Agile vs Waterfall Methodology Which is Better for Your Next Project?

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When you plan for a new software development project, there are two popular ways to approach it that you have likely heard about — Agile and Waterfall. Though there are some similarities between the two, there are also some key differences. So, how do you know which approach is best for you?

To help you decide on Agile vs. Waterfall methodology, this article will answer:

  • What does Agile mean?
  • What does Waterfall mean?
  • What are the pros and cons of each strategy?

What Does Agile Mean?

To begin comparing Agile vs. Waterfall methodology, we must first answer the question, “What does Agile mean?”

Agile is a project management strategy based on the principles outlined in a published paper written by William Royce in the 70s on large software system development. Agile is composed of short development cycles called “sprints” that last around one to four weeks each.

At the end of each sprint, the development team checks in with the client, delivering what has been completed so far. These check-ins create an opportunity to receive regular client feedback throughout the development process, creating an iterative and customer-centric approach to software development.

These methods include:

  • Plan

In this phase, the product manager and key stakeholders work closely with the client to gather requirements, prioritize design elements, find resources to meet requirements, and create user stories that contain deliverable portions of the final product and required features.

  • Design

In the design phase, experts on user interface and experience meet with the client to make decisions on the visual design of the product, creating sketches and mockups that can be used to inform the development phase.

  • Develop

In this phase, the scrum master and development team begin the first sprint to deliver a set of user stories representing specific features of the final product.

  • Test

During this phase, the deliverable presented to the client is tested against the client’s definition of completion. Does it fit the user story set earlier by the scrum master and product owner?

If there are defects or if changes need to be made, new user stories are created and worked into the next sprint. This cycle continues until the deliverable is complete and includes all required product features.

  • Deploy

Once perfected, the final product is marked as complete and shipped to the customer.

  • Evaluate

Now that the project is complete, the project team looks back on the development process, documenting lessons learned to help improve future team performance.

When answering, “What does agile mean?” the answer is less about these methods and more about the way you use them. Using Agile, a team shares the product or service progress with the customer, creating opportunities for frequent check-ins. These are referred to as “sprints.” At the end of each sprint, the customer can update requirements to ensure that the product or service fits their needs.

What Does Waterfall Mean?

Now that we’ve answered “What does agile mean?” we must define the Waterfall methodology. Waterfall is a more direct development methodology that follows an exact set of steps in a specific order. Where Agile allows for more cycles, check-ins, and reiterations, Waterfall is a linear, beginning-to-end process.

The individual steps in this methodology are very similar:

1. Gather Requirements

In this first phase, the development team gathers and analyzes product information including functional, system, and technical specifications.

2. Design

Based on the information you learned in the requirements-gathering phase, begin designing prototypes that will meet the customer’s requirements. In this step, the design includes the functionality of the product or service as well as its appearance.

3. Development

In this phase, the team develops the product based on the requirements gathered and the design requirements supplied by the design team.

4. Test

Once the development phase is complete, the team performs end-to-end, system, and performance tests to ensure that the product meets the client requirements established in phase one. If there are any issues, they are addressed before delivering the product to the customer.

5. Deliver

Once the final product passes all tests against client requirements and specifications, it is delivered.

6. Maintain

Depending on the client, some may request additional features or may change the scope of the project. This can result in extra costs and extended deadlines depending on the change and its effect on the final product.

While some of the steps in Agile vs. Waterfall methodology look very similar, the difference lies in how the steps are executed. With the Agile principle, steps are more cyclical. The process creates opportunities for rapid changes, translating to lower costs when changes are requested by the client. You may return to past steps or repeat steps, checking in with the customer each time to ensure they are satisfied with how development is progressing. This happens in small cycles so that the team doesn’t have to rebuild or restructure the application.

The Waterfall methodology is more structured and linear. You follow a distinct set of processes and procedures, focusing more on meeting the original requirements than making changes with the customer along the way.

Pros and Cons

So far, we’ve answered “What does Agile mean?” and “What does Waterfall mean?” Next, we will compare the pros and cons of the two so that you can decide on Agile vs. Waterfall methodology for your next project.

Agile

Pros

  • Reduced risk of an unsatisfactory end product
  • Allows for more creativity and adventurous design because the customer reviews and updates requirements regularly
  • Increased flexibility and better communication for the customer
  • Higher accountability and collaboration on the development team
  • There should be less to rework since issues are dealt with while they’re still in the early stages of development

Cons

  • It’s not the most intuitive process, and it takes time to learn how to do it well
  • The process may be unpredictable
  • It takes a lot of effort and commitment from the team and the customer to check-in so regularly
  • Because it’s hard to predict what the final product or service will look like, it can be harder to get commitments from stakeholders

Waterfall

Pros

  • Teams are better able to predict what the final product or service will look like
  • It’s more practical for large-scale projects
  • It is more intuitive and easier than Agile for teams of all sizes
  • Creates more stability for development teams that don’t have as much experience
  • It’s easier to establish a fixed budget and set timeline because you can predict what the end product or service looks like

Cons

  • Customers don’t always know exactly what they need at the beginning of the project, so setting requirements requires some guesswork
  • When requirements must be fully defined up-front, there’s a risk that the end product or service may not completely meet the customer’s needs
  • Changes are made later in the development process. By that time, a small change that was easy to change has become a deeply embedded issue that will be costly to fix

Conclusion

When you’re choosing Agile vs. Waterfall methodology, remember that Agile is more customer-centered and allows for more flexibility in the design process while Waterfall is more structured and predictable for development teams with less experience.

We hope that this article has answered some of your questions about these two strategies so that you can make an informed decision for your next project.

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Published: Wednesday , 29 September , 2021