Characteristics of Predictive Life Cycles


I am going through the Agile Practice Guide, a collaboration between the Agile Alliance and the Project Management Institute (PMI).   It is being published in conjunction with the 6th Edition of the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK).

The third chapter of the Agile Practice Guide is devoted towards distinguished the agile project life cycle from the three other types:  predictive (traditional or waterfall), incremental, and iterative.   The earlier posts I did on the chapter compare and contrast these four life cycles categories.   In this and the next three posts, I will review the next section 3.1 of the Guide which goes through and discusses each of these four life cycle categories in more detail, starting with the predictive life cycle.

The predictive life cycle takes advantage of the following characteristics of a project:

  • high certainty around firm requirements (with low degree of change during the project)
  • a stable team (that will be around for the duration of the project)
  • low risk

As a result, the project planning will be done as much as possible up front, and the project activities will often be executed in a serial manner (hence the nickname “waterfall” for this type of life cycle) as follows:

  • Analyze
  • Design
  • Build
  • Test
  • Deliver

When the planning is done up front at the beginning of the project, the constraints (mainly scope, time, and cost) can be articulated, and the project plan can be created to manage these constraints throughout the project.   Changes that might affect the scope, schedule, or budget need to be monitored and controlled a formal change control process.

The business value is not delivered until the end of the project, when the final product, process or result of the project is delivered.   If reason why changes are viewed negatively in predictive projects is that these will incur unanticipated costs, which may have a negative impact on the return on investment for the project, and thus changing its status regarding its strategic value for the company.

The next post will cover the characteristics of an iterative life cycle.

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