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Mixing and matching Scrum and Waterfall for agile project development

I talked to a few CIOs recently who were using Scrum and Waterfall for agile project development. One was using a combination of the two to develop a portal and services for emergency room physicians.

But if you talk to some agile purists, they balk at the idea of using the two project development approaches together. At their basic premises, agile and Waterfall fight against one another: Waterfall deals with change by resisting it; while agile, and in particular Scrum, embraces change, according to Elena Mitelman, principal of agile consulting firm Smart Edge LLC.

To give a broader scope of Waterfall vs. agile approaches such as Scrum, here’s Mitelman’s take on both:


Used since mid-late 1990s.
Term formally coined in 2001 by Agile Manifesto.
Likens software development to lab research.
Welcomes change.
Still iterative, but iterations are unlike prior models.
Very light on documentation.
Manages risk between and within iterations.
Encourages risk-taking and exploration.
Keeps costs down by implementing only what’s required at this time, keeping things simple.
Chaotic, yet controlled.
Has been proven on many projects.
Not without implementation challenges.


Used since 1970s.
Assumes software development is similar to manufacturing and construction.
Sequentially flows from specifications through maintenance.
Deals with change by resisting it – cost of change goes up as project progresses.
Documentation-heavy process to prevent change.
In a perfect world, a simple and cost-efficient process.
But the world is not perfect…

And in the end, she is obviously a Scrum vs. Waterfall fan. Her reasons for evangelizing Scrum: It doesn’t prescribe to any specific engineering practices; it focuses on interactions between people; unlike Extreme Programming, or XP, it doesn’t require that you follow a number of set practices; and it is not specific to software development.

“[Scrum] can be used for any project, including launching a product, starting a company, etc.,” she said.

I’d like to hear from you if you are mixing and matching approaches, and how it’s working out for you, or if you think a Scrum and Waterfall combo leads to project failure. Email me at

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I mix agile and waterfall for the past 5 years. I use what I call, "The Envelope Method". I am a project manager work with my lead developers to define a dance that we do. Typically the lead developer manages the items inside the development team. Roadblocks or issues within the development team. I (the project manager) deal with things outside the dev team. So, interactions with the Infrastructure team, platform services or other non-sprint team members. I also deal with issues related to the overall project, the budget, the stakeholder management. One of the things that makes Agile difficult in an Enterprise is not so much mixing with waterfall projects, which is not hard, but the fact that the idea of the PRODUCT OWNER, is not very meaningful in an enterprise that does not develop software as its product. For example an Insurance Company or a Clothing Company. Software is a support activity not the business's product. So any Product Owner you do find will be playing a role that is not their full time job. You can get them to Play the Part but it just isn't the same as BEING a Product Owner who is responsible for bringing a product to market. At any rate. I gave a talk at the [A href=""]PMI San Diego Chapter about mixing agile and waterfall using the Envelope Method. [B] the Slides and audio is here[/B][/A] Peace, Joseph Flahiff, PMP, CSP [A href=""]@Joseph_Flahiff[/A] [A href=""]WhitewaterProjects[/A]