Agile Vs. Waterfall – The Battle of Best Methodology for Software Development

1308
Agile vs waterfall software development method

The product development strategy in every industry is constantly evolving. No matter what business or industry you belong to, the software development methodology always remains the same and changes with the new tech updates and algorithms.

Today, you’ll find the craze of agile and waterfall software development methodology in the companies. Both are competent, yielded profitable results in the past years, and now have become an ultimate choice for many businesses. 

Around 71% of companies adopt Agile methodology, and 29% adopt waterfall methodology depending on their preferences and requirements. 

Any idea why the majority of businesses use Agile methodology and why still few are utilizing Waterfall? No? Read this blog and your answers.

This post will explore core features, drawbacks, and the differences between Agile and Waterfall software development methodologies. We’ll examine their similarities and differences in a series of comparisons to help you decide which is best for your project’s needs.

Often, companies have a basic understanding of what agile or waterfall means but don’t fully grasp how they compare against one another. My article should serve as an introduction to both concepts so that you can make more informed decisions about which style is suitable for your business needs.

So, let’s get started.

What is Agile? 

The Agile methodology consists of development processes, engineering practices, and frameworks. It focuses on faster delivery of products with early testing phases for incremental changes in the system.  

Image source:

Pros of Agile

  • Reduced risk of failure
  • Easily change priorities on the fly
  • Enhanced customer satisfaction
  • Collaboration and teamwork for a fast decision-making process
  • Priority on the highest business value feature for customers
  • Handpicked the best talent from across the world

With Agile, you gain a flexible approach to software development that adapts well to changing business needs. This methodology provides a framework for developing and testing products quickly while building on the work already completed. 

Cons of Agile

  • Successful implementation of Agile requires a high degree of discipline and clear roles. You have to manage projects meticulously, so it can’t work for everyone.
  • Teams working on agile projects don’t always have all the necessary skills to complete their assignment. It’s vital to hire people with complementary skill sets as part of an agile team.
  • Agile requires a significant investment of time and resources. If you’re looking for quick results, an agile approach might not be the best choice. 

With its iterative nature, “backtracking” can happen after previous work is discarded due to changing needs or new information. This process may find itself in deadlock if there’s no flexibility within the project.

What is Waterfall?

The waterfall is a sequential software development model that focuses on completing one phase of work before moving to the next phase. While this process does ensure high-quality design, testing, and development standards are met, it slows down overall time to market by limiting the possibility for iteration. 

Pros of Waterfall

  • The waterfall model’s sequential nature makes it easy to manage and control.
  • It has strict documentation requirements.
  • This methodology ensures that the project is completed in a high-quality way because each task is inspected before moving on to the next one.
  • You can easily account for time, money, resources, staff skills required, and product features.
  • This approach is predictable and reduces the risk of failure. 

The waterfall model can work in a variety of ways. In some cases, a “waterfall in the middle” is used for development or design where one phase flows into another and builds upon existing progress. Still, at least two steps are required before moving to the next part of the development process.

Cons of Waterfall 

  • The waterfall has a rigid structure that doesn’t allow for flexibility in changing requirements or direction. 
  • A company can spend more time planning than building, and it may take longer to learn what customers want if product specifications are set before user testing. 
  • It can be difficult to maintain business relationships with customers if there are long delays during the process.

With its rigid structure, one phase of work doesn’t begin until the previous phase is complete. This makes it more difficult to accommodate changes during the design process rather than afterward, increasing risk and costs.

Now Let’s Start With the Technical Comparison of Agile and Waterfall

1. Development Cycle

Agile

Image source: cyberhoot.com

The flow of Agile development is incremental, iterative, and evolutionary. In this method, requirements are managed in phases called iterations which can be days or weeks in length. In each iteration, a subset of the desired features is developed. 

There is generally a planning period in any given iteration to discuss what will ideally be achieved, followed by the “Iteration Demo,” where the team presents what was completed. An iteration generally ends with a retrospective of what went wrong or what you can improve. Think of it as having a set goal and working to reach that goal, but planning on something new along the way and beginning again once finished.

  • Requires teamwork and collaboration;
  • Allows for rapid changes in requirements;
  • Minimizes risk by creating a plan to implement features incrementally. 

Waterfall

Image source: ntaskmanager.com

Instead of breaking the project up into smaller components, the waterfall model is categorized into different phases. You must complete all tasks within each stage before continuing to the next one.

  • Requires clear requirements to be established before development;
  •  More time-efficient than the Agile methodology (which can take longer); 
  •  Ensures high-quality design and testing.

For many, the waterfall model is the best choice for producing software because it can accommodate changes in the direction later on in the process. It’s also highly time-efficient, as long as the requirements are agreed upon at the beginning of the project.

