Agile vs Waterfall Methodology:
Which One is Best for Your Project?
Know how to choose between agile vs waterfall methodology
Both agile and waterfall are well-known software development methodologies. The two methods serve different purposes. This article will explain the distinctions between agile vs waterfall methodology, pros and cons of each of them, as well as what kind of projects each methodology is suitable for.
Both software development methodologies provide a systematic approach that greatly strengthens communication within the team, allowing software development teams to work together more efficiently.
There is a wide discussion going on now about which one is the best method to go for. However, there is no one-for-all solution to every project.
So, between agile vs waterfall methodology, which one should you go for? Let’s find out below!
What is agile development methodology?
Agile is a form of rapid application development, replacing other conventional and rigid procedures. With agile methodology, software development projects can be started by establishing a few initial requirements, then move to further steps such as designing, developing, testing, and deploying.
After the deployment phase, the software development teams will gather feedback to establish new requirements for the next update. These teams are allowed to go back to any previous steps. We call this circle a ‘sprint’.
This cycle will go on until the final product is approved. Moreover, there are many other ways on how to apply the agile methodology in the project, such as scrum, kanban, and extreme programming.
“Agile development allows you to set real milestones and create immediate value. During that time, we can continually look to solve issues and recognize problems as they appear in real time,” Mr Moe points out.
Different from the waterfall methodology, Agile requires cross-functional teams which both the stakeholders and development teams can work closely together. Thus, this allows for adjustment during the project development, contributing to new ideas and empowering each other to deliver the best final product.
Agile development projects are as fast as its name, making them quicker to develop and deploy as they tend to skip the 1-4 month project planning, detail structuring and documentation at the initial steps. Then, there is more time and energy to be spent on developing and amending the software product with each iteration.
Due to the agile methodology dividing tasks into sprints, it can be a well-responsive solution to immediate change and to tackle incoming problems. A recognized problem will be solved in the next sprints, and the customers can keep track of the software development progress. This agile implementation will reduce the chances of a project failing.
“We are making incremental improvements that can be tracked and measured as the project progresses.”- ROY IVAR MOE, CTO AT SEVEN PEAKS SOFTWARE
Agile requires intense commitment from all team members, due to frequent adaptation and communication. Active participation from all team members and end-users is a must. The whole team must be ready to devote their time, build trust, and contribute to building a product.
Agile is probably not ideal for projects that rely on intensive record-keeping, for instance, healthcare and government initiatives, because documentation tends to get sidetracked for agile methodology.
In agile software methodology, the final product can differ from the first vision of the project as the initial agile plan is not yet set up. The actual final product depends on what was proposed by the clients and stakeholders.
Agile does not suit projects that require extremely strict actions and validations – for example life-critical systems, such as traffic control systems, flight control, medical systems – as these types of mission-critical require extensive validation in its fail safe characteristics right in the design phase.
Need help with your software development project?
Our experienced software development team is ready to help!
What projects are suitable for Agile?
Agile methodology is ideal for fast-changing projects. Especially, if your project is a new niche, where you may need to be agile in order to instantly add new ideas as you learn more about your business needs moving forward.
However, over the years, many software development companies, even big firms, are transitioning into agile software development methodology due to the fast-changing environment and rapid changes in customer behavior.
The clear example here is the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused many permanent consumer behavior changes – such as the higher need for online communication, more virtual connection, and more mobile application use.
What is the waterfall methodology?
Waterfall is a linear approach that has a rigid structure. Projects run with this methodology are well-planned from start to finish.
It starts with collecting and documenting all the necessary requirements, then moving to the design, development, testing, and lastly deployment and delivery phases of the project. The next step form here will not begin until the previous steps mentioned are not completed.
The waterfall methodology is straightforward, meaning developers and customers can agree on what is going to be built ahead. The great detail at the beginning also makes it easier to set start-to-end dates, milestones, and delivery.
Development teams can focus on their work without instantly engaging stakeholders to discuss product requirements.
In addition, for the waterfall project the final product is more foreseeable as the software development process has already been documented and approved at the beginning. Thus, the waterfall development team does not have to frequently meet. Everyone can strictly follow the plan to achieve the desired result.
There is no customer feedback in the early stages, which increases the risk of the project veering off target.
The rigid structural procedure will limit rooms for creativity that team members might discover during development.
The Waterfall approach does not involve the end-user feedback, so the final product might not be a perfect ideal application for user experience, or later they might require more budgeting for further project improvement and any expensive rework.
What projects are suitable for Waterfall?
The waterfall software development methodology is most suitable for a well-defined project scope. Vague requirements might not be an ideal and would later increase unnecessary project cost due to reworks in the whole process over again.
This methodology will work for you when your project has a predictable outcome and if you are lacking technical in-house capabilities.
Mission critical systems where there has to be certified proof of fail-safe in the design phase.
Software development methodologies are a guideline for software development teams to follow and work efficiently. Unlike the Waterfall model, Agile is more adaptive to a fast-paced environment.
Choosing the right software development methodology is important, otherwise, your software development teams would unnecessarily have to waste the time and money for problems that can be avoided in the first place.
Therefore, when choosing between agile vs waterfall methodology, it’s important to consider their pros and cons and study your team and project. Then, you will find the right equipment & requirements to set up your software development project for success.