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Hybrid project management: classic and agile methods combined

6 min read

Is your team firmly at home with classic OR agile project management? But do you feel that these approaches are reaching their limits when it comes to complex projects? Hybrid project management could be just the boost you need. It combines the best of both worlds and adapts flexibly to project requirements.

Definition: Hybrid project management

Hybrid project management combines classical and agile methods. The focus is therefore no longer on the differences between classic and agile project management. Rather, it is about recognising the strengths of both approaches and adapting them individually to the framework conditions of a project.

Strengths and challenges of hybrid project management

Strengths of hybrid project management:

  • Offers customised solutions for projects
  • Suitable for all project types (size and complexity do not matter)
  • Combines the advantages of classic and agile project management
  • More flexibility, e.g. for changing customer requirements
  • Faster achievement of project goals (possibly with lower costs)

Challenges of hybrid project management:

  • Finding the right mix of methods can be time-consuming
  • Sound knowledge of classic and agile project management is an advantage
  • Requires the team / company to be ready for change

An individual mix of methods offers a customised solution for every project. Thanks to countless possible combinations, hybrid project management can be used in any industry, for any team size and for a wide range of requirements. Your horizons as a project manager are therefore infinitely expanded.

The only question that remains is: What is the right mix of methods for your project? Your experience in project management and a thorough analysis of the respective project requirements and objectives will help you with this.

Typical characteristics: Classic vs. agile project management


Classic project management

The most important guidelines of classic project management methods are a high degree of planning reliability and clear objectives. Projects can certainly benefit from this, but often fall short of their potential in a dynamic environment.

5 methods in classic project management:

1. Waterfall model: In this classic project management model, projects are divided into phases that are worked through step by step. It is determined in advance when a phase begins and ends. The specific tasks, intermediate goals to be achieved, requirements and desired processes are also defined in advance.

2. V-model: In the V-model, the individual project phases also strictly follow one another. In this method, however, the development phases are followed by specification phases in which each development phase is tested, validated and verified once again. This is intended to achieve a particularly high level of product quality.

3. PRINCE2: The "Projects in Controlled Environments" method emphasises maximum control and requires continuous justification of the project benefits. Extensive projects are broken down into smaller steps. A detailed structural analysis, planning of the required capacities and estimation of the costs are carried out in advance.

4. Spiral model: In the spiral model, as with the waterfall model, all project phases are run through one after the other - several times in succession. Each repetition delivers new interim results, which are then taken into further consideration. In this way, initial rough results for a high-quality project goal become increasingly finer and more precise. Repeated checks minimise errors and risks.

5. Simultaneous Engineering: With this method, the individual project phases do not have to follow each other in strict succession. One phase can also be brought forward or phases can be processed in parallel if sufficient information is available. In order to actually realise the envisaged time savings, the project manager needs to make well-founded decisions.

Agile project management

Agile project management was developed in order to be able to react more easily and flexibly to changes in the course of the project or subsequent customer requests. However, the highly dynamic nature of agile project management can make strategic planning more difficult. For example, fixed schedules can only be adhered to to a limited extent.

4 Methods in agile project management

1. Scrum: The Scrum methodology enables complex projects to be tackled flexibly in dynamic environments. It is based on regular deliveries of "intermediate products". Project teams using Scrum work in so-called sprints. This means that they divide the development processes into short, usually two-week sequences (sprints), at the end of which they deliver a finished intermediate product. The method is ideal for managing projects within a complex environment that requires quick results and where flexibility is a prerequisite.

2. Kanban: Kanban is just as present in agile PM as Scrum. The central tool here is the Kanban board. The team's tasks are usually shown on individual cards in three columns: planned, in progress, completed. The task cards also indicate who is working on them. The Kanban board provides a very clear overview of the progress of projects for everyone involved at all times.

Kanban-Board on Stackfield
The Kanban board for task management is one of the central functions on Stackfield

3. Design Thinking: This method describes a process in which an interdisciplinary team develops innovative ideas for the best possible fulfilment of the customer's wishes. There is no fixed sequence of project phases, but the result is continually optimised on the basis of repeated tests and feedback.

4. Lean: The lean process is also orientated entirely towards customer requirements. To avoid wasting resources, work processes are optimised and constantly improved. The aim is to increase value and maximise product quality.

Methods in hybrid project management

Hybrid project management is always a combination of classic and agile models. Thanks to the large number of possible combinations, each project can be designed entirely according to individual requirements.

Examples of hybrid project management methods:

  • Waterfall model + Scrum: The overall project is mainly carried out using the waterfall model. Individual phases of the project - in this case the implementation phase - can be carried out as Scrum with sprints. All other phases are then carried out traditionally.
  • Scrum + V-model: This hybrid method starts with Scrum. First, a preliminary end product is developed in several rounds. This is then tested for quality using the V-model. In this model, your team can realise its full creative potential with a high degree of planning security.
  • Kanban + Waterfall model: A Kanban board is used in the successive project phases of the waterfall model: this makes it easier to visualise the various tasks and also the progress of the sub-projects. This allows you to simplify capacity planning and thus avoid unexpected bottlenecks and stress in your team.

What roles are there in hybrid project management?

While there is a project manager in traditional project management, the product owner or scrum master in agile project management has no superior function for the team members.

In hybrid project management, the allocation of roles always depends on the chosen combination of methods and the requirements of the project in question. One thing is clear: the allocation of roles and responsibilities should be defined from the outset. For example, who communicates with customers and stakeholders? How the allocation of roles looks in detail and whether the classic or agile variant is more suitable is best decided jointly by those involved in the project.

Hybrid project management: practical examples from various industries

How can hybrid project management support companies in practice? In principle, hybrid project management is always an advantage when complex requirements meet changing framework conditions.

For example, in the logistics sector: on the one hand, fixed deadlines must be met, and on the other, numerous interfaces often require quick adjustments. With a hybrid approach, it is possible to combine high reliability and the fulfilment of time-critical tasks with maximum flexibility.

Even software development no longer relies exclusively on agile methods: The flexible target design and iterative approach still ensure high product quality. At the same time, the integration of classic project management methods makes projects more efficient and cost-effective.

Digitalisation is not stopping at the construction industry: collaboration between the various trades is also changing dramatically in property projects. The focus is increasingly on shared responsibility for the success of the entire construction project. Hybrid project management offers the opportunity to select the appropriate method for each construction phase.

Hybrid project management - the best of both worlds!

Traditional project management is often too inflexible and outdated in the fast-moving business world. But that doesn't mean you have to do away with it completely. With hybrid project management, your team works with the perfect mix of flexibility and predictability. You can always choose new methods depending on the case.

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Cristian Mudure
About the Author:
Cristian Mudure is the Founder and CEO of Stackfield. He loves digital business models and spends his spare time on the tennis court.
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