Traditional vs Agile Project Management – Which one wins the tug of war?


The tug of war between traditional vs agile project management is taking over the business world now. Most companies find it hard to decide which one to choose and apply. 

Therefore, in this blog, we’ll first explore what these two methodologies are, their differences as well as some key indicators on how to choose the best one for your organization. 

What is Traditional Project Management?


Traditional project management, also known as the waterfall methodology, can be described as:

The linear approach where processes occur in a predictable sequence. In this approach, a fixed process method is applied where the requirements remain the same while the budget and project timeline can be changed.”

Thus, traditional project management is typically used for easy projects where the predictability of change is relatively low. Various methodologies are used in this approach and some of its major benefits are highlighted below.

Benefits of Traditional Project Management

Although it is an old methodology for handling projects, it still bears some great benefits when applied to suitable projects. These include:

1. Clarity of Direction

Since all the requirements are predefined and the project execution plan remains unchanged, the whole team is clear on their tasks. There is lesser ambiguity and increased transparency through this method. The team can work effectively with minimum supervision under this technique. 

2. High Control

Traditional project management also derives from higher control. The project manager has all the authority and any changes or additions required must pass through him before applying. Thus, there are lesser hierarchical issues and increased control or supervision. 

3. Clear Documentation

This approach accounts for clear documentation of the projects throughout their course. It is not only beneficial for record-keeping but also for later use in similar projects. 

4. Increased Accountability 

In traditional project management, there is one single source held for accountability of any kind, i.e, the project manager. The stakeholders as well as the team are clear on whom to contact in case of any failure or change. Thus, it increases the accountability process. 

Traditional Project Management Sequential Lifecycle

The sequential lifecycle in traditional project management is built up of 5 different stages. These include:

  1. Initiation
  2. Planning 
  3. Execution
  4. Monitoring 
  5. Closure 

What is Agile Project Management?

Traditional vs Agile project management has been a center of various research and blogs. But let’s first understand what agile project management applies to. 

Agile Project Management can be described as, 

“An iterative approach to deliver a project throughout its lifecycle.”

The iterative approach helps to break down the project into several stages to increase adaptability and velocity. Thus, agile project management releases benefits throughout the process rather than at the end of the project. It is more adaptive with frequent changes taking place. 

There are four essential values of the agile manifesto:

  • Focus on people and interactions than processes and tools
  • Working software is more beneficial than comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over negotiations
  • Adaptability to change over blindly following the plan

The 12 principles of agile project management:

  1. Attaining customer satisfaction through continuous delivery of software
  2. Not to be afraid of change 
  3. Delivery of working software within a shorter timescale
  4. Management and developers must work hand in hand with each other
  5. Building projects around motivated individuals
  6. Face-to-face interactions are deemed more effective and efficient
  7. The primary measure of success is working software
  8. Agile processes promote sustainable development
  9. Focus on technical excellence and good design to enhance agility
  10. Simplicity is vital
  11. The best designs and ideas come from self-organized teams
  12. Inspect and adapt 

Thus, agile project management is more flexible and takes less time than the traditional approach for the completion of the project. 

However, let’s have a detailed look at traditional vs agile project management.

Traditional vs Agile Project Management- Differences 

The following table depicts the major differences between traditional vs agile project management:

Traditional Project Management  Agile Project Management
Linear approach Iterative approach   
Best for large-scale projects Best for small and medium-scale projects  
User requirements are pre-defined and unchanged  User requirements keep on involving and changing throughout the project course
Low involvement of stakeholders  High involvement of stakeholders 
The project is delivered after the project lifecycle finishes   The project has an evolutionary delivery model
Customer involvement is only before the project commences  Customer involvement remains intact throughout its development stage
Managers only hold the authority to solve any problems  The whole team works together to solve problems
The traditional model favors anticipation  The agile model prefers adaption
Take processes seriously  Not much attention is paid to the processes and procedures
It involves a detailed test planning  Tests are planned with one sprint at a time
The estimations are done by the project managers on the approval of the executives Estimations are done by the team and facilitated by the scrum master  
Reviews are done by the leaders on the completion of the project  Reviews are done after each iteration is completed

Agile over Traditional Project Management

agile over traditional management

The agile project management approach is taking over the business world due to many reasons. Some of them are stated below:

1. Increased Flexibility 

When it comes to making impulsive decisions, agile is much more flexible than the traditional approach. The team can make changes and carry out experiments any time they feel like the set processes are not working well for them. 

