When, Why, and How to use the Agile-Waterfall Hybrid Model

Written by: Hanna Taller

Read Time: 3 minutes

Plan with Waterfall, execute with Agile, and speed up the whole process

The Agile-Waterfall Hybrid model is essentially a combination of Agile practices and the Waterfall method. At first, you might think that these two methods are so fundamentally different that they could not possibly be used together in the same project. Although there are great differences between Agile and Waterfall, combining them is far from impossible. In fact, it can lead to benefits that cannot be achieved by using either Agile or Waterfall on its own.

The article below covers the common scenarios when Hybrid can be used. I also talk about why this can be a good approach in certain situations, and how the Hybrid method should be used in those cases.

When to use Agile-Waterfall Hybrid?

The Agile-Waterfall Hybrid model can be used in two typical scenarios:

  1. The product consists of (equally important) hardware and software components
  2. The product is a piece of software which has back-end and front-end technology

There is also a third subscenario for Hybrid software development. In most cases, software projects are started to fulfil a customer request. It's still relatively common that the client does not like the full Agile approach, as the budget and timeframe due to the lack of a detailed planning phase cannot be defined and fixed well in advance. In this case, the Hybrid model can be a good solution. The Waterfall approach can be used for application design, planning, and requirements definition, while an Agile method is used for development and testing.


Why take the Hybrid approach?

“Plan with Waterfall, execute with Agile, and speed up the whole process.”

Waterfall is not a speedy methodology. Deliverable results will only show at the end of the development cycle, so it could take months or even years before the customer sees the final product. Agile shortens the delivery time, and makes it easy to gather feedback in the early stages to better suit customer requirements.

The main reasons for using the Agile-Waterfall Hybrid model are:

  • Shortens design, analysis and planning, but lets you define project frames including budget and time of delivery
  • Maintain compliance with standards
  • Enhance collaboration
  • When the adoption of the Agile culture is problematic, Hybrid is a good first step

Don’t forget that the Hybrid model requires strong collaboration between the two types of teams. Therefore, special communication forms and channels have to be implemented. Usually, those using the Hybrid model need training for both types of teams so as to make sure they all understand the basics as well as the benefits of taking this approach.


How to use the Hybrid method?

Below, you'll find some tips on using the Agile-Waterfall Hybrid model in practice.


  • Planning, design and requirements definition can be done with Waterfall, but development and test in short sprints using Agile (Scrum)
  • Implement new types of communication channels, and a collaborative software tool to support information exchange, data consistency, and traceability across the lifecycle
  • Involve Product Owners and clients in the communication early and often
  • Define standard compliance expectations and focus on them in the design-planning phase


In complex Agile-Waterfall Hybrid use cases, teams need adequate tooling to maintain transparency, traceability, and accurate project management. Tooling is a crucial question as relying on insufficient tools (for instance, the infamous combination of Word, Excel, and ticketing tools) could break the success of an otherwise sound implementation of Agile-Waterfall Hybrid model.

Codebeamer is a versatile lifecycle management platform that supports the application of an Agile-Waterfall Hybrid method. The tool helps ensure visibility and seamless collaboration between teams and departments regardless of the methodology they use. To learn more, watch our webinar recording from March 2017 below. 


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Tags: Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) Codebeamer

About the Author

Hanna Taller

Hanna Taller is a content creator for PTC’s ALM Marketing team. She is responsible for increasing brand awareness and driving thought leadership for Codebeamer. Hanna is passionate about creating insightful content centered around ALM, life sciences, automotive technology, and avionics.