Agile or Waterfall: Which Approach Is Right For You? - mobileLIVE (2023)

Agile or Waterfall: Which Approach Is Right For You? - mobileLIVE (1)

Depending on which study you read, you’ll find failure rates for large IT projects range anywhere from 30 to 90 percent. Whatever the number, it is an astonishing figure considering the strategic importance of many IT initiatives in today’s world. Which begs the question – how can you improve project management and create a scalable framework by utilizing the best attributes of the Agile and Waterfall methodologies?

Let’s take a look together.

Agile and Waterfall—Preeminent Management Methodologies

Project management is difficult, even under the best conditions, with software development projects potentially offering the greatest challenge. Neither business needs nor technology stop evolving, which means projects need to be managed in a highly fluid environment. That’s why it’s vital for your development teams to have a well-defined project methodology in place. By following a structured and scalable framework, project managers can effectively manage the complexity and variability of IT systems as well as the software application(s) being developed. This serves to drive benchmark success and reduce the risk of costly rework.

Two of the most popular project management methodologies are Agile and Waterfall. Both of these are solid, mature methodologies and are popular for diverse reasons. When it comes to choosing between the two, neither is inherently better than the other; rather, it is the project itself and the team that is executing it, that should dictate which methodology is selected.

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In choosing between Agile and Waterfall, consider the situation, tactical goals, the composition of your team, and your culture. Even if your organization supports a particular model, there are usually opportunities to enhance your chosen method. You should tweak or blend the two methodologies to align with your unique needs, handle new challenges, and keep pace with the larger mandate.

To clarify the opportunities and obstacles of both Agile and Waterfall, let’s begin with a deeper dive into each.

The Agile Model

Agile development uses an iterative, incremental approach that emphasizes the rapid delivery of an application in complete and functional components. If all planned work for the project cannot be completed in the current cycle, work is reprioritized, and the information is used for future iterations or “sprint” planning.

Agile practices are best suited to projects that require constant improvements and need the flexibility to adapt to the varying requirements. As tasks are groomed, they can be evaluated by both your development team and the client in order to amend and meet the changing requirements. The multiple development cycles can be executed, with deliverables prioritized by business value.

The objective of each cycle is to deliver a shippable product that can be demoed to provide feedback and shown as evidence of progress. Any recommendations are directed to future iterations. Agile offers the prospect of ongoing improvement and is highly flexible. In today’s fluid market, where software development needs to be fast and efficient, Agile offers an attractive option.


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  • Speed: Working software can be delivered quickly and at a consistent pace.
  • Flexibility: The process adapts to changes as they occur, which allows for immediate client and end-user feedback that can be used in the next iteration.
  • Predictability: Since every cycle is of a fixed-time period, project timelines are easier to predict.
  • Value-focused: Development is often more value-focused, which helps fulfill specific end-user needs.


  • Continuous testing: Testing is needed throughout the project, which can stretch resources and increase costs if not complemented by continuous integration and automation testing.
  • Frequent collaboration: Active customer involvement can add to implementation time and expense if processes are not adapted across your organization.
  • Scope definition complexity: The iterative nature of Agile development can create complications in defining the project scope if iteration goals are not defined properly.
  • Self-organized team: Team members need to possess and exercise multiple skill sets to help each other and remove internal impediments as much as possible.

The following visual demonstrates key recommendations to overcome the aforementioned challenges

Agile or Waterfall: Which Approach Is Right For You? - mobileLIVE (2)

how we mentor and remove impediments because we have

1. Manageable Team size. 2. Single funnel and decision making. 3. automation and seamless integration. 4. collaboration. 5. self organising team. 6. time bound cycle. 7. tool. 8. quick daily update.

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The Waterfall Method

Known as the traditional method of software development, the Waterfall approach is a fixed, linear methodology that comprises sequential Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC) phases. Since each phase is sequential, after a step is completed, rework is typically required to enable your developers to revisit an earlier step to alter the project or its direction.

The methods linear approach makes it simpler to manage and understand. Projects with established requirements to deliver new product(s) with multiple dependencies are good candidates for the Waterfall method.

However, because of the Waterfall methods rigid structure and strict controls, there is little room for modification or error on the part of your team. Therefore, a project acceptance criterion and a detailed plan must be established from the start and followed carefully.


