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Why and How to Use Hybrid Project Management Approach

by Alena Terentyeva

26 Feb 2020

Imagine that you have found a dream team for your new project. Then a project manager asks: “What methodology do you prefer to work with — Agile or Waterfall?”. It seemed like a great start, and now you’re at a dead end. Which approach suits your project best? With cascade, the project is split into linear sequential stages without setting aside from a plan. Agile allows making changes during the process. Don’t panic! Just take the best from each of them. Keep reading to learn why and how to use hybrid methodology from our web development 10,000+ man-hours project case.

When to choose hybrid project management approach and why?

Although Waterfall and Agile sound more familiar, a hybrid approach is also popular. Project Management Institute found out that project managers in IT, telecom, energy, healthcare, construction, and the government used the “hybrid” in 23% of projects.

Development Approach Used

Source: PMI 2018 Pulse of Profession

The point of the hybrid project management approach is to choose for each project phase a more suitable methodology. For example, you can plan and define requirements with Waterfall and design, develop and test with Agile.

This approach suits the best complex large projects that require:

  • to release new functionality frequently,
  • to adapt to nontransparent requirements,
  • to meet strict deadlines,
  • to take into account that customer wants to take minimal part in the project

How to overcome these difficulties and blend Waterfall with Agile so to get the result you want?

How we applied a hybrid project management approach in the 10,000+ man-hours development project

We partnered with “Spasibo from Sberbank” — a loyalty program for cardholders of Sberbank, one of the leading banks in Russia came to us. The client decided to develop a web portal for their new traveling related service. That meant:

  • the project would be large-scale,
  • organize with a nonstandard solution so that to launch portal on time. 

We had to speed up and act rapidly. While we were planning the work, the client already has running future portal ads on federal national TV. Thus we faced with the following conditions:

  • to accept general, unclear requirements: A4 sheet specification,
  • to consider the launch date as the client chose release date,
  • to adhere to the initially approved budget,
  • to observe the infrastructural and organizational restrictions: provide a full product launch cycle and support the Law on Personal Data Protection.

But that was not all. Here came the challenges:

  • There was no product owner and tech specialist from the client’s side.
  • There was no relevant API from partner companies’ side
  • We couldn’t generate test data because we integrated the portal with third-party systems.
  • There was no understanding of the predicted system load at launch.

Taking into account such input data, we decided to use a hybrid approach, and split the work into two activities:

1. Interaction with the client.

When it came to communications with the client, we used the cascade method:

  • set and agreed on MVP
  • selected a team so that they would focus on this project only: project manager, analyst, frontend and backend developers, tester
  • agreed on deadlines for MVP presentation

2. Teamwork

As the project team, we decided to use a flexible method  — with a backlog and weekly sprints. Here another challenge went: the person responsible for the project from the client’s side was not involved enough. But we understood that it’s important to regularly prioritize and control the tasks for the high-quality result. The solution was to allocate the project manager for this role. Every week we watched and corrected our plans depending on whether we can complete the main pool of tasks. Focused on improving usability.

Hybrid Project Management Approach

How to organize processes with “hybrid”.

The chosen work pattern helped us release the project on time. The client was satisfied with the result, so we started maintenance. This stage turned out to be challenging as well. The client planned to develop new functions and bring new partners. Meanwhile, they expected the same effective work from us and the number of tasks grew every day. 

To cope with the load, we adjusted the changing condition —  with the help of the hybrid approach:

  • picked up a team for a given pace,
  • optimized processes: minimized internal reporting to speed up the development,
  • agreed with the client to coordinate the work, not in the context of large functional, blocks but individual tasks — this allowed us to build the process more predictable.  

The project’s success heavily depended on communication and project management skills. We managed to do that. Today the web portal helps to search and buy airline tickets, book hotels, and purchase tours on commercially attractive terms. The platform has a flexible system of content management and a convenient user interface.

"Spasibo from Sberbank. Travel" web portal

We are still supporting the portal: by now we have spent more than 10,000 man-hours on the entire project!

Why and how to apply hybrid project management

Methodologies are not magic wands. But it’s possible and necessary to understand the principles and take the best from different approaches is possible and necessary. The hybrid is good because it allows you to:

  • plan and define requirements with Waterfall, and design, develop and implement for Agile
  • organize work more predictably
  • adjust processes to changing conditions and evolve them as the product is developing

Create your success recipe with a hybrid that suits the conditions and requirements of your project best. Consider these tips to make the most of it:

1. Define project features:

  • scope
  • complexity
  • frameworks and restrictions: fixed or changing
  • deadline: strict or you can move if necessary
  • budget: flexible or fixed
  • product availability

2. Select a team with strong hard and soft skills.

Professional skills and expertise are crucial. But strong inter-personal, decision-making, and problem-solving skills, as well as commitment, are no less important.

3. Adjust the processes in the project’s flow.

Track and analyze the project’s progress regularly. Set benchmarks to evaluate how effective the new processes are. Keep track of what’s going well and where changes are required.

Do not choose a project management methodology proceeding from how you’re used to working. Make sure that the team has the necessary skills. Consider your goals and involvement in the project. At Azoft based on our experience, we have come up to the hybrid project management approach. It combines Waterfall and Agile advantages: phase splitting, iterative processes, and the dedicated role of a project manager that can combine product owner functions. Hoping that our recommendations and experience will help you make the best possible decision! 

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