Thus, maintaining the quality of the product is deemed more important than the set plan. This benefit is per the ninth principle of agile methodology. Such changes are easily adaptive in agile and can be inculcated at any time. 

2. Increased Transparency 

It is kind of obvious that agile methodology increases transparency, isn’t it?

Well, in agile methodology, the whole team works together from the initiation stage till its execution. Whereas, in waterfall methodology, the project manager is the sole responsible authority for everything. Thus, it eliminates the involvement of the whole team in making any decisions.

Agile project management, on the other hand, takes the team’s input and ideas as important and increases transparency among the whole team. 

Also, see:

Scrum vs Kanban vs Agile vs Waterfall

3. Greater Accountability and Ownership 

When it comes to accountability and ownership, agile methodology and traditional methodology are like two opposite poles. In waterfall methodology, the project manager has all the authority and he is responsible for sailing the ship. So, good or bad, he has to make all decisions with zero involvement from the clients. 

Whereas in agile methodology, the whole team shares the ownership of the projects. Thus, each team member remains highly active throughout the project. The stakeholders, team members, and executives are all involved in the project and can easily see the progress from the beginning to the end. 

4. Constructive Feedback 

As we already know, in traditional project management all the processes and procedures are pre-defined. The whole team works together to achieve those targets and any kind of feedback along the way is prohibited. Thus, no changes are to be made that might push the deadline or change the requirements

However, the agile approach is the total opposite of that. Constructive feedback and change of requirements are encouraged and adapted throughout the project development timeline. Customers’ demands and satisfaction are considered vital to delivering a high-quality product within the set timeline. 

5. Less-complicated Project Completion

Agile project management supports a less complicated project completion method. The project is divided into various iterations and each iteration brings you a step closer to project completion. 

Moreover, the involvement of the stakeholders helps to ease the processes by getting continuous feedback. Thus, the projects are completed in a less complicated manner and within the timeline. 

Traditional vs Agile Project Management- How to choose the correct approach?

There is no one right answer when it comes to choosing the right methodology. It all depends on the size, needs, goals, and requirements of your project. In most cases, companies tend to use a mix of both approaches according to the needs of the project. 

If we put it in a nutshell, the traditional approach is more suitable for less complicated and repetitive projects while the agile approach is the opposite of it respectively. 

However, below are some key indicators to help you decide which approach to choose for a certain project. 

  • Always take a hint at the requirements of the project. If the project requirements are well-defined and don’t require any change, use the traditional approach. However, if it seems like the requirements may evolve with time then agile is the best option to pick. 
  • If you’re unable to make a guess from the requirements, look at the technology that is involved in the project. Traditional approaches usually involve lesser technology or tools. Whereas in agile methodology new technology and tools are always appreciated. 
  • Predict if the project is prone to unseen risks or not. In case of unseen risks and issues, agile methodology is a better option. Thus, it responds and tackles the risks better than the traditional approach. 
  • Look at the complexity of the project. Agile can work easily around complex projects. The traditional approach is more suitable for projects with repetitive processes where no user involvement is required till the execution stage. 
  • The traditional approach works best around the complex and big teams. Whereas in an agile approach a limited number of experienced people is involved. 

So, traditional vs agile project management, which one to apply, is indeed no longer a tough question. Right? 


Traditional vs Agile project management is a tough choice, however, agile seems to win the case due to its agility and flexibility. Teams tend to work more productively in a less complicated and lenient environment. 

However, it all depends on the requirements of the project. Thus, having a hybrid approach is more suitable than sticking to one of them only. 

Moreover, the use of project management software can also help you to increase efficiency and gain better results as well. 

Therefore, sign-up for a 14-day free trial and explore your way around it, or request a demo for nTask now for a one-to-one consultation.

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