  • Well-documented: Each phase calls for comprehensive documentation, which makes it easier to leverage code of previous projects and develop a solid base for upcoming projects.
  • Firm deadlines: A defined starting point and a fixed evaluation process for each phase make it easier to estimate costs and meet timelines.
  • Well-organized: Clearly defined projects with sequential workflows help simplify status updates to all your project stakeholders.


  • Difficult to modify: Since testing and feedback don’t occur until late in the project, modifications and improvements can be complex and costly to implement.
  • Lack of foresight: Since requirements are often unknown when a project is initiated, designers can’t always foresee problems that may arise out of the implementation process. Thus, Waterfall requires that key team members—and especially the project manager—have worked in similar circumstances.
  • Delivery speed: Due to the sequential approach, your team can’t produce a shippable product until all project phases (SDLC) are completed.

Evaluating Best-Fit Project Types

With its linear model and clear specifications, it might seem that Waterfall may require less time with better control compared to Agile. This is accurate to some degree. However, with Agile and Automation Testing, products can be launched anytime, helping to accelerate time-to-market and revenue generation.

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In terms of evaluating between Agile and Waterfall, neither is intrinsically superior. Depending on the scope, structure and scale of your software project, you’ll usually find one methodology more relevant and useful than the other in specific scenarios. The characteristics of a project help determine which methodology will work best.

Choose Agile when:

  • Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is more pressing than product completeness.
  • Clients have the opportunity to revise the project scope of future deliverables based on market condition and response.
  • You have flexible and expert developers who can think independently.
  • The product is planned for a market with rapidly evolving requirements or standards.

Choose Waterfall when:

  • The end product design and features are clearly defined and determined.
  • Clients have a clear vision and are not expecting to modify the project scope drastically once it has commenced.
  • Product completeness, rather than speed to market, is vital to success.

Optimizing Your Return on Investment

While the idea of following a designated methodology for completing a project makes sense, what happens when your unique project requires elements from both Agile and Waterfall? Simple, you take the best of both worlds and use a hybrid model. For example, we have used agile sprint-based development in Waterfall methodology and it has provided our team with the opportunity to review the outcome after every short cycle of development.

Ultimately, understanding the opportunities and obstacles of these methods will make you and your team better equipped to implement a scalable framework to deliver complex IT systems that meet sustainable growth. Here at mobileLIVE, we’ve successfully delivered hundreds of projects using a combination of Iterative Waterfall, Scrum, and Kanban methodologies, all tailored to the clients’ unique needs.

Agile or Waterfall: Which Approach Is Right For You? - mobileLIVE (3)

The above image clearly demonstrates the scalable approach by leveraging the three methodologies namely Iterative Waterfall, Scrum, and Kanban. At the time of backlog grooming, the stories are assessed, and right methodologies are chosen to develop the enablers

Remember, while the method in which a project is executed is critical, ultimately what really matters is winning business and consistently delivering high-value software that meets end-user performance demands. Reach out to us today and learn how we’ve helped our clients streamline development without sacrificing on value for the end-user, all the while exceeding quality, one time, on budget – every time!

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Interested in learning which approach is right for you? Let’s Connect


Which model is better Agile or Waterfall explain your answer? ›

If the project timeline is fixed and can not be moved, Waterfall will offer a more predictable outcome. If you need to get the project delivered in a short amount of time, Agile is the appropriate choice here where action and getting things built is more important than documentation and process.

Why do you prefer Agile instead of Waterfall? ›

More flexible

Once a step has been completed in Waterfall, it's difficult to go back and make changes. In contrast, Agile builds a working version of the whole project (an MVP) so the customer can shape how it's built.

Can you tell me the difference between Waterfall and Agile in what kind of project should one be applied and not the other? ›

Agile and Waterfall are two popular methods for organizing projects. Waterfall is a more traditional approach to project management, involving a linear flow. Agile, on the other hand, embraces an iterative process. Waterfall is best for projects with concrete timelines and well-defined deliverables.

Why using Agile is a better choice for this project situation? ›

Agile methods can help teams manage work more efficiently and do the work more effectively while delivering the highest quality product within the constraints of the budget.

