Agile vs. waterfall example
To understand the difference between the Agile methodology and its predecessor, consider the example of European company Ericsson.
Ericsson is a Swedish multinational company with a core focus on networking and telecommunications.
The company, which was founded in 1876, sells software and infrastructure.
It also offers information and communications technology services including various 3G, 4G, and 5G equipment as well as IP and optical transport systems.
Use of the Waterfall model
With a long and storied history, Ericsson had used the Waterfall model for many years since it was first introduced in the 1970s.
However, the model’s lengthy project cycle before implementation was unsuitable for the dynamic and innovative industry in which Ericsson operated.
The company also found that the prediction of project outcomes was not accurate.
Both these factors meant the company had a problem with time and efficiency.
Under pressure to respond to dynamic market needs, Ericsson’s teams sacrificed the testing stage of the Waterfall model to meet deadlines.
Inevitably, this resulted in late deliveries of a questionable quality that were also not what the customer wanted.
In 2005 and with an awareness that its product lead times and feedback loops were too long, senior executives became tired of the Waterfall model and looked elsewhere for a solution.
Agile methodology implementation
Ericsson incorporated the Agile Project Management philosophy for the first time in 2008 – despite fears it could not be deployed at scale.
The company was also, at least to some extent, forced to adapt because of intense industry competition and more technologically advanced products that required continuous improvement.
The company hired external Agile Project Management practitioners and all employees were trained at the same time.
In this case, the primary objective of the training program was to transform Ericsson from a linear waterfall organization to one based on the specific Agile methodology known as Scrum.
To that end and in very general terms, existing project managers were transitioned into Scrum masters, coaches, and team members.
The results of Agile implementation
Once employees had been trained on Agile philosophies and methodologies, one of the first initiatives at Ericsson was to re-arrange the office space to enable teams to have their own dedicated working spaces.
In an interview post-implementation, Ericsson project manager Hendrik Esser described the changes on a more practical level:
“Early we understood that estimates shouldn’t be [mis]used any more as a “commitment”, but as an expression of uncertainty and risk. And it should be owned by the team. The method we introduced was “uncertainty ranges”, instead of one “precisely wrong” estimate like “we will deliver this on the 12th of October 10.30 am”, we started saying “According to our current best knowledge we will deliver this between August and November.”
Esser went on to explain that in Ericsson’s new lightweight Agile project office, teams would revise the estimate after each sprint.
Estimates would then be collected from each team to obtain a holistic picture that could then be discussed with business managers.
In the process, the company redefined the expectations of its various Product Owners.
Ultimately, Ericsson’s Agile transformation was successful for a company of its size.
Twelve months were allowed for the change, but momentum increased after six as teams working on older projects became envious of their happier colleagues working under the Agile approach.
Connected Agile Frameworks
- Business Models
- Business Strategy
- Business Development
- Distribution Channels
- Marketing Strategy
- Platform Business Models
- Network Effects
Main Case Studies: