With over 8462 project management methodologies, selecting the most appropriate one can be quite tricky. You need to select one that is suitable for your project and your project team.  Development Methodology is basically a way of organizing the tasks involved in software development. The first step for implementing a project is to select the accurate methodology to ensure the effective execution of the software development process. Before we compare agile methodology and waterfall, let’s take a look at some basics!

Agile Methodology vs. Waterfall


Project Management Methodologies

Project management methodologies are referred to the practices and standards for organizing projects to get the maximum output. As a project manager, you need to make sure that the chosen methodology is aligned with the project, team members, goals, and organization. Here are some of the most practical types of project management methodologies:

  • Waterfall methodology
  • Scrum Methodology
  • Agile Methodology
  • Kanban Methodology
  • Lean methodology, and so on.

Agile Methodology

Agile project management uses a team-based approach that rapidly deploys a functional application, keeping customer satisfaction at its focal point. The agile method has a timebox phase known as a sprint, which has a defined period of two weeks. By keeping customer input in mind, a deliverables list is prioritized during the start of each sprint; once ended, the team members and customers review and assess the work and provide notes to make future sprints efficient. If the planned work isn’t delivered during the two-week phase, the list of deliverables is reprioritized and used for future sprint planning.

The agile approach is so popular that it performs iterations and relies heavily upon customers’ involvement during each phase of the project, especially during final reviews. Its functionality and flexibility have attracted many developers and managers.

Advantages of Agile Methodology

  • It lets the customers have early and frequent opportunities to assess the deliverables (work being delivered). They are free to make decisions and ask for changes throughout the project.
  • It is ideal for non-fixed funded projects, and it ensures a high quality of development.
  • This approach has testing phases concurrent with each design phase that eliminates most of the risk of bugs in the end product.
  • Agile software development delivers the work faster than other methodologies, so if a product owner needs to market a specific application quickly, they can get a basic version of functional software, which is then built on successive iterations for a full feature set.

Disadvantages of Agile Methodology

  • Not every customer has the time or concern to remain involved in the project in such an extensive way; this can result in some problems as the agile approach requires a higher degree of customer involvement.
  • This method requires teamwork, so it can only be effective when all the agile team members are dedicated to the project.
  • Additional sprints may be needed because some items set for delivery don’t get completed during timeboxed phase due to frequent reprioritization. Also, the customers can require frequent changes, which disrupt the development lifecycle.

Waterfall Methodology

It is also referred to as Linear Sequential Life Cycle Model. Waterfall methodology follows a sequential cycle that follows the following steps, each of which represents the development phase:

  1. Collecting and documenting requirements
  2. Design
  3. Testing of code and unit
  4. Testing of system
  5. Testing of Performance user Acceptance called UAT
  6. Fixing of issues if any
  7. The finished product is delivered

Advantages of Waterfall Methodology

  • Progress can be measured without any hassle because the complete scope of the work is already known through business analysis.
  • The development team and customers agree on the set of deliverables in the early phases of the development lifecycle. It encourages straightforward planning and designing.
  • Customer involvement is not strictly required in the waterfall approach, except for status meetings, approvals, reviews, etc.

Disadvantages of Waterfall Methodologies

  • There are chances that the product owner might be dissatisfied with the final product, and by this time, the changes can be complicated and costly.
  • The testing is done after the product development, resulting in a higher probability of bugs and errors.
  • The waterfall model cannot be used for large-size products; it is only feasible for small-sized projects.
  • It can only be effective if the project requirements are concrete at the beginning of the development.

Agile vs Waterfall

Now the issue comes down to which one to choose? Here are the key differences observed by evaluating each development methodology individually.

Agile Methodology vs. Waterfall

  • Agile follows an iterative project plan, whereas waterfall development has a sequential approach and is very linear.
  • Agile can complete several small projects, but waterfall can only complete one small project at a time.
  • The project is separated into sprints in the agile method; the project is broken into phases in the traditional waterfall.
  • Product owners can change their requirements every day in agile; the requirements in the waterfall project management is set at the start of the design phase through business analysis, and there are no options for changing it later. However, if a customer wishes to once a product is finished, it will require a lot of time and cost.
  • As the products are developed in agile, they are tested concurrently before moving to the next phase. Whereas in the waterfall method, the testing is done once all the build phases are completed.
  • The agile teams who are responsible for testers can also be included in the requirement-changing process. No testing teams can be a part of the requirement changing in the waterfall model.
  • There is no need for a project manager in agile software development methodologies, and the team members are allowed to manage the project on their own. The waterfall approach uses a project manager who plays a crucial role in each approach.

Waterfall or Agile project management?

First, your team and business organization will have to define and fully assess the capacities of the personnel you have on hand. The next step is to determine how best to engage these assets to reach your business and software development goals with waterfall or agile.

Your choice between waterfall and agile project management will be influenced by the size and complexity of the project plan; the time required to produce the end result; and the availability of clients and stakeholders to consult daily with the development team. In order to make the most of the talent you have, you’ll be ready to decide which methodology is the best fit — waterfall or agile, or perhaps a hybrid constructed from aspects of both.

Waterfall and agile are two very popular product development methodologies with key differences. Each has a clearly defined software development life cycle (SDLC). And in each, a set of clearly defined processes guides the workflow. Note that the agile method is the best choice for solely digital projects and will include software, like Jira, or Kanban boards, to manage and release software over the SDLC.

Revisiting the Waterfall methodology

Of the two, the waterfall approach is the more traditional method of software development. The organizing principles are linear and sequential, geared to produce a single successful project delivery. The final product emerges out of requirements set out at the start of the project, with little or no change of scope or adaptation allowed in the development process. Throughout, each waterfall project has a single project manager overseeing the development team, playing an essential role at every step. The product is then tested at the end of the build phase of the development process by test teams who have no input into any changes that may be required going forward.

As you can see, the strongpoints of waterfall are its whole-system approach, defined scope, defined team roles, and clearly measurable progress. Significantly, this method is the easier to cost. A drawback lies in its structural rigidity and limited stakeholder engagement during the development process.  Waterfall project management is also difficult for large-scale projects because deliverables are pushed far into the future.

Revisiting the Agile Methodology

Agile methodology organizes software development in a much different way. Self-organizing teams and stakeholders collaborate, without a designated project manager, to produce incremental software iterations in sprints. Deliverables from these sprints are tested and evaluated by the entire team. Project requirements are prepared daily to allow for changes at any time, with customer satisfaction remaining a constant goal.

The scrum is where cross-functional teams perform the sprints. Customer involvement in the planning and the testing phases of the scrum ensures final product functionality. Note that an ongoing need for multiple sprints may increase both time and cost.

In contrast to the waterfall method, the agile process demands customer involvement at every stage, including proximity of teams and stakeholders for efficient communication. Most importantly, project team members must be both competent and completely dedicated to fulfill the agile principle of self-management. Product testing is performed concurrently by agile testers, instead of after completion of the development phase in waterfall.

Impact of Scrum in Agile Methodology

The heart of the agile model is the scrum. Based upon the four core tenets of the Agile Manifesto, the scrum values individuals and communications over processes and tools; working software over documentation; customer and team collaboration over contract negotiation; and response to change over adherence to a plan. Because digital product development evolves quickly, the scrum team is always ready to respond by producing iterations of work from sprints every two weeks.

Unlike a project manager, the scrum master’s purpose is to safeguard the openness and respect that agile team members need to succeed within the lightweight agile  development framework. The process is simple: A product owner enters the work required into a product backlog; the scrum team selects work from that backlog and turns it into an increment of value during a sprint; the team and stakeholders inspect and evaluate the results or prototype of that sprint and make adjustments to take that iteration into the next phase, the next sprint; another selection from the backlog is made and, based upon the previous phase, the process repeats. This transparent process also offers an opportunity to evaluate a business’s management environment and target areas where changes or improvements can be made, as necessary.

Agile Methodology vs. Waterfall

Waterfall vs Agile summary

Your project requirements will, of course, guide your choice of project management methodology, and the waterfall and agile approaches are designed to meet various business needs. Both waterfall and agile software development methodologies are founded upon teamwork and distinct phases of product development, but with significant differences:

The waterfall model is linear, highly structured, employs a sequential design process, tests only after the build phase, and allows no changes in project development once the process begins. The agile approach, by contrast, is famously flexible, allows changes in scope and direction at every phase of the project, engages an incremental approach to produce continuous iterations of software under development, and then tests that software concurrently with development.

​Final Verdict

Both the software development methodologies have their pros and cons, we cannot say which one will be best for every situation as each of them are entirely different working software. However, there are few factors that you need to consider before choosing one. Those factors include customer availability, SDLC, team type, funding, feature prioritization, and scope.

Once you keep these factors in mind, choosing the appropriate methodology for a certain software development project would become easy! Still, if we get to choose one that will work for most situations, which would be Agile. Its iterative approach, distinct phases, and customer involvement make it a safer yet efficient option to choose for project management software.  Find out how we can work with your team on Agile Methodologies and more by contacting Leadership Tribe today.

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