Is Agile more successful than Waterfall? ›

There is plenty of supporting evidence that Agile wins out over Waterfall Projects. That data comes from 25 years of studying project success and failure rates is pretty clear. Agile projects are 2X more likely to succeed and less than half as likely to fail than Waterfall.

Why is Agile preferred? ›

With Agile software development, teams can quickly adapt to requirements changes without negatively impacting release dates. Not only that, Agile helps reduce technical debt, improve customer satisfaction and deliver a higher quality product.

What is a real life example of a waterfall model? ›

Now that you've grasped the several sectors in which the waterfall model used to be and is still deployed, here is a real-life example of the waterfall model at work. Here, the waterfall model is used to manufacture a tractor, with each of its phases outlining the work that needs to be done.

When should waterfall model be used? ›

When to use the waterfall model. This model is used only when the requirements are very well known, clear and fixed. Product definition is stable. Technology is understood.

What is the main advantage of the Waterfall methodology over Agile approach? ›

They are commonly applied to software development, and thus, project management as well. The main difference between agile and waterfall is that waterfall projects are completed sequentially whereas agile projects are completed iteratively in a cycle.

What type of project is agile best for? ›

Agile is suitable for use on projects that have a level of urgency and complexity attached to it. The agile approach will only be feasible for a project if the goals of the project are properly defined and the project deliverables can be released incrementally.

What type of projects is agile most appropriate for? ›

So, agile is most appropriate on any urgent project with significant complexity and novelty--and that includes software development and weddings. It does raise the question though of whether a couple's first kiss at the end of the ceremony is a product backlog item or part of the done criteria for the overall product.

Why Agile is more successful? ›

Agile is all about adopting an incremental approach to building software – it shifts the focus away from the software and puts it on the business value behind software. Agile makes business sense as it allows you to deliver part of the value sooner – decreasing the risk of complete failure of the project.

Why agile model is better than other model? ›

The agile model allows to change the requirements after the development process starts, so it is more flexible. The waterfall model is rigid, it does not allow to change requirements after the development process starts. Customer interaction is very high.

Is waterfall model good for long projects? ›

Waterfall is particularly useful for large, complex projects with very specific and unchanging requirements. Development teams will be less resistant to detailed product requirements documents and design specifications since that's what's expected.

Is waterfall model best? ›

The Waterfall model is the right choice for projects that don't require simultaneous changes. Let's face it, some deliverables require revisions. And if you're going to use Waterfall, it's not worth it. Make sure that the requirements are set and stable so the end-product can be met accordingly, and on time.

Why waterfall model is still used? ›

It works well for smaller and low budget projects where requirements are very well understood. Clearly defined stages and well understood. It is easy to arrange tasks. Process and results are well documented.

What kind of projects use waterfall? ›

Some of the industries that regularly use the waterfall model include construction, IT and software development. As an example, the waterfall software development life cycle, or waterfall SDLC, is widely used to manage software engineering projects.

Who would use waterfall model? ›

The waterfall model is effective for projects that involve several steps to production. For projects where one task can't be completed without one being done before it, this is the most efficient outline system to incorporate.

Is agile right for every project? ›

Agile cannot be used in every project. It, of course, depends on how you define Agility. If you define it as, for example, having all team members wear t-shirts with the word “Agile” on it, then every project can be Agile.

Is agile actually better? ›

The truth is that going agile will result in more productive teams and faster delivery of projects, but only if everyone can agree on the rules of the game.

What is the most common failure of Agile? ›

According to VersionOne, the top three reasons for agile project failure are: Inadequate experience with agile methods. Little understanding of the required broader organizational change. Company philosophy or culture at odds with agile values.

What is the most advantage of waterfall model? ›

Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of the waterfall model is its clear and precise structure, which lays down the role that you and your associates need to perform at every phase of the project. Such clarity is crucial when planning and executing complex projects as without it, the project can easily get muddled.

Which model is better than waterfall model? ›

Agile Model

The Agile methodology promotes the continuous interaction of the development and testing during the SDLC process of any project. Unlike the waterfall model, the development and testing activities in the agile model are simultaneous.

What waterfall model is not suitable for? ›

Answer - D) Waterfall model is not suitable for accommodating changes.

