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Some software projects simply cannot fit the agile model for various reasons. For example, certain software products, especially those in highly regulated industries, may have onerous testing or certification requirements, making long-cycle, planned releases advantageous. Long cycle times between initial requirement sign-off and product delivery create quite a bit of risk... requirements can change, expectations may shift, key stakeholders not directly involved in the project can lose focus or fail to provide the necessary support. Here are a few tips to help alleviate these risks, and succeed in waterfall scenarios:

Make the delivery smaller: Instead of trying to deliver every single requirement in one big godmother of all releases, try to categorise each requirement in terms of priorities to the business. Make the delivery multi-generational, with manageable chunks so you can maintain user buy-in throughout the project life cycle.

Apply monetary values to requirements: Quantify the impact in terms of cost, revenue, corporate profile, branding and compliance. As the project rolls on, this data can be used to prioritise, include or eliminate requirements from the final release. In long-cycle projects, it is quite common for certain areas to become obsolete, or disadvantageous from a cost benefit perspective. It is vital for successful delivery that you have tools and processes in place that can measure every element that will affect the eventual cost/benefit of a project.

Question your assumptions: Most project managers and business analysts have a tendency to make assumptions after gathering requirements, either due to miscommunication or to their own preconceptions of what a final product should do or look like. Additionally, people can be hesitant to ask end users for the same information they've asked for previously. Managers should be encouraged to keep a regular dialogue with their key users and stakeholders, and they should not be afraid to question the assumptions and clarifying them a few weeks later before development starts. You are bound to find some of the assumptions were wrong.

Define the endgame then work backwards: Very often we see scenarios where the BAs & PMs get stuck into the details way too early on the project before a clear vision and key stakeholder buy-in has been achieved. This can often lead to the ship being rudderless for long periods of time. It is essential that the excitement and positive energy is captured up front with a clear end state of the project. Define success for both the end users and the IT team, and make sure you track the progress against that plan.

Managing user expectations: While it is important that the project team has a clear vision of the end game, it is vital that this vision matches up to the expectation of the client. It is vital for the Project manager to ensure there are clear sign off point within project so the client can approve the work as it evolves. Failure to include the client in such a way can lead to nasty shocks when it comes time to deliver. Some projects have a habit of evolving from planning to delivery, so make sure all interested parties are privy to the evolution process.

Most projects can be executed using the traditional waterfall process, but many will fail to meet expectations or be delivered on time/budget. In some instances, agile simply is not possible due to lack of organizational flexibility or regulatory requirements. In fact, if it is appropriate, there are several techniques that can be used to accelerate project delivery with a waterfall approach. For instance, a large project can be split into smaller, more manageable pieces, with the subprojects utilising waterfall methodology as well. The above list is not intended to over simplify a potentially complex issue, but rather provide some guidance on how to successfully deliver using the waterfall methodolgy.

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