Agile vs Waterfall – which is the project management methodology for you?

One of the first decisions we face when starting each of our project implementations is “Which development methodology should we use?” – that’s why we thought an article about Agile vs Waterfall would be useful.

This is a topic that usually generates a lot of discussions and debates among the people working on the project. If this is not something you’ve worked with before, a definition of development methodology is in order; put very simply, it’s a way of organizing and breaking down the work of software development. This is NOT about a style of project management or a specific technical approach, although you will often hear these terms all thrown together or used interchangeably.

There are two basic and very popular methods of managing projects in the modern software development industry:

  • Agile: a specific type of Rapid Application Development and newer than Waterfall, but not that new – this is often implemented using Scrum
  • Waterfall – also known as the traditional approach

Let’s dive deeper into the two different methodologies:

What is Agile methodology?

 

Agile iterative developmentAgile methodologies – in our case, the “Scrum” variant – are built on the idea of a self-organizing, cross-functional team. This team develops a product using adaptive planning, evolutionary development, as well as early and frequent delivery with ongoing communication with the customer. Simultaneously, there is continuous improvement using customer feedback, this way each step of the project is tailored to the customer’s needs.

As the name suggests, Agile is a very flexible and fluid method of working – any change in direction or scope can be quickly implemented without messing up the whole process. This is because instead of working on the entire product in one go, the team develops the project in phases.

The process starts with the most basic version of the product – bare minimum functionality, and all subsequent iterations are built up from it. These iterations are delivered to the client – or Product Owner – at the end of each sprint (phase).

A sprint is how the project’s timeline is divided, each sprint can last up to two to six weeks. The team decides on the tasks to be completed at the beginning of each sprint, including what product features they will develop and how they will test them. That means the product evolves, adapting to, and delivering on, the most important and valuable features at that point in the project.

It often means a product can be put into use before it’s even fully finished, so the project team can get early feedback from users.

What are the advantages of the Agile method?

  • First of all, it is focused on client feedback. So, it makes sure that the client is continuously involved during every stage.
  • Agile teams are extremely motivated and self-organized so it likely to provide a better result from the development projects.
  • Agile software development method assures high-quality work over the duration of the project
  • The process is completely based on incremental progress. Therefore, the client and team know exactly what is complete and what is not. This reduces risk in the development process.

What is the Waterfall methodology?

 

Waterfall methodWaterfall methodology is the traditional method of software development, meaning that each phase is distinct and well-defined. The team completes each stage before they move on to the next.

First, the team designs the product, then develops it, and finally test the product once the development is complete.

The methodology is efficient, with each stage properly developed and documented. If the project is handed over to another team, they would not find it difficult to pick up from where the previous team left off because the planning and documentation is so comprehensive.

This does, however, mean that this methodology can be rigid. The planning stage is very distinct from the development stage, so there is not much room for changes once the product design has been finalized.

Typically, Waterfall is chosen where the buyer of the software has a clear specification and the development company needs to deliver exactly as required, often under a fixed price arrangement.

 

 

What are the advantages of the Waterfall method?

  • It is one of the easiest models to manage. Because of its nature, each phase has specific methods and review processes.
  • It works well for smaller size projects where requirements are easily understandable.
  • It ensures faster delivery of the project
  • Processes and results are well documented.
  • Easily adaptable method for shifting teams

Summary – Agile vs Waterfall

Agile vs Waterfall methodology

When it comes down to Agile vs Waterfall, it really depends on the type of project you are working on. Both methodologies are good for different types of situations and can help you to reach your project goals. To help you decide on which of these methodologies suit your project, here are the main differences between the two:

  • The Waterfall model is ideal for projects which have predefined 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 traditional method is easier to manage because it’s a sequential and rigid method.
  • Agile is very flexible and it possible to make changes in any phase.
  • In the Agile process, requirements can change frequently. However, in a Waterfall model, it is defined only once by the business analyst at the beginning of the project.
  • In the Agile Description of project, details can be altered anytime during the SDLC process which is not possible in Waterfall method.