What are two reasons agile development is more beneficial than Waterfall? ›

Improves collaboration among teams- 54% Enhances the quality level of software in organizations- 52% Results in enhanced customer satisfaction- 49% Speeds time to market- 43%

Why Agile is better than Waterfall PPT? ›

Waterfall model is ideal for projects which have defined requirements, and no changes are expected. On the other hand, Agile is best suited where there is a higher chance of frequent requirement changes. The waterfall is easy to manage, sequential, and rigid method.

What is the difference between Agile & Waterfall? ›

Agile and waterfall are two distinctive methodologies of processes to complete projects or work items. Agile is an iterative methodology that incorporates a cyclic and collaborative process. Waterfall is a sequential methodology that can also be collaborative, but tasks are generally handled in a more linear process.

Why Agile method is important? ›

Agile processes defer decisions, shorten development cycles, and support just in time analysis of requests. This allows agile teams to change quickly and at a low cost. That provides a competitive advantage and is one of the keys to agile ways of working.

What are the pros and cons of Agile? ›

What Is Agile?
More flexibleHard to predict
Product get to market fasterFinal product is not released first
Better communicationDocumentation gets left behind
20 Dec 2021

Who should use Agile? ›

However, Agile can ultimately be used on almost any large scale project in any industry. Any of these project teams can benefit from using Agile: Teams handling fast-changing deliverables, such as technology products. Teams working on projects that evolve or do not have clear scope and requirements at the beginning.

Which type of project is best? ›

Potential project types:
  • Business implementation.
  • Foundational (business improvement)
  • IT infrastructure improvement.
  • Product development (IT)
  • Product development (non-IT)
  • Physical engineering/construction.
  • Physical infrastructure improvement.
  • Procurement.

How do you decide which projects are suitable for Agile and which are not? ›

Begin With What You Know

To decide whether the project your team is tasked with completing should be handled using an Agile framework or classic plan-driven method, take a look at the information you already have. Are requirements for the finished project complete, clear and stable?

Why Agile is good for small projects? ›

One of the reasons why Agile works in small projects is that they are prone to changes: whether these are changes in the business goals or in the purpose of the product. Agile was created to respond to rapid changes, regardless of the size of the project (source).

Is agile suitable for small team? ›

Agile makes sense for small teams because it allows them to manage their work in a more efficient and effective way. By using an agile approach, team members can always be working on the most important tasks and they can rapidly respond to changes in requirements.

Is agile suitable for high risk projects? ›

The inherent cadence and iterative nature of Agile practices make them well suited for the management of a wide range of risk commonly encountered in product development and related projects.

Which agile model is best? ›

1. Scrum. Scrum is, undoubtedly, the most used of the many frameworks underpinning Agile methodology. Scrum is characterised by cycles or stages of development, known as sprints, and by the maximisation of development time for a software product towards a goal, the Product Goal.

Why is agile model better than other models? ›

The agile model allows to change the requirements after the development process starts, so it is more flexible. The waterfall model is rigid, it does not allow to change requirements after the development process starts.

Which model is best for development? ›

These models are also known as Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) models/methodologies.
  1. Waterfall Model. ...
  2. Agile Software Development. ...
  3. Lean Model. ...
  4. Iterative and Incremental Method. ...
  5. Prototyping. ...
  6. Spiral Method. ...
  7. DevOps Model.
30 Sept 2022

Which model is best in SDLC? ›

The answer to the question “which SDLC model is the best?” is Agile. The Agile model is a combination of an incremental and iterative approach and is focussed on fitting in well with flexible requirements.

Is agile model good for big projects? ›

This is the best methodology to follow in case of complex projects. A complex project may have various interconnected phases and each stage may be dependent on many others rather than a single one as in simple projects. So, Agile methods are preferred for large and complex projects.

Is agile model good for small projects? ›

Agile (Scrum / Kanban / XP) works best in projects where there is a fair amount of uncertainty in either technology or requirements (or both), but a Waterfall-based approach is more suitable for projects where there is little to no uncertainty — like small projects.

What are 3 benefits of an Agile approach? ›

Agile produces important metrics like lead time, cycle time, and throughput that helps measure the team's performance, identify bottlenecks and make data-driven decisions to correct them. The Agile framework is a powerful tool that helps managers, team members, and clients.

Why is Agile more successful? ›

Agile Projects Succeed More Frequently.

Agile teams also develop in short iterations and take items all the way to done within a sprint to further reduce risk.


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