I’m often asked which project management approach is best agile or predictive? My standard answer is: “you’re asking the wrong question.” The correct question is “which project management approach should I use for my project, agile or predictive. Both approaches have value.
The predictive approach works best when requirements and constraints are fully understood such that detailed plans can be developed and the project work can move forward following that plan. Infrastructure/building construction projects lend themselves best to predictive work because the building requirements can be easily documented onto architectural plans and the building constructed against those plans.
The agile approach works best when the requirements are not stable and/or the customer is not exactly sure what they want as an end product. Software development and research and development projects are often good candidates for an agile project. In these environments, the team will need to collaborate with the customer to determine needs and develop and demonstrate the product engaging with the customer throughout the project. Agile projects normally develop and deliver working products incrementally throughout the life of the project, thus demonstrating progress and providing value sooner than later.
In summary, predictive projects deliver products to the customer while agile projects deliver products with the customer.