Waterfall’s Death Knell?

In 2013, Agile, Lean, Product Management, Product Management Facts, Product Marketing, Product Owner, Product Teams, Project Management, Scrum, The Study of Product Team Performance by [email protected]Leave a Comment

A startling fact emerged from this year’s study of product team performance – Waterfall is continuing to lose ground.

Not too surprising on the surface of it but when you dig a little deeper you find that even the teams that are actively relying upon Waterfall simply don’t believe it leads to profitable product and service development!

Every other group that responded to this year’s study indicated that the method that they were using to produce their product was the most likely to lead to profitable products. Every method but Waterfall!

If this sounds like Waterfall’s death knell don’t be too sure. Blended methods – those which combine Waterfall and Agile methods – are going strong. Additionally, there are valid reasons for relying upon Waterfall for some organizations – even if team’s wish they weren’t so reliant upon it. These include heavily regulated and audited environments, businesses that have strong compliance organizations or who require rigorous capital request processes. These type of organizations tend to be global organizations that have much to lose from a legal perspective.

Ron Lichty, one of the co-authors of this year’s study, wrote a particularly salient blog post on this subject. I am including a snippet of his post below. I encourage you to read Ron’s full post.

“The data is quite gratifying – to this Agile coach, at least – that members of teams using Agile and lean and blends of waterfall with Agile and lean, across the board, associate their methods with increased profits. As challenging as agile transformations can be, agile users are not opting to return to waterfall.

What’s startling is that among teams still using waterfall, they just don’t believe in it. Doubly startling given users of every other methodology rate their own method most highly..” (Click here to read Ron’s full post)

Waterfall may be on unsteady legs but it’s too soon to write it off.


Greg Geracie is a recognized thought leader in the field of product management and the President of Actuation Consulting, a global provider of product management consulting, training, and advisory services to some of the world’s most well-known organizations. Greg is also the author of the global best seller Take Charge Product Management. He is also an adjunct professor at DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on high-tech and digital product management.

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