Master Transition From Waterfall to Agile

Arun Singh

Sr Product Manager at Blume Global



Starting to work in a company that follows a waterfall model might be a little chaotic; a lot of things happen haphazardly. We had a team of about 30 - 40 people, which was still good enough because we did not have too many loose ends. As we progressed and grew the company, the team size scaled to about 300 people, and the tumultuous waterfall model did not work anymore. It started falling apart as more people had to work overtime and during weekends, which of course, added stress.

Together as company leaders, we decided that it was certainly not the way to scale and grow. We started taking our first steps towards being agile. Bringing in the concept of agile development, rather than the waterfall model, was a whole different set of challenges because we were driving “change.” The change was not going to be easy, as expected, and before we headed towards a disaster, we took some initiatives.

Actions taken

First and foremost, not every individual in the team is on the same level for change. Some adapt very quickly, while others take some time. We brought everyone together and explained to them the importance of agile so that the change was more organic in nature than forceful. On the other hand, we were aware of the challenges during the first few iterations, and the mistakes many might make in the process.

Then, we spoke with our CEO to keep things transparent. Of course, the CEO needed some clarity on the transition phase and how everything will fall into place after a couple of months. Eventually, some of the things are better managed now. We have better visibility of our resources and capacities, which helps us plan with no trouble.

Earlier, the process was more like, we bite into something and then start chewing it, but now we know how much we can chew, so we bite only that much. Planning before the sprint does help us to begin with a shared understanding of what we will work for. This could be an initial plan to approach the sprint in a responsible way that would work.

There were training sessions for employees not to get frightened of the changes or anything that follows in the process. The company took a license from Coursera as an annual plan, which had great free courses. We offered all our employees courses on agile, SAFe agile, product development, scrum master and so on. It was a great start to take some time to learn about the agile methodologies before jumping into them. Many employees had the opportunity to work in an agile environment beforehand, but others 一 like fresh graduates 一 took some time to learn through the process.

Establishing priorities is increasingly important to complete everything that needs to be done. I would always pay more attention to customers, and urgent tasks, so that later I could focus on lower priority tasks. For example, I would always put an existing customer first, rather than a new one, because the current customer has put his faith and invested in our company to get the best solutions. I cannot even think of getting a new customer without fulfilling the needs of my existing one.

Lessons learned

  • Remember that your existing customers are your highest priority over any of your potential customers. This will build a reliable customer base, and that will bring in more customers if you can keep the show running.
  • When developing a product roadmap, you also have to keep in mind that you are acquiring it to win. Create some points of interest and differentiation that will distinguish you from competitors. Find the unique selling point that will dazzle the users.

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Arun Singh

Sr Product Manager at Blume Global

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