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Adapt your development model to fit the complexity of your projects

by Paul Drury

Are you concerned for the emerging demands or delays in your projects and are your teams struggling to cope? Is your customer feedback loosing its positivity? If so, you're not alone. Many teams find themselves bogged down in traditional development methods that are simply not agile enough to keep up with the pace of change. Others, who have previously introduced more agile methods into their organisations, can also experience dissatisfaction with that methodology simply not working for some projects or teams.


By adapting your development model to fit the complexity of your projects and the capabilities of your teams, you can improve chances of success.





The Waterfall model is a traditional, linear project management methodology dating back to the 1960's. While Agile is a set of principles established from the need for adaptive project management. Core agile principles promote

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

  • Working software over comprehensive documentation

  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

  • Responding to change over following a plan.



Alternative project management methodologies are available....




You might not consider choosing a development approach for your next project a necessary task. Simply you will rely on the organisation's templated development processes. Perhaps the last project was a success so you will re-use that approach, or perhaps that's not the case and you intend to make some changes. Choosing an appropriate development approach is a highly valuable exercise that should not be overlooked.



Whatever approach you choose a methodology and an organisational structure providing the features your project or your teams demand will be key. When creating these scenarios and making this decision be sure to make adequate consideration:

  • How complex is the project?

  • How many stakeholders are involved?

  • Which tasks/deliverables can we out-source?

  • How large is the team(s)?

  • Which methods align with the available competencies?

  • Which metrics does the project or the team require?

  • What documentation does the industry or regulatory body require for success and compliance?


In the 1960s when the Waterfall model was devised product complexity, compared to today, was modest. Today's Full Product Systems comprising machine, fluid, embedded software, cloud connectivity and IoT data sharing have the potential to present substantial complexity in projects, tasks and to the teams that will deliver them. The multi-disciplinary nature of such a project may call for wide ranging engineering and scientific disciplines so development approaches other than those liked by "hardware" and "software" teams should be considered. A partnership, take semiconductor or MEMS as an example, can impose a strict schedule for wafer design (tapeout) and wafer fabrication steps, which must be factored into the planning and aligned with the other approaches. Product complexity increases at a rapid rate with Smart Products, Smart and Connected Products and Full Product Systems bring new challenges to the organisations and teams that develop them.




How to choose a project management methodology? Here are a few tips:

  • Embrace agile values and principles. Agile values like "individuals and interactions over processes and tools" and "responding to change over following a plan" can help you build more flexible and adaptable teams.

  • Use agile practices. There are many agile practices that can be applied to hardware development, such as pair programming, continuous integration and iterative development.

  • Be flexible. Don't be afraid to explore alterative scenarios or employ new development methods to find what works best for your teams and the project as a whole.

Adapting your development model to fit the complexity of your projects can be a challenge, but it can prove a highly valuable exercise. By doing so, you can improve your chances of success, have engaged teams and deliver better products to your customers.


Companies using a hybrid approach, integrating waterfall and agile methods, experience several benefits:

  • Increased employee Engagement. Happy teams and sponsor.

  • Productivity. Project delivered on time and on budget.

  • Improvement in Quality. Fewer defects and increased customer satisfaction.

  • Time-to-market. Shorter cycle times for new/revised products.



A hybrid approach example for a complex project. Agile teams employing models aligned to the project need and team capability. A release timeline of development iterations and subsequent multiple product releases.




Call to action:

Do you have a project and would like to review your development model? Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.




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