Agile in a Waterfall World: Determining the Right Project Methodology

by Colleen Risk, May 31, 2017
Industry Trends
Asia-Pacific, EMEA, Latin America, North America


Agile has moved from relative obscurity in the world of project management to the mainstream.

Celent has released a new report titled Agile in a Waterfall World. The report was written by Colleen Risk, a Senior Analyst with Celent’s Insurance practice. 

In the 16 years since the Agile Manifesto was created, agile has moved from relative obscurity in the world of project management to the mainstream. Yet, for many insurance company executives, directors, and managers, agile still may be confusing, obscure, and not trusted.

Celent analysts frequently receive questions such as: “Is it possible to use agile in a legacy environment?”; “I am running a fixed cost project, is agile a good choice for the project?” and “What types of projects does agile best fit?” Understanding the steps in each methodology as well as the advantages and disadvantages can make choosing the right approach easier. The report includes examples of successful agile transformation case studies.

Agile was created to be the opposite of waterfall. Waterfall is structured. Agile is flexible. Waterfall requires the I’s to be dotted and the T’s to be crossed before beginning the project. Instead of in-depth planning at the beginning of the project, agile methodologies seek to improve the product with each iteration.

Agile handles uncertainty and changing or unclear requirements well. Waterfall is best suited for projects with clearly defined end goals, especially ones where you don’t expect requirements or final deliverables to change.

Understanding how peers have transformed with agile project development, or modified agile to meet their specific company objectives, can provide ideas for effective ways to introduce it within IT and Operations.

“Today’s insurer needs to improve time to market, adopt new technologies, and enact operational best practices to face market competition,” remarked Risk. “One way to create operational excellence and reduce time to market is to adopt best practices for project development.”

Celent is a research and advisory firm dedicated to helping financial institutions formulate comprehensive business and technology strategies. Celent publishes reports identifying trends and best practices in financial services technology and conducts consulting engagements for financial institutions looking to use technology to enhance existing business processes or launch new business strategies. With a team of internationally based analysts, Celent is uniquely positioned to offer strategic advice and market insights on a global basis. Celent is a member of the Oliver Wyman Group, which is a wholly-owned operating unit of Marsh & McLennan Companies [NYSE: MMC].

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Table of Contents

Executive Summary



Key Research Questions





Key Research Questions


Differences Between Agile and Waterfall Methodologies






What Is Scrum?


Advantages and Disadvantages of Agile and Waterfall



Advantages of Agile Development



Advantages of Waterfall Development



Managing Business Requirements



Disadvantages of Agile Methodology



Disadvantages of Waterfall Methodology



What Is the Best Methodology for the Project?


Two Case Studies of Successful Agile Transformation






An International Tier One Insurance Company


Final Remarks


Leveraging Celent’s Expertise



Support for Financial Institutions



Support for Vendors


Related Celent Research


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