Planning a software development project via waterfall vs agile methodologiesis possibly one of the biggest investments that your brand will make.
Whether it’s an overhaul of your customer service or, the development of a new app, a software project requires a considerable investment of time, money, and resources. With that in mind, it should go without saying that choosing the right methodology for your project is vital for ensuring that it is completed on time and within budget.
When it comes to software development methodologies, it’s widely accepted that there are two options – Waterfall vs Agile and, today, we’re going to take a look at both to help you figure out which is right for you.
TLC once told you not to go chasing them but, I’m pretty sure they weren’t referring to this traditional style of methodology for software development. Often thought of as the original methodology for development, Waterfall works on a linear approach and, the process usually runs as follows:
This first – and incredibly important – the stage is often the make or break moment of the project. During this phase, the requirements of the project are gathered and documented in a way that the client will understand. As there will, inevitably, be some technical information involved, this stage may also include mock-ups and diagrams in order to clearly communicate the scope of the project to the client. Documents may include:
- High Level Requirements And Design Documents – These describe what the new system will do and, how it will do it
- Unified Modelling Language – A diagram illustrating how the program will look and work
- Test Plans – What will be tested and how it will be tested
As the project progresses, other documentation will be required and, it’s a good idea to put together outlines of the following:
- Test Documentation – How testing was conducted and the results
- System Documentation – Sequence diagrams and coding comments
- Installation Guides – How to install the program
- User Manuals – How to use the program
The last piece of documentation will be the final report of the project.
The actual design of the software
Code and unit test
Getting down to the nuts and bolts of the project
Making sure that everything is doing what it’s supposed to be doing
User acceptance testing
The final testing stage for the end user
Fixing and delivery
Fixing any last glitches and delivering the product to the customer
Projects undertaken with the Waterfall approach are generally on firm fixed price contracts.
As I’ve said, Waterfall works on a linear approach which means that every stage of the project is completed before the next begins. In between each stage, the progress will be reviewed and approved by the client before the next phase may begin.
Waterfall: The Benefits
There are a number of good reasons for going with the Waterfall methodology and, these are:
Planning – The comprehensive planning and documentation stage means that the full scope and development of the project is agreed between the developer and the client at the very beginning, helping to avoid misunderstandings.
Progress – With an agile approach, the client is very much involved in the early stages – both planning and reviewing. This allows for any discrepancies or issues to be identified and fixed without extensive backtracking.
Client involvement – As important as it is for the client to be heavily involved at the beginning of the project, the waterfall approach means that the client is able to take more of a back seat once the initial stages of the project are complete. This is extremely beneficial as it means that the development company can get on with their work and that the busy client won’t need to be dragged away from other work.
Team efficiency – As each stage of the project needs to be completed before another can begin, team members are able to work on other projects until it’s time to work on their section of the project.
Deliverables – This stage by stage approach allows for a more complete and careful understanding of all components and deliverables.
Waterfall: The downsides
Big-bang releases are one of the main problems with the Waterfall approach. What this means is that your team works on a project with a set deadline for several months. These launches are stressful for everyone involved and don’t always produce the best results. Think about it: If you have a project roadmap that’s created based on what the world looks like right now, you risk launching an outdated project.
That’s why it’s better to release in iterations. This removes the pressure as you can test smaller milestones. Plus, you don’t risk disruption as you can add on things as you go. Now, agile does have its own pros and cons. One of them is that you need an organizational change to become a truly agile company — and that will take time, money, and energy. However, at the end of the day, being faster and having a better structure for innovation could be worth the cost.
Dominic Phillips, co-founder ofCodeSubmit
Blinded by science – As the early, customer-centric stage of the project relies heavily on documentation, there’s always a danger that will not fully understand the specific and technical details which have been laid out.
Expectations – As with the above, not all customers are able to form a picture of the finished product from documents and diagrams which may mean that their expectation is different from the result; leading to time-consuming and expensive changes.
Although the Agile methodology follows a lot of the same processes as the Waterfall approach, the methodology is quite different. Projects using the Agile approach usually work on time and materials or non fixed funding as payment.
The Agile Methodology
The Agile methodology is all about fast delivery through complete and functional components. Instead of being divided into tasks to be scheduled, the Agile approach works through time-boxed phases known as sprints. Each sprint will usually take a number of weeks and will consist of a list of deliverables to be prioritized according to the client’s requirements. Unlike the Waterfall methodology, the client will be actively involved at every stage of the Agile process as each sprint will be reviewed, evaluated and approved by the software development team and the client.
