Choosing the Right Path

We Asked the Project Management Community: How Do You Decide Which Project Delivery Approach to Take?



Share your strategies for choosing the right delivery approach on the PMI Project, Program and Portfolio Management LinkedIn Group.


Holding a methodology alignment workshop early in the project will help us understand the client's preferences and help determine whether we can accommodate them. For instance, if the client or company is moving toward greater scrum adoption, I would take the time to do some enablement training first and give thought to using scrum. I would present it as a challenge to a company to rise to the occasion and be open-minded about learning scrum and be patient for the first sprint or two until people understand it. In the long term, they will be much better for it.”

—Lalig Musserian, PMP, senior program manager, methodology and governance, Pegasystems, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA


When approaches are proposed, a proper assessment of all risks must be taken. Stakeholders, overall cost, physical environment and political issues can impact the effectiveness of any approach. Defining the risk profile—and the proximity of those risks—can reveal whether a project manager needs to adopt a sprint mode or completely stop a waterfall process in order to pivot toward a more profitable option. The degree to which you choose hybrid and the specific hybrid techniques chosen depend directly on the risk you are encountering.”

—David Brezler, PMP, assistant project manager, CSA Group Architects and Engineers, New York, New York, USA


A more agile delivery approach tends to be the best fit if a project has a moderate to high level of solution and/or requirements uncertainty and a business value proposition that can be achieved in pieces rather than just one release. A predictive/waterfall approach might be a better fit when a project has low solution uncertainty, truly fixed requirements and a business value that can be realized only when the full scope of the project has been delivered. Most projects fall somewhere in the middle, which is why full agile or full waterfall are unlikely to work for all projects in the portfolio.”

—Kiron D. Bondale, PMI-RMP, PMP, senior consultant, World Class Productivity Inc., Mississauga, Ontario, Canada


I always start with the end in mind. What business outcome does the customer expect? What does the customer's ecosystem or environmental setup look like? I choose waterfall if the end product/deliverable is well defined. I choose agile if the product is software and the stakeholder isn't clear how the service will roll out to end users. I prefer hybrid when the project scope isn't clear but the business/work culture cannot support the flexibility of pure agile. In such a case, I prefer to tailor the approach to each phase, depending on the customer stakeholders involved and readiness.”

—Amr Sadek, regional delivery manager—Africa, Commonwealth of Independent States, Middle East, Gemalto, Dubai, United Arab Emirates


Deciding on an approach depends on a lot of factors. But answering two questions can help clarify the right path forward.

1. What is the organization's appetite for risk? Some agile approaches get you to market faster but increase risk.

2. Does the customer want stability or flexibility? Remember the adage ‘If all you have is a hammer, everything is a nail’? Fill your bag with more delivery tools so you can easily adapt to the needs of a project.”

—Peter Case, PMP, project manager, FiveCubits, Draper, Utah, USA


It depends on the nature of the project. If the scope of the project isn't expected to change during execution, then traditional waterfall methodology can be used. If the scope is volatile, go with agile. A hybrid approach can be used when some processes of the project could be agile and the remaining could use waterfall. For instance, execution and quality assurance could be agile to make end users comfortable about what they are going to get.”

—Padmakar Boyapati, PMP, senior program manager, project management office, National Bank of Oman, Muscat, Oman


I iteratively plan the approach. Sometimes, I tailor it to match the culture, stakeholders, technology, risks, scope or deliverables. I create multiple paths and scenarios to help assess whether waterfall, agile or hybrid is the best. You need to be flexible to ensure that you achieve project goals.”

—Jun Bucao, PMP, senior program manager, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Agile Advantages

More organizations are tweaking their delivery approaches to include agile.


of organizations use agile approaches sometimes or more frequently than in the past.

The most common reasons organizations cite for adopting agile:


Source: Pulse of the Profession® 9th Global Project Management Survey: Success Rates Rise: Transforming the high cost of low performance, PMI, 2017; 11th Annual State of Agile Report, VersionOne, 2017