I first encountered the terms “analog” and “digital” in high school physics. While I probably remember more about the pranks my classmates played on our teacher, the terms analog and digital repeatedly popped up in my engineering education. For those of you who had a high school physics teacher NOT named Mr. Founds, we’ll touch on the definitions of these two words and investigate how they relate to product and project management.
Analog vs. Digital
Analog – in layman’s language – means you can select whatever value you want. Think of an old-fashioned radio tuning dial that turns back-and-forth. As you seek a particular frequency, you first hear static, then a mix of static with the music, then the music comes in strongly. If you turn the dial too far, you’re back in the static zone.
In Houston, I enjoy listening to 89.3FM. With a digital device, there are exact increments, and your radio “dial” will lock onto specific stations. So, in my car, I tune from 89.1 (static) to 89.3 (music) to 89.5 (static). The “digital” increment on my car radio is 0.2 on the FM frequency.
Waterfall Project Management
Waterfall project management has fallen out of favor in recent years. I believe there is a place for waterfall project management, especially in the space of tangible product development. In general, waterfall suggests upfront planning and a detailed list of features and requirements for the new product. Usually, detailed schedules are created during early project planning phases, with assigned tasks and resources.
Agile Project Management
While extensive upfront planning can work for projects with low levels of technical uncertainty and low levels of requirements uncertainty, waterfall fails to be flexible and adaptable to changing customer needs throughout the project lifecycle. When the schedule is disrupted, the plan must be re-created and tasks dependent on other tasks fall behind schedule.
Agile project management promises flexibility by planning just the minimum work necessary to build a minimum set of features (often called an MVP, minimum viable product). Teams and tasks are designed to be isolated from interruptions (dependencies). Autonomy and empowerment are key to success in Agile implementations.
Agile is Digital Waterfall
The drawback, I believe, of many Agile implementations is a heavy emphasis on the ceremonies and artifacts of the process. Instead of using these elements as tools to assist development work, some Agile teams use the ceremonies and artifacts in the same way waterfall teams use upfront planning tools (e.g., Gantt charts and critical path analysis). The sprint increment in Agile becomes a set of planning meetings that could have been handled with a larger, upfront activity in waterfall. In essence, sprints tune the radio at specific frequency increments while waterfall can spin the dial to get close to the final result.
WAGILE Product Development Meets in the Middle
Some of the equipment I used in engineering school had a combination of analog and digital tuning. You used the digital selection to get to the right range of data (e.g., the left end of the radio dial) while you used analog tuning to get to the specific reading (e.g., 89.3 FM). Other pieces of equipment were the opposite – using analog selection to get within range and digital selection for a specific, known incremental value. Regardless of the device, the benefits of combining analog and digital were obvious and well above analog-alone or digital-alone.
WAGILE product development is much the same. We use a hybrid project management model, picking the best aspects of waterfall and of Agile. (Thus, the name – WAGILE.) Overlaying incremental feature development with frequent customer interactions onto a disciplined, risk-balanced staged-and-gated process can lead to faster development times and increased customer satisfaction.
A Division of Global NP Solutions, LLC
Study. Learn. Earn. Simple.