Hybrid project management best of both worlds

Is HYBRID the new buzzword? We have hybrid cars, hybrid grapes, hybrid generators…what about hybrid project management? What is the foundation of this hybrid trend?

From the sixties until late in the 20th century, project managers used the Work Breakdown Structure, or WBS, to manage complex projects. It was the only game in town and every project manager was trained to use this method.

Upon release of the desktop version of Microsoft project in 1984, the WBS, or waterfall as some would call it, became much easier to handle. Managers could plan and share their projects with their teams and the executive managers.

The WBS concept is simple: before starting a project, you plan everything that needs to be done upfront. Afterwards, you break down the big pieces or tasks to smaller pieces or subtasks and you continue doing so until each task is small enough and well defined. Most frequent problems encountered with WBS are that at the beginning of the projects, all facts are not known and in addition, the requirement changes, the market changes, and the customer has new requests.

As of the early 21th century, Agile project management became the next best thing, as the waterfall was considered too restrictive and not able to handle rapid market changes. It was believed that the Agile method with its lean approach would solve all the waterfall problems.

The main advantage about Agile is that the customer sees the results in a very short time after the project has started and can manage the delivery of requirements change. Thanks to the Agile flexibility, the requirements changes don’t derail the project. However, not all projects are made equal, and not all teams can adjust to one method or the other. So, what should a project manager do when starting a new project?

It is true that it is extremely hard to accurately estimate upfront when the Agile project will be completed, as each sprint the situation is re-evaluated in such a way that constant changes to the requirements are bound to cause project planning changes. This leads us to the question if the waterfall is not the right method and Agile is not for all projects, then how can a project manager overcome pitfalls?

The good news is that a new project management method called ‘hybrid project management’ is gaining popularity and acceptance. Hybrid combines the best of Agile and the work breakdown structure to create a new project management method that fits the majority of the projects. The beauty of the hybrid project management method is that it lets the team plan before starting to work on the project, but also divides the development cycle into short-term deliveries called sprints.

Hybrid can handle requirement changes and, due to its iterative nature, can deliver products in stages. As soon as the product reaches the minimum viable product, or MVP, it can be shipped and the development team can continue on future enhancements.

The planning is done using the waterfall approach in hybrid, whereas the execution and delivery are handled by the Agile method. This hybrid approach makes the planning and project estimation a lot more accurate. At the same time, the team can react faster to market changes and align its deliverables.


Hybrid projects are managed by a Project Manager using WBS methodology who has overall ownership and responsibility for the project. A Scrum Master supports the Project Manager by executing each Agile Sprint. Continuous Team Collaboration is required for ongoing reporting, analysis and management review.

Most important roles in hybrid project management are:

  • Hybrid is independent of management structure and there is no requirement for a formal Project Management Office (PMO) and can run independently from a Project Management Office.
  • He Project Manager assumes the role of a Product Manager. There is only the role of Project Manager or product manager in Hybrid project management method. He or she is considered the business owner of the project. The Project Manager and (the)Scrum master(s) share direct responsibility for different segments of the project. He or she has overall project responsibility and ownership over the project.
  • The Project Manager is primarily concerned with the front end of the project flow (product requirements, customer feedback, components definition and WBS), whereas Scrum Masters are responsible for the backend of the project flow (backlogs, sprints and releases).

Below is a schematic of hybrid project management flow is shown.

In Waterfall, the entire project plan is scoped and planned before the start of the project. In Agile, only the first sprint is planned. Hybrid Project Management requires a complete project plan but the specific details of each sprint are not defined until the first sprint is completed. The Project Manager has overall Planning responsibility and each Sprint is managed by the Scrum Master.

Hybrid project management follows the Agile methodology. At each iteration, customer feedback is sought, testing occurs and fixes made to enable continuous improvement. The outcome of each iteration is formalized. Formal method is used to define the outcome for each iteration.

The Project Manager is assigned overall project ownership, and the individual Scrum Master is responsible for executing the Sprint in Hybrid. Reporting is a joint responsibility requiring continuous collaboration and communication between the project manager and the Scrum Master.


