 3 principles behind agile tools - Transparency, Iteration, Empowerment.

What is Agile Waterfall hybrid? ›

Agile-Waterfall hybrid method

As defined by Erick Bergmann and Andy Hamilton, the Agile-Waterfall hybrid typically allows teams developing software to work within the Agile methodology, while hardware development teams and product managers stick to the Waterfall approach.

What is the difference between Waterfall Agile and hybrid? ›

Agile project management strives for adaptability, while Waterfall strives for predictability. A hybrid approach that marries the two can be challenging to implement but beneficial for some projects.

Is Agile Waterfall in sprints? ›

Agile teams often fall into the trap of turning their Scrum sprint into a mini-waterfall. In other words, they take on work and save testing until the end of a Sprint, which tends to create more carryover than truly done work.

What does Waterfall mean in Agile? ›

Agile and Waterfall are two popular methods for organizing projects. Waterfall is a more traditional approach to project management, involving a linear flow. Agile, on the other hand, embraces an iterative process. Waterfall is best for projects with concrete timelines and well-defined deliverables.

What is difference between Waterfall vs Agile vs scrum? ›

Waterfall works best for projects completed in a linear fashion and does not allow going back to a prior phase. Agile focuses on adaptive, simultaneous workflows. Agile methods break projects into smaller, iterative periods.

Can you mix Agile and Waterfall? ›

Agile and Waterfall are the right options for the right work. Mixing the two in the same organization should benefit each group and the business as a whole. Connecting the two methodologies must give Agile and Waterfall the same weight; and implemented correctly, using both will increase visibility and productivity.

Is Jira Waterfall or Agile? ›

Jira is officially an agile project management system. Even when Atlassian states Jira does 'mixed' PM, they still mean Scrumban or Kanplan. Meanwhile, various non-software industries increasingly rely on Jira and these organizations tend to practice both waterfall and agile methodologies.

Is Kanban Agile or Waterfall? ›

Kanban is a popular Agile software development methodology. Initially it was a method of manufacturing aimed at delivering the largest amounts of production within the shortest amounts of time. Kanban originated in 1940s in Japan. Later the methodology was applied to software development.


1. 200 AGILE PMP Questions and Answers - the BEST Preparation for the Exam!
(David McLachlan)
2. 7 Important Project Management Methodologies You Need To MASTER
3. What is Waterfall Project Management?
(Online PM Courses - Mike Clayton)
4. Agile vs. Waterfall Methodology Explained | PM Tips for Non-PMs
5. The Fundamentals of Waterfall Project Management | Advisicon
6. Documentation for Waterfall and Agile | Agile Waterfall Hybrid | In-Demand Business Analyst
(Business Analyst & Scrum Master In-Demand)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rueben Jacobs

Last Updated: 01/20/2023

Views: 5428

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (57 voted)

Reviews: 88% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rueben Jacobs

Birthday: 1999-03-14

Address: 951 Caterina Walk, Schambergerside, CA 67667-0896

Phone: +6881806848632

Job: Internal Education Planner

Hobby: Candle making, Cabaret, Poi, Gambling, Rock climbing, Wood carving, Computer programming

Introduction: My name is Rueben Jacobs, I am a cooperative, beautiful, kind, comfortable, glamorous, open, magnificent person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.