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What is Water-Scrum-Fall?

Posted by Chris Adams

Article Rating // 24673 Views // 0 Additional Answers & Comments

Categories: Business Analysis, Systems Analysis, Agile Methods, General, SDLC, Process, and Methodologies


Water-Scrum-Fall is a term first coined by Forrester to describe the reality of the current state of Agile as it exists in many organizations today. It's hybrid approach to application lifecycle management that combines elements of both Waterfall and Scrum development methodologies. 

For some time, organizations have known the shortcomings of using strictly a waterfall approach.  Spending too much time on a project upfront leads to waste while making it difficult and costly to adapt to change.  Yet integrating Agile into larger organizations with more established project planning and governance processes always proves to be challenging due to their non-agile nature. 

A flexible approach is preferred. One that allows development teams to best meet the needs of the problem being solved. This has led organizations to move to the use of Agile principles for the day-to-day work of their development teams while employing traditional Waterfall methodologies for planning, budgeting, and high-level project management. The term Water-Scrum-Fall is used to describe a situation where a company runs their development teams in an agile fashion while interfacing with more traditional waterfall processes outside of the Scrum team.  In essence, Scrum is inserted into the middle of a Waterfall Environment.

In a Water-Scrum-Fall environment, the front-end of a project still has the high-level project planning with approval and governance gates that follow a more traditional waterfall approach. The development team has non-agile interactions with these front end project teams.  Similarly, the back-end of each agile iteration is abound with non-agile interactions. DevOps processes are heavily laden with governance and staging areas before an actual release is put into production. It can be quite challenging to align Agile sprints with more traditional waterfall release schedules.   To this end, many organizations have placed a priority on Continuous Delivery and Dev-Ops principles to smooth the transition of deliverables between development and operations.

This description of Water-SCRUM-Fall is a generalized one. There is no single set definition. Each company must determine what variant of Water-SCRUM-Fall to use to meet there specific needs.  

Chris Adams
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