People & Culture

Waterfall to WAgile: Why flexibility & leadership is the best approach to project management

Notitia Data Analytics Project Manager, Kelly McAteer, has experienced the extremes in her project management journey. From the most rigid waterfall environments to the fluidity of pure agility, and everything in between, including the intriguing 'WAgile' approach.

May 1, 2024

Kelly McAteer

Notitia Data Analytics Project Manager, Kelly McAteer, says flexibility and leadership is the best approach to project management.

From waterfall to WAgile: How Notitia Data Analytics Project Manager, Kelly McAteer learnt that flexibility and leadership is the best approach to project management.

Kelly McAteer brings a unique perspective to data analytics and a strong passion for health data, with a doctorate in medical science and first class honours in health science. Her time in complex government agencies underpins her expertise in the delivery of large scale technology transformation projects and SaaS platforms. She has extensive experience in both on-premise and cloud technology stacks (specifically customer relationship management systems including Salesforce and SAP CRM). Alongside specialist knowledge in software design, modern UI/UX design principles, system architecture, data modelling and cross platform integration. Questions? Book a chat with Kelly here.

As a project manager, over the past six years I've been deeply immersed in some of the most thrilling and complex IT projects.

From steering one of the largest transformation projects in the southern hemisphere to navigating the intricacies of managing customer product requests for a software product worth over $15 million, each project has been a unique adventure.

I've experienced the extremes, from the most rigid waterfall environments to the fluidity of pure agility, and everything in between, including the intriguing 'WAgile' approach.

The Waterfall Methodology

I have learned that there is no one-stop solution to project management. Dr. Winston Royce published the original paper that inspired the waterfall methodology.

I say “inspired” because that was never the original intent of the paper.

Everyone saw Figure 2 of 10 and ran with it, saying this was the way that we needed to develop software and, therefore, manage projects.

Agile Methodology

The polar opposite of Waterfall is pure agility. And like most methods, Agile too has its pitfalls.

I was once told by someone working in the industry that you should never set deadlines, because it puts unreasonable expectations on your developers.

On a separate occasion, from a different person, I’ve been asked why I care so much about deadlines.

The most extreme example was when someone proposed to me that we do away with technical specifications altogether. And just build things.

This type of thinking is okay in a purely theoretical sense, but the reality is that people are paying us for our services or our products.

Rightly, they expect a return on their investment, whether it's a working piece of software, a training session, or a thing to be done in a certain amount of time.

That is the reality of the world we operate in. It is why these two extremes of working tend to fail when deployed into an organisation.

Project Management at Notitia

So, how does this apply to the work that we do at Notitia?

It is actually quite simple; “be flexible”.

You not only need to be flexible with the work that you do, but flexible in the way you do that work and how you manage your projects.

No two projects are managed in the same way, and that is through necessity.

Our clients have complex problems, and each requires a different frame of thinking to help them solve them.

Web development projects are managed entirely differently from analytics projects because they require different frames of thinking and have their unique requirements (see our case studies here).

A “one-size-fits-all” framework does not and will not work in this environment. I’ve seen this deployed elsewhere and fail time and time again.

Empathy and Leadership

What I've found to be truly effective is a leadership approach that puts people at the forefront.

As a project manager, your emotional intelligence is your most powerful tool. It's not just a desirable trait, but a crucial skill for success in our industry.

Projects are complex and, as with human nature, so are the people involved.

Navigating these complexities with empathy and understanding, while still providing the necessary leadership, is the key to your team and organisation's success.

You may have heard the term “servant leadership” thrown around if you have any interest in people management. Simply put, this is the concept of achieving authority rather than demanding it from your team.

Rather than assigning your team tasks that are predefined and serve simply as another tick in your Gantt chart, you empower them to think about the things that need to be done.

Bring your colleagues on the journey and give them the power to do the work in the way that they want to, while keeping in mind the context of the customer and the problem statement.

This is what we strive for at Notitia - and you can see it in our culture, our values and the way we work.

In short, the most important thing to remember is the people at the centre of your problem.

At the end of the day, the people and problems we work with are complex. To be successful in this industry, you need to have a rapidly evolving and extensive skill set to deal with whatever may come your way.

But that helps to keep things interesting.

> Read more about Adelaide-based Notitia Analytics Manager, Kelly McAteer <
Kelly works alongside the wider Notitia team, in person with our
Adelaide office and virtually across our Melbourne & Canberra teams.

Speak to one of Notitia's team or contact us here, to find out how we can help solve your challenges through data.

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