If you are reading this, you are probably wondering what a “hybrid” project model is, or you have an idea of what it is, and would like to learn more about how it works and whether it can work for your team. Let’s define the term “hybrid” briefly before embarking on a deeper discussion about whether it is right for a specific context. For the purposes of this article, a “hybrid” project approach is one that encompasses both traditional waterfall methods as well as Agile practices. While this may sound strange, many organizations either end up in this state or purposefully deploys this model. Let’s explore further and see where you might stand.
Many organizations in the modern business world follow traditional project management processes as prescribed by the PMBOK (Project Management Book Of Knowledge, commonly considered to be the “bible” for project management) because it has been the standard since the 1960s. however, with the recent expansion of Agile approaches, many business organizations are in one of the following situations:
- Trying to decide whether Agile is feasible.
- Trying to decide whether Agile would provide a tangible benefit.
- Trying to decide how to apply Agile.
If you are in one of these situations, you may wish to explore a hybrid model as part of your Agile transformation strategy. Below are a few factors that you should consider as part of this strategy.
- Organizational culture – If you see value in migrating from the traditional waterfall model to Agile, you will need to understand how to make that transition. The end state of your transition will most likely be very difficult to predict because it is challenging to know how much change your organization will be able to accept. You could try to adopt one of the industry-proven models such as Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) or Scrum at Scale, but you still need to experiment then make adjustments along the way. A hybrid approach may be a good middle-ground to bridge the gap between the current-state and the future-state.
- Size and scope of the transformation – Are you looking to transform your entire organization to Agile, or a subset? Some will argue that you should migrate everything in order to be “truly Agile”, but in my experience, it is possible to only change a subset of the organization and still reap the benefits; this is also a viable option if your organization is risk-adverse and would like to pilot a smaller project without risking the health of the entire business. If the focus is only on a small project, it is less valuable to make a transitional step by using a hybrid model since this could prolong the feedback cycle and likely lead to extra cost. On the other hand, if the scope is large and involves significant capital and large numbers of people, taking a phased approach to migrating to Agile may make sense.
- Over-arching business objective – Is the organization looking for make a short-term investment or seeking a long-term gain? Is this a strategic move or a last-ditch effort due to an urgent need? The overall business objective should be considered when deciding the approach to any process and/or cultural transformation since this will drive the plan of attack. If the company must make a dramatic turnaround very quickly, the adoption of a new process model should be as simple and quick as possible, which means following a hybrid model as an intermediary step would likely not be advisable.
In closing, while many Agile purists would balk at the thought of a mixed, hybrid framework, the world is much more complicated than we prefer at times, and we sometimes need to take a practical approach. Using the hybrid model as a stepping stone to something more efficient and effective may be the wise choice if the situation warrants it.