What Is Rolling Wave Planning?

Sometimes the whole picture is unclear when you are planning a project. But with a traditional project management methodology, like a waterfall, you define everything first and then you’m stuck with it.

But the waterfall methodology is only one way to manage a project. Other project managers prefer a more iterative process, like scrum. Others still prefer forms of agile software development, in which they have room to customize their project plan. This type of agile project management is called rolling wave design or wave design.

Rolling wave design may not be suitable for every project, but it may be for you. Wave planning, project management software and a skilled and experienced team may just be the combination for project success for you.

What is rolling wave design?

Rolling wave design is a type of project schedule that focuses on iterative work and frequent updates to the project plan. This is a project planning technique for projects that do not offer all the data needed to create a plan or schedule in advance.

This is not to say that the project starts without a plan. It starts like most projects, with a Work Breakdown (WBS) structure for tasks, work packages and products across the project scope. The difference in rolling wave design is that the WBS is filled only according to the current knowledge of the project manager.

Then, the project plan develops as more details become clear. This project planning technique is like putting the rail in front of the train as you progress. By doing so, the work always moves forward in short sprints along the project stages, while project planning takes place in the background to offer guidelines after performing the short-term tasks.

Although it is usually applied for agile software development or new product development, it can be used for other projects that may not move at the same speed.

Advantages of rolling wave design

A rolling wave plan is very helpful when the project plan has a lot of uncertainty. When you need to manage risks, rolling wave design is set up to allow you to turn around as needed if one of these risks becomes a problem. It gives you space to address these issues and resolve them before they become issues.

Outside of risky projects, rolling wave design allows you to ensure that you identify all the key details for the scope of the project you are about to carry out. This gives team members a clear picture of the work items they need to do in the immediate future of the project schedule. This makes the likelihood of purchase as well as warranty.

Of course, one of the most important benefits of using a rolling wave design technique is that it gives you space to move around the project. With traditional project management methodologies, you are often stuck with your plan. With rolling wave design, the plan can change quickly.

In order to make changes, the progress of the project must be monitored. ProjectManager is a cloud-based project management software that tracks the project in real time and allows you to see and address issues quickly. Our live dashboard is like an instant status report whenever you want. Stay up to date on project progress and performance by trying ProjectManager for free.

Get a high-level view of your rolling wave program with ProjectManager’s real-time dashboard.—Learn more!

Which industries benefit from using rolling wave design?

A rolling wave design technique is suitable for projects where all project design data is not immediately available and when project execution is dangerous. Typically, rolling wave design is mainly used for software development.

But there are other projects and industries that are well suited for rolling wave design and its iterative type of project design. For example, research and development (R&D) projects. These projects are not built to end with a product that can be known. They are researching and hoping to discover new products or services.

Similarly, high-tech projects are suitable for designing rolling waves. Any project dedicated to innovation will constantly turn to seizing opportunities. They are not in a linear trajectory. They require the flexibility to respond when features change, but still provide the control needed to deliver any project successfully.

Rolling wave design versus agile sprints

We have already mentioned agile sprints, which are periods when you perform tasks. They are also a very iterative type of project planning. But are they synonymous with rolling wave programs?

Well, both are iterative ways of working. Both involve having daily stand-up meetings before working on the assigned tasks. So there are similarities between designing rolling waves and agile sprints.

But they are not interchangeable project management techniques. Rolling wave design is more appropriate when you are working with neat tasks in a tight project schedule. While it is true that rolling wave planning is planning only in the near term, the tasks are sequential and the deadline fixed.

Sprint is a way to work in a nimble project environment that is not so focused on task sequences or the critical path. Also, deadlines can be more flexible. Therefore, the design of rolling waves and agile sprints of Scrum share some features, but they are different, and should not be applied randomly. Find the one that works best as part of your project plan.

Stages of rolling wave design

Designing rolling waves is a great way to keep your project meeting its scope, schedule and budget requirements while maintaining creativity. It is often difficult for project managers to keep these two ideas in mind. Meeting the requirements means that there is structure, and creativity is known to be loose.

But by learning how to design rolling waves, project managers can reduce uncertainty and maintain a project planning framework that allows for flexibility in creative work. Project managers can track, schedule and update their plans by performing the six rolling wave planning steps.

  • Level 1: The project manager begins the process by identifying risks and planning to reduce their impact if they appear in the project. The project manager will also discuss the project requirements with the team, when they should be met and who will work on them. Next, the roles and responsibilities for the team are described.
  • level2: Working with the team, developing a schedule, budget and what resources you need. The WBS will be helpful at this point when you define the tasks and outcomes in the project. The larger project is divided into smaller ones called Horizons. This can be detailed in the Ghent chart.
  • Step 3: Design the first iteration, often called a wave, which means adding details to a job you have already done. Tighten the timeline, budget and resources needed for the wave. When the team is working, the project manager should start planning the next wave.
  • Step 4: Create a timeline, cost, and scope to make sure your wave meets its deadline, budget, and uses the resources you allocate for it.
  • Step 5: The first wave begins. Teams work on their tasks and the project manager monitors and monitors their progress and performance. The project manager will also work to reduce uncertainty in the later stages of the project.
  • Step 6: Continue this iteration process until you reach the end of the project. When the project closes, do a post-mortem to discuss what they did and did not work on, so you can start the next project on a better basis.

How ProjectManager helps design rolling waves

Running a project with rolling wave design requires the flexibility of project management software that allows you to prepare and modify plans, track progress and connect teams. ProjectManager is cloud based, and provides the real-time data you need to watch the live project and has the tools to change the program quickly and easily.

Create in-depth project plans in Ghent charts

Project managers need to plan the project with a tool that can make changes without investing too much time and effort. ProjectManager’s online Gantt chart can drag and drop dates to new dates, which fits the entire schedule. You can also set a baseline for calculating project variance and filter for the critical path. You can share the Gantt with your team and stakeholders to keep everyone on the same page.

Project Manager Ghent Chart

Work the way you want with multiple project views

ProjectManager has multiple project views that allow anyone to work the way they want. For example, teams can use the Kanban tool to manage their backlog and plan how they will perform tasks. You can add files to tasks and respond to them, and keep teams collaborating even if you are not physically working together. Managers can examine the visual workflow of the cannabis, and then, they can allocate resources to their staff to keep them at work in output.

ProjectManager's Kanban Board

Get real-time data on dashboards

It is important that you have a clear picture of your project to see issues and make changes in real time. The live dashboard is great for high-level display, you can dig deeper with reports with one click. Generate reports on project variance, project status or even portfolio status, costs, workload, time sheets and more. You can filter reports to see only the information you are interested in. Then, easily share them with stakeholders to update them.

ProjectManager Status Report Filter

ProjectManager is an award-winning software that organizes your work and creates efficiency that helps you increase productivity. Join the tens of thousands of teams in diverse organizations like Siemens, Nestle and the University of Illinois that are already using our tool to deliver success. Try ProjectManager today for free!

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