Hybrid is not a new methodology, but a fusion of two older methodologies. It has been practiced by experienced project managers for many years under different names. Recently the name “Hybrid Project Management” has gained acceptance. Hybrid is a new way of doing things, having a short focus on product features and a long focus on the final result. Hybrid is a formal methodology and is gaining traction with both academics and professionals. Structured Agile and Hybrid are the same methodologies with two different names. Hybrid project management is a better description of the underlying methodology. There is no risk of diluting one methodology versus the other, in fact hybrid project management brings out the best of both worlds. There is no risk of either doing Agile or Waterfall not properly; it reinforces doing both better and more professionally.

The project management software that is best suited to support Hybrid is a project management software that integrates both Agile (Kanban, Scrum etc.) and Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), such as:

  • Wrike (online project management software to set priorities & align your team to work faster & smarter across the organisation),
  • SmartSheet: a powerful online collaboration platform,
  • Asana (web and mobile application designed to help teams organize, track, and manage their work).

A common example of hybrid project management is a project manager who sets up a planning via the Waterfall methodology as the company is still organised in corporate releases and the execution of the project is managed in Agile way to guarantee swifter delivery.

All industries can use Hybrid. For very short projects of less than 3 months, it is better to use Agile only. Hybrid can work in organisations of all sizes.

As hybrid is not commonly known, some special training may be needed. If people are trained on both Agile and Waterfall there is less to learn. The challenge is to get into the mind-set of having sprints for short term delivery and in parallel organizing for the long-term product success.


The hybrid methodology deals with changes in a flexible way, has a strong orientation towards market needs, and will shorten project duration. Such expressions appear very quickly with the description of hybrid project management. They also always fit to agile approaches. Where flexibility is propagated, shorter development times are promised and results that are coordinated exactly for these target groups. Embarking with hybrid project management implies you should register more than just the general advantages and also recognize your concrete requirements and you should consider how you want to establish a bimodal approach.

From within one organization, there are often different approaches: that is how the development area works agile with methods like Scrum, Kanban or Extreme Programming, whilst other areas like sales, controlling, marketing and communication work traditionally, with the classic approach. Consequently, in such a hybrid organization, the approaches adapt to the organizational structure and efficiency improvements can be realized in individual areas, whereas the bigger business potential remains unused.

Hybrid project management tries to link classic organizational structures and procedures with agile aspects. In such cases it is important to maintain an information exchange between the participants in the procedure. That is how stakeholders can take part in sprint reviews organised by the Scrum master and in the regular meetings of the project management organization. Information can be delivered through caused by marketing or sales activities and feedback from these areas can be used for the sprint planning. Decisions are easier to comprehend with open communication, and the understanding for other business areas and the acceptance of a common approach increases.


Recently there has been a significant increase in popularity of Agile methodologies at the expense of Waterfall. Both Agile and Waterfall have their strengths and weakness and each is suitable for different scenarios. In fact, many organizations attempt to use different aspects of Agile and Waterfall. Hybrid project management promises huge gains in improving product delivery and time to market compared with other methods.

Hybrid Project Management combines the formal and Agile methods to create a new project management method. Hybrid employs the thoroughness of Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) with speed and lean benefits of Agile for a new project management method which is both detailed and fast. Most projects benefit from using Hybrid project management method. Only very small projects don’t require the combination of a hybrid method. Experiences teach us that managing large projects with hybrid enabled us to deliver product enhancements every month. At the same time, we can focus on the final goal without getting distracted. Hybrid is not measured via special metrics, but as all other methodologies, time to market, cost, and quality of output are the most commonly used metrics.

Advantages are faster product delivery, much earlier exposure on issues, and a better final result. For the moment, there are no major disadvantages.

Initio is the international brand of the Square group, a European leader in business consultancy for the financial sector with over 750 employees in 4 countries. The Business Lines of Project Management & Governance and Innovation & Digital, cover over 200 highly qualified consultants capable of assisting clients on a multitude of project management & digital transformation related topics.

By Sandy Everaerts consultant at Initio

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