Megan Leigh McDonald
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'Don't make me think.' Steve Krug

Megan Leigh McDonald

Celebrity Deathmatch: Agile vs Waterfall

Gotta’ love Monday meetings. No, seriously I am *not* being facetious in the least. Our wonderful Exec David Wolfe is a very inspiring person to work with and every Monday I get to absorb another piece of his genius. (note: I am *not* a suck-up)

Today’s session outlined the basic tenets of both Agile and Waterfall methods, with no judgment. Without demon-izing the Waterfall Method, we defined the basics of any methodology and moved on to point out the different situations in which one or the other would be useful.

I’ve worked with Agile’s predecessor, the Beckian XP. Reuters Financial Risk Management Team embraced these programming methods with ferocity back in 2001. As the User Experience Designer on a Development Team, I watched us go from heavy Requirements Documents to the lighter, more story-oriented cards. It felt like a sudden release from an entrenched way of being. Back in the beginning of that position, we were handed a heavy document that was constantly updated and edited, but never really veered away from.

The creativity of the Developers was often left out and the frustration at having to execute on requirements that were spelled out so clearly was palpable in our Tuesday morning meetings. So when we moved onto XP, the developers and PMs and Business Analysts integrated together in a really exciting way. Suddenly, we were identifying certain peoples’ roles as ‘customers’. These people spoke for the customer. As a UI person, I got to interview the people who were standins for our customers. I was able to take that information and pour it into my wireframes and designs.

Planning meetings with developers were dynamic as we sketched out flows on our white boards and had the option to change things around quickly instead of being tied to these heavy documents.

The big takeaway for me was that when a company or a project is in a high growth stage, it’s often really difficult (actually impossible) to predict what requirements will be from the beginning. Waterfall attempts to eliminate change and the cost of change by using prediction. I like astrology. I think it’s fun. But I realize life changes day in and day out. So the only way to actually deal with change, for me, is to embrace it and be nimble enough to keep pace with it, especially if a new idea is more efficient, productive or revenue-generating.

So, I pose this metaphor: if there was a Celebrity Deathmatch between Agile and Waterfall, I’m thinking Agile would win by sheer ability to stay on its toes. Anyways, this is an open call to all animators…I want to see this on YouTube!

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