Winner – Agile

2. Flexibility

Agile

When it comes to Agile, flexibility is one of its key benefits. It means the customer can change their mind at any point without stalling development progress. However, if implementing changes would require halting work on other features that are already developed or tested, this may cause problems with team management trying to stay on schedule. It also becomes more challenging to estimate coming changes.

Image source: Vironit.com

Once a feature is completed, the customer can review it and request changes if needed before it proceeds to the next development phase. Agile also allows for easier transition between team members instead of situations where employees might be assigned specific tasks within more significant projects and not necessarily work toward the same goal throughout the entire process.

Waterfall

The waterfall model is designed to avoid changes throughout each phase of development. It’s not uncommon for it to take weeks or months before the customer receives what they asked for in a particular feature. This can make it challenging to implement changes, and there may be additional costs associated with restarting work on a project after already having completed part of it.

Though designs are typically not able to change once they begin development, there can be exceptions in some cases when the customer is willing to pay extra or additional time is allotted for alterations. There may also be times when business requirements are modified during the process. If this occurs, it’s possible to reassign priorities and impact the schedule.

Winner- Agile

3. Risks and Costs

Agile

Numerous studies have found that software development costs increase with time, so projects completed less time are more economical than those taking longer. It is because prices for labor and materials increase over time, making it challenging to achieve everything within the budget.

In addition, more features typically need to be developed because there is a greater amount of time available for planning and design. It can cause costs to increase even further as additional resources are required.

Waterfall

Having a plan that commits to resources and delivery dates with little room for changes can help reduce costs. In many cases, this strategy means less overall work will be needed because the requirements are established before starting the project.

Waterfall projects also have a high-quality control standard throughout a process that includes testing and design reviews to avoid mistakes being implemented into the final version. It ultimately helps reduce costs by avoiding errors caused by oversight or misunderstandings due to communication problems.

Winner- Waterfall

4. Transparency & Communication 

Agile 

The Agile methodology can hurt communication. Since the customer isn’t receiving the final product until the end of development, they’re unable to know what exactly has been done or what to expect at that point. It can confuse and slow the process down when it comes to making decisions about design and planning.

Waterfall

Some critics of this method believe it makes communication more difficult because requirements and documentation aren’t updated until each phase. Still, there is little opportunity for changes or feedback in-between stages. However, other studies have shown that transparency and communication can improve through the process.

Winner- Waterfall

5. Control 

Agile

When there is greater control over the development process, it’s easier to manage expectations. This typically isn’t an issue when using Agile because teams work in short sprints with customer feedback throughout each phase.

Waterfall

When requirements are detailed in advance with no room for modifications, it provides better control because there is less chance for mistakes and misunderstandings. This approach also helps reduce the number of items that get overlooked.

Winner- Waterfall

6. Collaboration 

Agile 

Frequent collaboration is a crucial component of Agile because it helps teams focus on high-priority items and avoids wasting time. Communication throughout each phase is typically more frequent than with waterfall, and team members can offer input as necessary. It also helps prevent any misunderstandings or incorrect assumptions due to a lack of communication.

Waterfall 

Collaboration can be limited in this approach because there may be long periods when the customer doesn’t hear anything about progress, which could cause them to lose interest. However, it typically provides better results in terms of quality and accuracy.

Winner- Agile 

7. Time to Market 

Agile

A shorter development time frame helps reduce overall costs, even though initial expenses may be higher than traditional projects. The longer a project takes, the more expensive it becomes due to labor and material costs increasing throughout development. 

It can also cause customer dissatisfaction because they are receiving an unfinished product. If development is spread out over a much more extended period, the customer may lose interest in using the final product when it’s finally finished.

Waterfall

This approach typically takes much longer to complete tasks and can cause further problems if there are delays along the way. It could push back the final delivery date of a product, which would then require the customer to wait even longer. 

In some cases, customers may choose to go with another company that quickly produces their product or service.

Winner- Agile

8. Scope Control 

Agile

The ability to change direction quickly can help reduce costs by allowing you to take advantage of new opportunities as they arise. This approach provides a better sense of flexibility throughout development. It can be a more suitable option for startups or other growing businesses that don’t want to get bogged down with project management issues.

Waterfall

The waterfall approach can help produce a more stable version because it’s unnecessary to make any changes once the initial requirements and information are gathered unless significant changes in direction or other problems arise. This method typically provides better results when time is limited and you already have a general idea of how it will look.

Winner- Agile

9. Information Sharing 

Agile

Reporting back to the customer throughout development allows them to offer input on significant issues, which can help reduce risks and avoid serious decision-making problems later in the process. This approach also helps keep your entire team on the same page and prevents any miscommunications.

Waterfall

The customer typically doesn’t receive more than one or two reports throughout the development process, which means they may not know what’s happening. A lack of input can result in further problems because it could lead to delays if there are misunderstandings between the team and the customer.

Winner- Agile

10. Testing and Quality Assurance

Agile

In this system, testing can begin during each development phase instead of waiting until the very end. It helps improve quality compared to the waterfall because fewer problems can take additional time to correct or cause further delays when issues are identified earlier on.

