Budget & planning security in modern projects - classic meets agile

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5 min read

Agile project management is gaining momentum in many companies, but clearly-defined budgets and timeframes are still important for many project teams, despite the advantages of an agile environment - can these things co-exist?


  1. Waterfall method
  2. Agile project management
  3. Keeping it balanced: Waterfall meets agile
  4. The steps of an agile waterfall project

Waterfall method

The waterfall project method - as the term implies - is clearly defined before the start of the project. It defines what has to be done when and in what sequence to result in a specified goal. This type of initial planning is often more complex, but also more detailed than for most agile methodologies.

Once the planning is complete, the project begins and is executed in phases. Each phase must be successfully completed in order to initiate the next phase. In this process, the sequence is very linear and does not allow for major deviations.


The waterfall approach is often used to have more control over the scope and cost of a project and to keep changes to a minimum. Additionally, the approach requires less coordination because everyone knows what has to be delivered in which phase.


The reduced coordination is only guaranteed if all goes as plan which usually is hardly realistic in a real project scenario. The linear process and fixed planning can cause issues when things go wrong because the waterfall method often lacks the flexibility needed to redirect priorities, allocate budgets and resources differently, and virtually adapt the project to new circumstances or new knowledge that has been gained during the project.

At the same time, troubleshooting is often much more involved because the testing is not a frequent occurrence as it is with agile project management. For waterfall project, feedback is only given at the end, with insights gained during the course of the project.

Agile project management

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In contrast to waterfall, agile project management is more iterative in nature, making it more flexible. The project is therefore more adaptable and flexible. (New) requirements can be added throughout the project and the testing takes place frequently. Although planning is also done before the project starts, all phases of the agile project are included in each run (in contrast to the waterfall approach where some phases only ever happen at the end or at the beginning).


The agile approach allows more end-to-end optimization, troubleshooting, and changing priorities. Stakeholders are involved from start to finish, which means that the end result is adapted the users' requirements and fulfills all functions, even if they only emerged during the course of the project.

Agile test management (find out more) also reduces costs and risks, as each iteration tries to get closer to the final solution and each iteration provides working software.


Coordination and monitoring of costs, priorities and resources can be much more complex in agile project management. This requires a high level of methodological competence and discipline from all participants.

Keeping it balanced: Waterfall meets agile

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Switching from waterfall to agile project methods can be complicated and requires some training and experience. As an IT company that works primarily with agile project management, it is not uncommon for our colleagues to encounter customers for whom an immediate move to agile would be too much to ask in an important implementation project.

Therefore, depending on individual requirements, we work with a multi-stage approach that combines waterfall and agile in such a way that customers have clear, linear processes with great control which then can be extended with agile methods as soon as the core objective is achieved. In this way, we enable customers to gradually adapt to agile project methodologies.

The steps of an agile waterfall project

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Ahead of the project - analysis & requirements specification

DIGITALL's core competence is to adapt existing systems to the needs and processes of our customers. These can differ from industry to industry. The decision whether a requirement is included in the standard implementation or needs a specified solution is affecting the amount of effort and costs immensely. Therefore, this classification must be defined as early as possible within the project to reduce the resulting project risks.

Because of this point, a strong waterfall approach at this early analysis phase is a good choice.

In close cooperation with the relevant stakeholders, requirements are discussed and the relevant "epics" (requirement segments) are identified. Requirements are specified until the most important cornerstones of a process are identified and it is clear whether the requirement can be implemented in a standardized way or requires an individual implementation.

The specified requirements (specifications) are seen as the framework for the subsequent project implementation.

The project implementation that follows the analysis phase is agile in the sense that the requirements defined at a high level (epics) are further specified and implemented iteratively.

Roadmap & MVP

The epics which were identified in the analysis phase are further specified and broken down into so-called "user stories to further define the roadmap.

User stories are thus assigned to an epic and describe it in more detail.


Epic: Sales app

User Stories:

  • Documentation of a sales meeting
  • Individual creation of an offer via a questionnaire
  • Automated, personalized follow-up after a call

The next step is to distinguish functionalities that are absolutely necessary (Must Haves) from those that would be additionally desirable (Nice To Haves).

With this prioritization, a so-called "Minimum Viable Product" (MVP) can be defined, i.e., a core product that fulfills all necessary functions and can be rolled out quickly. The MVP covers the main goals of the project and is fully functional without additional changes needed.

Implementation & project progression

During the project, agile methods such as sprints* and short feedback cycles are applied. At this stage, the focus is still on the "must haves" so that the MVP can be finalized within the defined timeframe.

*Sprints - a fixed, short work frame in which a team realizes a specific work package.

Further agile development

Once the MVP is live, agile development can continue, for example, for optimization, to develop "Nice to Haves", or connect other sections and topics. This is precisely the stage at which the agile project methodology is more suitable than the waterfall approach, since relevant improvements are often identified throughout the active use of the MVP.

Advantages of the mixed methodology

  • Extensive cost and resource control for the MVP
  • Detailed goal setting with priorities that includes all relevant stakeholders
  • Agile test management to reduce risks and bug fixes
  • Continuous improvement and enhancement of the software solution
  • Step-by-step familiarization with the agile project methodology for the customer's team

Our DIGITALL experts not only support you with digitization and implementation. They are also trained in onboarding your teams for agile project methodologies and ensuring stable frameworks for the mixed methodology.

Contact us today for a free initial consultation.

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by Gian Arquint

Gian Arquint is a Managing Consultant at DIGITALL and has extensive experience in software engineering projects.

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