As in life, in software development there are many ways to achieve results. In today’s article, you will learn about two different software development methodologies that can help you decide which one to use for your project to achieve better results, save time and money.

You may have heard about a waterfall and agile development methodologies, these two are the most prominent development methodologies used among project managers and development teams. Both project management approaches are equally as good as each other. It is the project type itself which should drive which methodology to use.

There are many advantages and disadvantages of both approaches. Let’s take a look at them.

waterfall-software-development

Waterfall software development.

Waterfall Methodology

The waterfall methodology is a sequential design process in which progress is seen as flowing steadily downwards (like a waterfall) through the phases of conception, initiation, analysis, design, construction, testing, production/implementation and maintenance.

Once a single phase is finished, the team moves on to the next one without really having a possibility to go back and change something. This methodology is very sensitive to change and error as in most cases, making mistakes might be very costly or project will need to be started from the very beginning.

The Advantages of the Waterfall

  1. Client knows exactly what to expect;
  2. Strong documentation allows easy future improvements;
  3. Easy planning and implementation;
  4. Tangible output at the end of each phase.

The Disadvantages of the Waterfall

  1. Once a step has been completed, it is quite costly for the team to go back and make changes in a previous phase;
  2. Waterfall methodology relies heavily on initial requirements;
  3. The whole product is only tested at the end;
  4. Thorough testing is sacrificed in order to complete the project on time;
  5. Change in scope can seriously impact time/cost/quality;
  6. Failed phases have huge impact on the final product;
  7. It is very sensitive to internal or external dependencies.

Should You Use Waterfall Methodology?

Waterfall methodology is better for someone having a very clear project specifications and more time to execute a high-quality product. If you have a clear picture of what has to be built and you can ensure that there will be no changes, waterfall might be a better methodology to choose.  An initial implementation of a software tool or product is rarely understood enough to leverage this methodology.

agile-software-development

Agile software development.

Agile Methodology

The agile development methodology arose to address the shortcomings of a waterfall methodology. The agile methodology follows an incremental approach, instead of a sequential design process, allowing solutions to evolve through collaboration between self-organizing, cross-functional teams. It promotes adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, continuous improvement and testing.

The main difference from the waterfall method that agile is more responsive to unpredictability through incremental, iterative workflow, known as sprints.  This methodology embraces the fact that changes to the requirements during development are likely.

The Advantages of Agile

  • Encourages constant team interaction and involvement;
  • Good and organized involvement of customer and stakeholders;
  • Much more flexible to changes;
  • Very transparent when tracking progress;
  • Quality improves because testing starts from the day one;
  • Risk is reduced because you are getting feedback early.

The Disadvantages of Agile

  • Vague planning can be problematic;
  • Requires team commitment with open and communicative mindset;
  • Doesn’t work very well with big teams;
  • Hard to ensure high quality;
  • Team members must be highly skilled and competent.

Should You Use Agile Methodology?

You should consider using agile methodology when you are not clear about your idea of the final product or you simply want to get something out quickly to test and validate. It is also smart to choose agile when stakeholders are able to change the scope of the project once it has started.

Conclusion

If you are creating a new tool or product based on an existing one where you have a clear and detailed understanding of it’s feature set, and you have enough time to focus on planning before execution, the waterfall methodology might be more appealing as you will be able to execute high-quality product that is clearly defined and doesn’t require changes after the job is done.

On the other hand, if quick results, early feedback, the ability to iterate to find an ideal solution is more important, choosing an agile approach might be smarter due to quick prototyping capabilities and ability to launch product with only some of the features to test it out and iterate it on the way.