Agile VS Waterfall: An In-Depth Look

“Which software development methodology is currently the best nowadays?”

This is one of the most hotly-debated topics in the tech industry.

A development methodology is a way of organizing the flow of software development. It’s NOT about a certain technical approach or style of project management. While you will hear those terms used interchangeably, there’s a huge difference.

Comparing Agile VS. Waterfall

There are two basic, most popular methodologies out there: Agile and Waterfall.

Agile VS Waterfall: An In-Depth LookWaterfall is often referred to as the “traditional” approach because it follows a sequential order. The project development team only moves forward once the previous step has been completed successfully.

Agile is dubbed as the “modern” approach. In this type of rapid application development, all activities are concurrent. It allows more flexibility and communication between developers, managers, customers, and other stakeholders.

As we dive into these two approaches, let’s begin with the waterfall method first.

Benefits of the Waterfall Method

  • A customer’s presence is not a strict requirement, except for approvals, reviews, status meetings, and so on.
  • Progress is easily measured because all stakeholders know the full scope of work early on.
  • Customers and developers agree on what will be delivered at the early stages of the development life cycle. It makes the planning and design process more straightforward.
  • Design is completed early in the software development process. This approach works well for projects where different components need to be designed for integration with external systems.
  • Various team members can be involved in or continue doing other tasks, depending on which phase of the project is active. Take business analysts, for example—they can determine what needs to be done while developers focus on other projects. The same goes for testers who can prepare test scripts while the coding is in progress.
  • The waterfall method has a highly methodical approach. It highlights a clean transfer of information at every step. Whether you’re experiencing unexpected personnel changes or passing projects off, waterfall prioritizes accessible information. This means that new additions to the team can get up to the speed right away.

Related Content: The Time Tested Waterfall Model and Why It's so Great

Drawbacks of the Waterfall Method

  • Agile VS Waterfall_ An In-Depth LookOne of the problems with this approach is the effectiveness of requirements. The most challenging part of the development process is collecting and documenting requirements in a way that resonates with customers. Instead of this, customers feel overwhelmed due to information overload. Unfortunately for those people, specific details provided early in the process are required with the waterfall approach.
  • Another concern with the waterfall approach is the absence of a functioning product before the process is completed. Customers can’t always visualize an application just by looking at the document of requirements. While mockups and wireframes help, most end users still have a hard time putting all the elements together. That’s why it’s not an ideal approach for those who want a clear picture of what they’ll be getting right off the bat.
  • With this approach, it can be difficult to predict how the customer will react to the final product. There’s a chance that the customer will not be satisfied with the delivered software. Because deliverables are based on documented requirements, a customer may not see a working product until it’s close to deployment. This might result in a complete and costly do-over.

Benefits of the Agile Method

  • Agile offers faster delivery of high-quality products. By dividing the project into manageable units, your team can focus more on development, collaboration, and testing. When you perform tests in iterations, bugs are solved quickly.
  • With the agile approach, there is a strong interaction among teams. It highlights the importance of constant communication and face-to-face meetings. Teams work in close collaboration, and everyone takes responsibility when it comes to their designated roles.
  • Changes are welcomed. Due to shorter planning cycles, teams can easily accommodate and accept changes at any time during the development. There’s always a chance to refine and reprioritize backlogs, allowing you to introduce project changes in a matter of weeks.
  • Customers have lots of chances to see the work that’s being delivered. They can share their valuable insights and provide a real impact on the final result. In some way, they gain a sense of ownership because they also work closely with the team.
  • Agile helps projects without clearly-defined goals. During the process, goals will come to light—allowing the development team to adapt to these changing requirements.
  • Users and team members are encouraged to give feedback throughout the entire project. Lessons learned in this process are used to improve any iteration in the future.

Related Content: 8 Advantages to Using the Agile Software Development Life Cycle Method

Drawbacks of the Agile Method

  • Agile VS Waterfall_ An In-Depth LookBecause agile teams are often small, team members need to be highly skilled in different areas. They should understand and feel comfortable with the specific agile model they choose.
  • At times, pinning down a certain date can be difficult. Agile depends on time-boxed delivery, so there are some instances where items are not completed on time. Additional sprints may be required at any point in the project, extending the overall timeline.
  • Team members may think that it’s less important to work on documentation because the Agile Manifesto focuses more on the working product. Although comprehensive documentation alone doesn’t lead to project success, it’s a crucial factor that shouldn’t be neglected.
  • There are agile projects that don’t have a definitive plan during the early stages. This means the final product may look much different from what was initially expected. Due to agile’s flexibility, iterations may be added according to evolving customer feedback, resulting in a completely different final deliverable.

Making the Right Choice between Waterfall and Agile

These days, we’re starting to see mass adoption of different agile methodologies in the business. Even government agencies are using them! But, unfortunately, there are still many enterprises that are slow to make the change.

It’s also common for businesses to use a hybrid Agile approach, harnessing the benefits of both agile and waterfall.

Selecting between agile and waterfall depends on your unique project requirements. Ultimately, although the way we deliver work is essential, providing a solid product that satisfies customers is what matters the most.

Still stuck on figuring out which software development methodology would work best for your team?

Call your trusted managed services provider today for a consultation.

Topics: waterfall approach, waterfall methodology vs agile, difference between agile and waterfall, agile project management