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Delivering Better Business Value Through Adaptive Project Management

I am frequently asked by clients and others in the Microsoft channel to contrast the benefits of an agile approach or what we call Adaptive Project Management and what many people call the “Waterfall” methodology.

Image of a mazePeople sometimes ask me “Why is one methodology or approach better than the other?” My response is that one approach is not really any better than the other, but certain approaches may be better in a given situation. I then tell them that Adaptive Project Management is in most situations, the best approach for delivering business value to clients during Microsoft Dynamics implementations; the Waterfall approach is not.

Very briefly, Waterfall is an approach where project teams execute a project in a sequential fashion by passing through the phases of requirements elicitation, planning, design, execution and maintenance. Adaptive Project Management is an approach where project teams iteratively execute all of the above phases in sprints. Let’s briefly compare and contrast the two approaches in the context of Microsoft Dynamics implementations.

The sequential process that the Waterfall approach takes you through assumes that the stakeholder requirements are initially well defined and do not change during the lifecycle of the project. Unfortunately, this is not the case in most Dynamics implementations. In most Dynamics implementations, the odds are that stakeholder requirements will be discovered or change during the lifecycle of the project. You have two options when faced with new or changing stakeholder requirements during a project. You can ignore the requirements and execute the tasks as they were originally defined in the project plan, or you can change the plan to meet the needs of the changing stakeholder requirements. Keep in mind that the purpose of a Dynamics implementation project is to deliver business value to the stakeholders. If you choose to ignore changing stakeholder requirements, then you might very well be ignoring an opportunity to maximize the business value delivered to the stakeholders by the project. The Adaptive Project Management approach specifically addresses new and changing stakeholder requirements as encountered during Microsoft Dynamics implementations.

Partner and client collaboration is one of the major keys to the successful delivery of Dynamics implementation projects. In traditional waterfall projects the stakeholder requirements are elicited from stakeholders before being passed to the partner design and execution teams in the next phase. This is commonly referred to as the “throw it over the wall” process. Ultimately, there could be a substantial disconnect in the Waterfall approach between the client’s requirements and the final solution that the partner team delivers. In the Adaptive Project Management approach the project team consists of both partner and client resources. The client team members have the responsibility to make sure that the output the team produces is consistent with the business value and quality as defined by the project plan. As a result of the Adaptive Project Management approach more business value is squeezed from the project, costs are minimized due to less rework, and stakeholders are happier because their interests have been recognized and represented during the full project lifecycle.

Dynamics implementations executed with the Waterfall approach generally have one major release known as the go-live. As a result, what is typically experienced in the Waterfall approach is a lack of urgency by the project team and client until much later in the project lifecycle. The Adaptive Project Management approach on the other hand, creates multiple points of urgency during the project lifecycle by taking an Agile approach to project management and incorporating Agile’s elements of timeboxing and iterations. As a result of frequent urgency the iterative approach used in Adaptive Project Management produces projects that execute at a greater velocity than Waterfall projects. The net effect is Adaptive Project Management projects save time and money because accelerated Adaptive Project Management projects finish earlier than their corresponding Waterfall projects.

Another benefit of Adaptive Project Management’s iterative approach is the project team and the stakeholders have the opportunity to review and challenge the direction the project is progressing on a frequent basis. This is just opposite of what we see on an equivalent Waterfall project where stakeholders may only see results on the go-live date. At the end of each Adaptive Project Management iteration, the project team and key stakeholders review the results of the iteration. As a result of this process, small and regular course corrections to the project occur frequently and often which ultimately translates into greater efficiencies and more business value delivered for the investment.

In summary, the Adaptive Project Management approach to project management provides substantially more business value to a client during a Microsoft Dynamics implementation than the traditional Waterfall approach.

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