What is the Hybrid Approach in Project Management?
In the world of IT management, there is no shortage of specialists who swear by Agile methodologies. The method is flexible and fast, it recognizes change as the only constant.
Agile also values human interaction over complex contracts. It immensely reduces time to market in comparison with the Waterfall methodology. On the other hand, Waterfall is still rocking. It enforces rigid planning and well-defined WBS (work breakdown structure).
The traditional PM approach supports taking a series of well thought out steps and sets hard milestones to deliver a complete project that satisfies all requirements. However, sometimes a project can be loosely defined and customers can be not sure about what they want.
The market is quite dynamic today and this is the real problem of Waterfall. Agile methodology also comes with some weak spots. The approach allows its backlog to change, without robust documentation and control. Some people say that constant additions of features actually degrade the user experience.
So what is the better option in the battle of Agile vs Waterfall?
Luckily, recent years have given rise to the Hybrid project management approach that combines the best of both Agile and traditional methodologies. This post is right about it.
What Is Hybrid Project Management?
The term “hybrid approach” may not be as opaque as some new ideas in the field of project management. The definition is that it is a combination of two different methodologies or systems that has the aim to create a new and better model.
There are so many powerful and reliable methodologies in project management, from Waterfall to Agile. Managers try to choose the best one to get a better and more efficient way to carry a project to completion.
New methodologies and techniques are continually being developed. They challenge the traditional models, and hybrid methodologies mean that there can be synergy in combining aspects of new and traditional work approaches.
Hybrid methodologies allow for a more detailed and nuanced approach to the work. Most disciplines can apply the Hybrid management concept with little learning and without serious disruption in the way, the teams work.
You are free to apply them to the entire project or to specific aspects of it. The main idea is that the more ways you have to approach a problem the better chance you have to resolve it.
There are three main factors that contributed to the Hybrid popularity rising:
- Complexity and uncertainty. The percentage of projects with high complexity rises and this is a vivid project management trend.
- Competitiveness. Today’s markets require anticipating competitive issues and influences to ensure you have a strategy and proactive plan to stay ahead of the game.
- High customer expectations. Ease, speed, and personalization are what most customers really expect, even with large scale projects.
Considering this, a Hybrid is a completely logical and successful solution. Let’s name it Waterfall Agile Hybrid.
Some specialists call it Hybrid Agile or Structured Agile. The Hybrid manifesto can be defined in the following way:
The Hybrid project management approach combines the formal and Agile methodologies to create a new project management method. Hybrid utilizes the thoroughness of WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) with speed and Lean benefits of Agile, it is detailed and fast.
What is the power of Hybrid project management?
There are three key principles you should follow:
- you may apply it in any industry and team of any size
- it is better to run blending at the beginning of the project
- you have to clearly define all responsibilities
At the very beginning of the project, a hybrid team gets together and spends time analyzing the project’s life cycle as well as its complexity. They should come up with a work breakdown plan, dividing the work top-down into phases and sub-phases. Team members should also make space for some flexibility instead of precisely defining each task.
All project phases can run in sequence or in parallel. According to the Waterfall method, processes are following each other in a cascade. Hybrid, in contrast, allows overlapping phases, without procedurally having to wait for the previous one to finish.
Then the project phases are split into sprints. The outcome of every sprint modifies the input to the following sprint. If everything goes according to the initial plan, the next phase is ready to go as it was already outlined at the start.
A hybrid sprint usually lasts 4-6 weeks. So, every 4 to 6 weeks you may apply adjustments or termination if circumstances demand so before too many resources and time have been spent.
Who manages the Hybrid team?
A project manager who uses WBS methodology has the overall project responsibility. The Sprints are usually run by Scrum Masters.
Often, the project manager assumes the role of the product manager and can be considered the project’s business. He/she deals with the front end of the project flow, including requirements, components definition and WBS, and customer feedback.
The Scrum Master controls the back end. He/she manages backlogs, sprints, and releases. PM and SM both compose their own teams.
The hybrid approach does not require the presence of a formal PMO (project management office) because this would add extra bureaucracy and possible delays and expenses. The entire team should collaborate continuously with ongoing reporting, analysis, and reviews.
Hybrid approach: are there any drawbacks?
Hybrid project management is actually aimed to change the perception of making a choice of methodology from “select one from many” to “find the middle way on the scale from Waterfall to Agile”.
With the Hybrid approach, you will be able to optimize the Agile-Waterfall ratio to best suit your requirements.
Let’s say, Hybrid is something like a compromise. If you have come from Waterfall reality, the downside may be that you’ll have to give up a level of certainty in exchange for Agile’s flexibility. In case you have come from Agile, you may think it a downside that you’ll be required to have your freedom a little limited in order to reap some benefits from the Waterfall’s budget and planning system.
In Agile, communication is a more critical point than in other methodologies. It requires project managers and Scrum masters to join forces in a common endeavor.
Who uses the Hybrid framework?
Hybrid projects can be compatible with all industries’ projects (although for very small projects Agile looks more suitable).
The approach has gained popularity recently, as more and larger enterprises choose it for the transition to Agile, but they fear such a cut would be too sharp.
Their fears is quite reasonable, as they fear that transferring a project from one management framework to another could be detrimental to the project’s success. However, switching to the Hybrid approach should allow for a smoother cultural shift.
The concept works well for reusing software code in several similar endeavors, considering the quality of future products. It provides the speed of delivery and enough flexibility while staying abreast of the final product quality level.
What managerial skills does Hybrid PM require?
A good project manager or a Scrum Master who deals with Hybrid project management should pay attention to developing the following skills:
- Advanced communication skills to cooperate with all team members.
- Knowledge covering traditional management and Agile methodologies.
- The ability to take on the PO role and work with customer expectations.
- Reporting and writing skills to document progress.
- Analytical skills.
- Planning and organizational skills.
Before choosing a project management methodology, make sure that your team has all the necessary skills. Consider all purposes and involvement in the project. Hopefully, that post will help you make the best possible decision.
The pictures used are illustrative (Alex Kondratiev (main), Giu Vicente, Seth Cottle, Zanlic, Unsplash.com)