Why Waterfall, Scrum, and SAFe fall short in enterprise project planning

December 15, 2022
Dec 15, 2022
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Why Waterfall, Scrum, and SAFe fall short in enterprise project planning

TLDR: This article speaks to why Waterfall, Scrum, and SAFe don't work for quickly forecasting a project's total scope and cost - which is a major challenge for project owners and executives, particularly in an enterprise environment.

The problem with forecasting scope and cost today

As an executive, you need a process to quickly and accurately understand a project's total scope and cost.

Today, there exists no method to accurately forecast a project's total scope and cost, leaving you guessing on the team size and completion date. 

Waterfall has a huge opportunity cost with people spending a lot of time planning to then abandon the plan when requirements change.

Scrum brought adaptability to ever changing requirements, but it doesn't provide a scheduling framework. It leaves you guessing on completion dates.

SAFe is an option only if your whole division does it together. SAFe is not possible in single team environments.

Speed to Accurate Schedule

If you look at the chart you see that scrum leaves you guessing, waterfall is slow, and SAFe is okay but truthfully only good if adopted by your whole company or division.

What you need is a process to forecast a project's total scope and cost quickly. Something that's fast enough and accurate enough to get an idea of the total scope and cost of the project. This is represented by the star in the chart.

The problem with today's planning methods

The truth is project planning is hard. There are many stories of failed projects and tens of millions of dollars lost due to poor plans.

There has never been a great way to create a plan. Through waterfall, the team could spend all their time creating the perfect schedule that never gets executed. Also, one hiccup has cascading effects on the plan.

Scrum's answer is to not plan at all. Just start building. The thinking is to ship, get feedback, and iterate fast, so planning is fruitless.

SAFe's answer is to only look out three months at a time. The makers of SAFe squeezed the timescale so any hiccup to the schedule is constrained. However, this only works if everyone adopts SAFe.

Length of Plan

What you need is a framework that can handle any plan length without forced constraints baked into it.

Staying flexible to new requirements

The inflexibility of the plan created through the Waterfall method led to the creation of Scrum. Scrum was an overcorrection of decades of frustration with Waterfall's strong adherence to detailed planning.

Waterfall's rigidity to the plan led to Scrum eschewing plans altogether. Changing requirements is an expected part of Scrum so the thinking is if plans are always changing then why plan at all.

SAFe tries to straddle both worlds of Waterfall and Scrum, by letting you change the plan but only every three months.

Ability to Pivot to Changing Requirements

You want a flexible plan that can adjust to new information as it's gathered. 

Something new is needed

We created Deterministic Agile as a way to quickly forecast your project's total scope, regardless of size, and cost and still be adaptable to new requirements. Learn more about how Deterministic Agile provides a process to forecast how much it will cost to get a project complete by a certain date.