Comparing something with nothing . . .

Exceeding Initial Estimates Is a Waterfall Failure!

by Conrad Weisert
July 3, 2010

©2010, Information Disciplines, Inc.
This article may be circulated freely, as long as the copyright credit is included.


Another recent presentation proclaiming the superiority of "agile" programming, listed a number of ways in which traditional project management often fails. One of those ways, which the speaker found particularly damning, was the fact that a majority of traditional projects exceed their initial estimates of cost and duration by more than 60%.

That sounds awful. Surely we ought to embrace any alternative methodology that offers an improvement.

The presentation then went on to explain the benefits of incremental development. Although the speaker didn't explain why, that solves the problem. With incremental development1 there are no initial estimates of cost and duration. So I suppose that we can take comfort in knowing that not a single incremental development project will exceed it's initial estimates.

Unsurprisingly, the speaker embellished his argument by calling phase-limited commitment "the waterfall approach", a loaded and inaccurate term used only as a put-down.


1—As presented by that speaker and by various other presentations and articles. Some other promoters of incremental development claim that they do indeed make initial estimates and that those estimates turn out to be reasonably accurate.

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Last modified (footnote added) August 2, 2010