Agile: The Benefits
There are a number of benefits to using an Agile methodology for a software project and, some of these are:
Expedition – Where time is of the essence, Agile excels. With this methodology, a basic version of the software can be produced really quickly in order to meet a launch deadline. The team are then able to build on the basic version for future updates.
Ownership – The Agile Methodology allows the client to have full ownership of the project as they are involved at every stage. This can really help the client see the software take shape rather than trying to visualize it through documentation.
Focus – The constant liaison between software developer and client means that the finished product is usually much more user-focused – which is, of course, the point of the project to begin with.
Error avoidance – With the client on board at every stage of the development, the margin for error is significantly decreased and any errors that do occur can be fixed quickly and easily.
Agile: The Downsides
Dedicated staff – Unlike the Waterfall methodology, Agile requires all members of the software development team to be dedicated to the project at all times which may lead to a company needing to hire outside developers for other or additional projects.
Customer overload – As with the developers, the client needs to be involved in the project through every sprint which can lead to overload and delays if the client has other things they need to attend to.
Time delays – Client involvement means that software developers will often need to take a significant time to explain progress and processes to the client which can add time to the project.
Location – Because of the intense nature of Agile software development, it’s preferable that the client and all members of the team are able to spend time together in one location. This can be made difficult by the fact that, these days, members of a software development team may not even be in the same country, let alone the same office for most of the time.
Refactoring – As Agile is very much an iterative approach, a frequent downside is that the full scope of the system is not taken into account within the initial architecture. This, in turn, can lead to extensive refactoring of the approach throughout the project.
Price – As Agile projects don’t usually work on a firm fixed price, costs can sometimes spiral out of control – particularly when extensive refactoring is brought into play.
Waterfall vs Agile: Pros And Cons
Although there are no hard fast rules, choosing your methodology can be done by looking at a number of factors:
Speed – If the deadline is the most important factor for your project then the Agile methodology will most likely be the best option for you as it allows quick turnaround of a basic version to meet a launch date.
Price – If budgets are tight and price is super-important, Waterfall’s fixed price will help you to avoid any nasty surprises when it comes to the final price for your project.
Risk of failure – Nobody wants their software development to fail and teams will always do their best to ensure that doesn’t happen. Having said that, by working on the most valuable aspects of the project first, the Agile approach tends to cut down on the risk of overall failure for a project.
Staffing – Unless you have a huge team, it may be that you simply can’t afford to have all of your staff working on just one project for months on end – in which case, the Waterfall methodology will allow you to allocate staff to other projects during the process.
Waterfall vs Agile. What is the difference?
- Waterfall is linear with testing after each sequence, whereas Agile involves continuous iteration and testing.
- Waterfall is highly structured whereas the Agile approach allows for much more flexibility.
- Waterfall is sequential whereas Agile is incremental
- Waterfall has little scope for requirement changes whereas Agile can be continuously refactored
It’s widely thought that Agile is now being adopted by most reputable software companies and that the Waterfall approach is old hat. This is very much not the case and, many companies successfully use Waterfall as standard. In fact, some cynics say that there are software companies who ‘pretend’ to be agile whilst continuously returning to the Waterfall methodology.
Whilst Waterfall vs Agile are the two commonly used methodologies for software development, it doesn’t have to be ‘all or nothing’. More and more software development companies are choosing, instead, to develop a kind of hybrid of the two methods which is one of the ways to reduce development costs.
For example, a software team may choose to take advantage of the comprehensive planning stage of the Waterfall approach but, will also adopt Agile elements such as prioritizing the expedition of high-value components in order to speed up the process and get the product to market earlier.
Choosing a methodology does, also, very much depend on the project in hand – for this reason, a number of large software companies, including Cisco, prefer to decide on a project to project basis and are known for successfully adopting both methods.
Whichever method you decide on – waterfall vs agile, communication between team and client will always remain a priority and, this should be the ultimate focus of every project.