Waterfall

Testing is typically done at the end of each phase, leading to more errors and other problems if changes are made to the original requirements throughout development. It can also take additional time for issues to be found and fixed, pushing the completion date further.

Winner- Agile

11. Post Implementation Support 

Agile

Many software companies offer support in some form or another with their initial release. Still, the agile approach provides regular updates to keep the software up to date with any changes in the industry. It helps maintain your reputation because you’re still offering support at no added cost, which can also help retain customers looking for additional information or assistance if problems arise.

Waterfall

Some companies may offer this type of service with their initial release, but this approach doesn’t provide additional assistance after the project is completed. It leaves your customers to figure out any problems they encounter on their own unless there’s an agreement in place for future assistance at an additional cost.

Winner- Agile

So, Who Wins This Battle of Software Development Methodology? 

Image source: Storyblock.com

In all honesty, it’s a matter of personal preference in many cases when you’re deciding which approach to take. Each one has its perks and problems depending on your specific situation.

Pros and cons of each methodology

Agile

+ More flexible  – Quality can suffer in some cases if there are too many changes throughout the development.

Waterfall

+ More predictable and less likely to face severe problems if working with a fixed budget and timeline.  – Can become costly for large or complex projects because of the need to hire more staff members if there are delays, leading to other problems.

It’s also important to keep in mind the software industry is constantly growing and evolving. Hence, it’s always possible to introduce new methods and improve efficiency.

The Winner?

Agile is the clear winner for this battle because it’s more flexible, which is ideal when dealing with dynamic environments that are constantly changing. It can help improve quality compared to the waterfall, mainly if problems are found throughout the development process instead of waiting until the very end. Agile also provides additional services after your initial release, which is a plus for those looking to improve their reputation and help retain current customers.

Final Thoughts

With all of that said, it’s important to know there is no single best approach for everyone across the board. You should always consider your specific needs and goals before deciding which system will work best for you.

For better guidance, you can also consult a software consulting company. They are equipped with a professional setup, the latest infrastructure, and the latest technology to provide you with the best services.

FAQs

1. What is Waterfall development?

Waterfall development refers to a project management process that includes the following steps: analysis, design, implementation, testing, and evaluation. In other words, waterfall development implies vertical slicing of a project’s life cycle in phases executed sequentially one after another. The order of these steps must not be changed. In waterfall development, each stage is completed before the next one starts. In this case, you must complete all the steps in a given phase to move to the next step.

2. What is Agile development?

Agile development implies horizontal slicing a project’s life cycle into short iterations that last from a few days to a month or two, each delivering an agreed quantity of working, tested software. The term “agile development” describes the methodology instead of the specific tools used in agile projects.

3. What are some fundamental differences between Agile and Waterfall approaches?

The essential difference is that the waterfall approach requires extensive planning while the Agile approach has no formalized plan. The other difference is that in waterfall projects, success depends on the successful completion of all phases. In contrast, Agile projects are more likely to have some failure points at each stage and frequent re-planning, making them flexible for changes.

4. How many of the projects based on the Agile approach are completed successfully?

There is no definite answer to this question as it depends on how “successfully” is defined. The success rate of Agile projects varies from 10% to 90%, depending on the project’s particularities and the chosen definition. But since it is hard to quantify the definition of “success,” it is not used to measure the success rate.

5. What are some limitations of using the Agile approach?

One of the most notable limitations is that the Agile approach does not work in situations where there are no options for frequent changes if needed or when it comes to large projects. Another significant limitation is that the Agile approach fails when a fixed delivery date is required.

6. What are some advantages of using the Agile approach?

The main advantage of the Agile approach is its flexibility for frequent changes, which makes it highly adaptable to changes in projects during implementation which sometimes arises from unpredictable factors such as market conditions, customer feedback, or performance of new technology.

7. What are some limitations of using the Waterfall approach?

Waterfall has to be used with care because it is not flexible for changes during the implementation, making it vulnerable to ignorance regarding all possibilities. Another disadvantage of using the Waterfall method is communication problems within teams due to the case of changes which could cause difficulty with a lack of transparency.

8. What are some advantages of using the Waterfall approach?

The main advantage is that teams know the schedule for their work, including all phases and deadlines, which the waterfall project management method is more predictable than the Agile approach.

9. What is Waterfall development?

Waterfall development refers to a project management process that includes the following steps: analysis, design, implementation, testing, and evaluation. In other words, waterfall development implies vertical slicing of a project’s life cycle in phases executed sequentially one after another.

10 Which method (Agile or Waterfall) is the best development methodology?

A better question would be which software methodology best suits a particular project considering its specificities and requirements. There are several main factors that project managers should consider before using any of the methods mentioned. The main thing to remember is that there are no “BEST” ways, only the best way for a particular project under specific circumstances.