Agile vs. Waterfall approach

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    As every transaction is unique, I was wondering if the information gathering process should follow a waterfall approach or is it more useful to conduct DD with an agile mindset.


    I believe it is a combination of both. There should be some formal waterfall process to handle different DD workstreams together and probably a more agile approach that every workstream can use.


    I made great experience with an agile project management approach this year. My last M&A project was highly complex and many stakeholders were involved, furthermore there were many changes during the process so we had to stay flexible. All this are good reasons for an agile approach. I even used a agile tool to track and report (Jira).


    The choice of approach for conducting due diligence (DD) will depend on the specific circumstances of the transaction, including the nature and complexity of the target company, the timeline for the transaction, and the resources available. However, in general, it can be helpful to apply an agile mindset when conducting DD.

    Benefits in agile approach to DD includes faster results, improved accuracy through analysis of smaller chunks of information in each sprint, flexibility and foster collaboration.

    However, waterfall may be appropriate in situations where it is operating in a highly structured and regulated industry like the financial services where all relevant information is collected and analysed thoroughly.

    Chuck Adams

    In my experience, it’s definitely a mixture of both. Our firm splits the M&A transaction process into six Phases, and while there is a clear “waterfall” between each phase, the intra-phase work, like due diligence, is much more agile-like. Daily updates, verifying progress on single items, etc.


    There are a lot of practices that can be used from agile principles such as collaboration. However, it is less like IT development. For example, there is no MVP DD that can be created so I wonder how others see that.


    This is an interesting question because traditionally my teams conducting the financial analysis and dd have very little exposure to what Agile or waterfall means.

    This means I typically employ an agile approach but avoid using the terms to keep them out of the details. In the background, I might use Jira or other to help me track my tasks. The output on our teams progress will look like a status report but I keep the agile terms and tools behind the curtain to avoid any confusion or spending time training people.


    I would agree with the speakers above – a mixture of both seems to work best. DD is a project per se, and given the roles of the participants, it is not always possible to count on strict agile practices implementation for the whole thing. I would say that waterfall as a macro – governing approach- and agile as a micro process worked best. This way you would guarantee that key milestones and dependencies / gateways are controlled as in waterfall while functional teams at a micro level enjoy the benefits of agile methods, practices and deliver their outputs with greater efficiency.


    This is an interesting question to me, as I have only formally encountered waterfall vs. agile terminology in the context of product development. I agree with the above comments that a mix of the two methods is probably the best. A typical Gantt chart may be useful for documenting overall timelines, milestones, and deliverables to ensure nothing is missed, but taking an agile approach would be more practical. No need to delay working on the next step of diligence if there is a blocker at an earlier stage that may not be a pre-requisite to the next step. It may also serve to surface issues faster taking an Agile approach vs. waterfall, which could save time and money if a deal is abandoned.


    I think the approach depends on your organization. Althouth many organizations are moving to agile there are still some organization that are successful with using waterfall.

    Vishal Patel

    Waterfall will prolong the DD duration. Agile will allow multiple workstreams to work parallelly and identify risks earlier in the process.

    Ilze Skadina

    In many cases, a hybrid approach that combines elements of both waterfall and agile methodologies may be the most effective. For example, setting clear milestones and phases (waterfall) while allowing for regular reassessment and adjustments (agile) can provide a balanced approach to information gathering in due diligence.

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