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.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 are agile projects more often successful compared to Waterfall projects? ›
Advantages of Agile over Waterfall are: Agile techniques virtually eliminate the chances of absolute project failure. Agile means always having a working product which is being built incrementally right from the very first sprint, so that projects do not fail completely.Why Waterfall methodology is the best? ›
The advantages of the waterfall methodology are that: Requirements are completed early in the project, enabling the team to define the entire project scope, create a complete schedule, and design the overall application.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.How do you choose between Waterfall and Agile? ›
An Agile methodology is a superior choice when the client is uncertain about requirements or wants to be closely involved in the development process, and if timelines are short and they want rapid delivery. Waterfall is superior if there are complex dependencies, but Agile is preferable when dependencies are minimal.Why should we use Agile methodology? ›
The approach prioritizes quick delivery, adapting to change, and collaboration rather than top-down management and following a set plan. In Agile processes, there is constant feedback, allowing team members to adjust to challenges as they arise and stakeholders an opportunity to communicate consistently.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.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.
The main advantage of Waterfall methodology vs. Agile development is that it provides a clear and concise plan for stakeholders, as they can see all the steps involved in the project and when each will be completed.Why do you prefer Agile instead of Waterfall? ›
Agile projects are typically cheaper and can be delivered quickly. They offer greater flexibility, but also produce less predictable results due to the uncertainty and unclear nature of many of the project characteristics. Waterfall projects are typically more expensive and take longer to deliver.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.Which methodology is best for software development? ›
- Agile development methodology. Teams use the agile development methodology to minimize risk (such as bugs, cost overruns, and changing requirements) when adding new functionality. ...
- DevOps deployment methodology. ...
- Waterfall development method. ...
- Rapid application development.
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).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.What is the biggest similarity between Agile and Waterfall? ›
Similarities Between Agile and Waterfall
They perform the same activities, which include collecting requirements, designing, developing, testing, and deploying. The foundation of a project involves planning, bringing the project to life, and monitoring the project's progress in the two methodologies.
The key difference between Agile vs. Waterfall is that Waterfall breaks down software development into isolated phases that flow into each other, while Agile advocates iterative development cycles in which multiple lifecycle phases can run in parallel.Can a project be both Agile and Waterfall? ›
The Agile-Waterfall Hybrid is often considered a smart approach for adopting both methodologies without compromising too much, essentially utilizing the best of both worlds.Is Agile methodology any good? ›
Agile is part of a positive chain of results. In a study published in the Journal of Operations Management, agile methodologies contributed to operational performance which in turn contributed to marketing and financial performance of the organization.
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.Which model is good for large projects? ›
The Spiral model is mainly used for large projects. It allows development teams to include user feedback early on and create a highly customized product. Another advantage of this SDLC model is how it handles risk management.Why waterfall model is not used nowadays? ›
The waterfall model has lacked interaction among phase. Users have little interaction with project them. This feedback is not taken during development. After a development process starts, changes can not accommodate easily.Why waterfall model is not suitable for large projects? ›
Disadvantages of Waterfall Model
The fixed requirements provide less room for creativity. The cost, risk, and uncertainty are high. Misinterpreted requirements, and miscommunication between product owners and developers might cause a project failure. It is not suitable for large projects with complex requirements.
If you simply want to produce work faster, try Scrum. If you want to improve your production process, use Kanban. If your projects demand a linear workflow, implement Waterfall.Do people still use waterfall model? ›
Though many developers are moving to new and emerging approaches, Waterfall is still widely used in traditional organizational environments and processes.Why Agile model is best model? ›
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.Why Agile models are better? ›
Better Quality: Because it is iterative, one big benefit of agile methodology is the ability to find problems and create solutions quickly and efficiently. The flexibility of the agile method allows project teams to respond to customer reaction and constantly improve the product.Which model is better than waterfall 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.
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.
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.Can agile be used for all projects? ›
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.How do you decide between Agile and Waterfall? ›
An Agile methodology is a superior choice when the client is uncertain about requirements or wants to be closely involved in the development process, and if timelines are short and they want rapid delivery. Waterfall is superior if there are complex dependencies, but Agile is preferable when dependencies are minimal.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.What is difference between waterfall and Agile testing? ›
In waterfall testing, testing is a separate phase. In agile testing, testing is performed alongside the development. In waterfall testing, testing is carried out only after the completion of development. In agile testing, development team and testing team work together.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 is the main purpose of agile methodologies? ›
The Agile methodology is a collection of principles that value adaptability and flexibility. Agile aims to provide better responsiveness to changing business needs and therefore focuses on enabling teams to deliver in workable increments.