Waterfall to Agile - An introduction

Digital is our way of life.

If you’ve ever been on the cusp of a new project, you’ve probably asked yourself: which style of Agile works best? Or you might not even know there are styles of agile to choose from.

In business we often give lip service to things like ‘being future-proofed’ or ‘responsive to our customers’ needs’ or ‘improve the customer experience’—and then we go and deliver things in a rigid and non-responsive waterfall manner. That won’t cut it anymore.

Today’s consumers have endless choices at their fingertips, so you must stand out. The simplest way to do that is by learning from them. That’s where Agile shines. It’s your cheat-sheet to conquering customer experience and minimising risk through delivery. And whatever you choose, you need to learn.

But what’s the best flavour?

Everyone has their favourite, but Scrum and Kanban are the most popular.


It’s ‘The’ framework, practically synonymous with Agile. Scrum works around what developers do when they’re not coding. You have 3 stages:

  1. Sprint planning (picking what to work on from a backlog)
  2. The sprint, which is time-bound, usually 2-4 weeks (with daily meetings about how it’s progressing)
  3. Showcase & Retrospective (demo the product, and discuss the sprint)

Scrum is an iterative process, meaning you adjust for the next sprint as you learn by dragging in tasks from a backlog. It’s like building a house. You start with just essentials, the foundations. Then you listen to your family and build what they can use fastest; bedrooms, toilet, kitchen. You learn as you go and decide what’s needed next. For 2021, it could be a home gym or office.

Scrum makes all your information transparent and helps your teams stay current and adapt. Instead of blindly following predictions, you can deftly side-step common pitfalls.


Kanban helps you track and visualise your workflow by moving a ‘card’ through a cycle of ‘to do’, ‘in progress’ and ‘done’. It’s all about efficiency and not producing a surplus.

The stages are:

  1. Ideation (defining product features with critical stakeholders)
  2. Replenishment meeting (like sprint planning in Scrum)
  3. Development (pulling in only work devs can manage)
  4. Acceptance (marking delivered items as done)
  5. Production (sending out the product, then starting from square one to improve it)

Kanban gives you fantastic insight into the resources used in your process. Each activity ties directly to your needs, so nothing gets produced unless it benefits you. Where Scrum is iterative, Kanban is continuous.

Kanban’s design makes life easy and avoids resistance. It helps you make small changes continuously, improving quality and lead time as you go.

How do I choose what’s best for me?

Scrum vs Kanban is like a glass of bourbon vs an Old Fashioned. The base is the same, but the taste is different. And situations sometimes call for one over the other. “Which will I learn the most from?” should be your first thought.

When to use Scrum

Worried about Google’s impending update tanking your website rankings but aren’t sure how to stay ahead? When you’re unsure what needs to change at the start of a project, or you’ve got an immediate need for change, Scrum is your friend.

It’s perfect for custom software development and if you’re hunting down goals with clear deadlines. You’ll get the most out of your self-organising, cross-functional teams with Scrum.

When to use Kanban

When you want to make your teams more effective and reduce their workloads. Or if you have a process that works fine but still needs some optimisation.

It’s great for user experience/interface design and grants a sense of flow and investment that helps you gradually improve your tried and tested processes.

And the survey says…

Agile is almost always the best way to improve your digital estate as a digital-focused business. Whichever route you choose to go down, there’s one thing you should remember.

Whatever you choose, make sure you can learn from it.

You often see businesses tackle digital projects with agency partners that are agile themselves but fail to embed into your team. It leaves you with a classic ‘too many cooks’ situation and a pot of something utterly inedible. When choosing a partner, look for one you can learn from and takes the time to explain the process. Chances are they know their stuff.


Don’t worry if it’s new to you and you’re unsure where to go next. We’ve been championing Agile for a while now. We’ve lots we can share to guide you to a successful digital strategy. Contact us today.