Agile vs Waterfall Methodology – Which is Right for Your Project? 

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Fretty Francis

Senior editor

Parul Saxena

Chief editor

Last updated: February 23, 2021

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The very first decision that you need to make over the course of a project is choosing the project development methodology. If you want to ensure smooth work operations while maintaining productivity, deciding which project development method you will adopt is vital.

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If you find making a choice difficult, all you require doing is thinking about your project as a whole and then select either of the two most basic and popular methodologies – Agile and Waterfall.

These are reliable and trustworthy methods of project management. Though much project management software has come a long way in managing both processes, it is essential to decide which one is right for you. However, it is based completely on the project you will be working on and what it demands. So, let’s comprehend these methodologies in detail and the difference between agile and waterfall.

Agile Methodology

The agile approach is an iterative process that sees what works and what doesn’t. It highlights the rapid delivery of an application. It also includes customer involvement to a great extent till the project gets completed and recapitulates depending on the received feedback.

Though there are various approaches to the agile model, at its core, it narrows down to the following steps:

  • Plan

You start by creating a plan for fulfilling customers’ vision. Then, you conduct research and comprehend their needs, struggles, and more so that you can get an idea of what you are developing and for whom.

  • Build

Next, you build a list of features that would be helpful for your customers. This helps you set the priorities.

  • Launch

Now, your product or service is ready for launch.

  • Learn

After a successful launch, it’s time you start learning from it – what went right and what went wrong. Thus, you can learn from your mistakes and deliver high-end features to your customers.

  • Repeat

At last, you repeat the cycle and iterate until the product you thought is completed.

Pros and Cons of Agile Methodology

Agile Methodology

Pros
Cons
  • As it boasts high customer involvement, you can receive feedback swiftly and make decisions on the go.
  • It demonstrates less risk as your work is reviewed as you go. This saves time as well as money.
  • The output quality amplifies with each passing cycle.
  • As it focuses on quick delivery, it requires team members to work dedicatedly, and meeting deadlines can be an issue.
  • It concentrates on working software and not on comprehensive documentation; thus, the end product may differ from the planned one.
  • Though it defines a simple approach, it can be hard to execute.

Also Read: Asana vs Monday vs Trello: A Comprehensive Comparison Guide

Waterfall Methodology

This methodology defines a straightforward approach to software development. It is all about planning and executing a project. Unlike an agile model, waterfall methodology comprises of six steps:

  • Planning

This step involves defining project requirements and specifying the type of information you will require throughout the project. 

  • Analysis

Here, you need to document the design you’ll follow. For example, the coding language that you will use. Just as document management software takes care of all your information, this step includes creating a document that your team will follow.

  • Design

On successful completion of the above two steps, you can move on to the design step. It demands you to create a design that poses what the product is and how it will look like.

  • Implementation

Once you complete the above three steps, the actual work for the project begins here. Whatever you work upon should be functional.

  • Verification

In this phase, the testers will try to find out the issues and problems with your product. If they encounter some errors, you can go back a few steps to discover the origin and fix them. Nevertheless, you can also note down the areas for improvement and move to maintenance.

  • Maintenance

This demonstrates that every input of yours till now is on track. Thus, it indicates that the product is ready to launch. Before making it live, you can check once for errors and your product’s capabilities.

Pros and Cons of Waterfall Methodology

Waterfall Methodology

Pros
Cons
  • As the goals are predefined, it makes planning and designing straightforward.
  • It helps you determine progress at each step so that you can set clear milestones.
  • This model enables you to save time and money.
  • Documenting and gathering information on each step is time-consuming.
  • If the customers are not satisfied with your product, making changes to it can be expensive.
  • The scope of making mistakes is higher, and so is the risk.

  

Similar to task management software, both these approaches help streamline the product development operation over a period.

Now that you have learned about the difference between agile and waterfall, how will you decide which methodology is right for you? 

Deciding between Agile and Waterfall

Whichever you opt for, both are usable and mature. However, looking at your project requirement as a whole helps you determine which model is right for you. Here are some parameters that you can consider while choosing the methodology for your project:

  • Size of the project and the number of team members
  • Specific period of time in which the project is planned for execution
  • Deadlines you need to meet
  • The complexity of executing the processes
  • Who are your clients? What is their availability and relationship with you?

Here’s a brief about Agile vs Waterfall.

Waterfall Model vs Agile

Agile vs Waterfall

Factors
Agile Project Management
Waterfall Project Management
Project ScopeEven if the scope of the project is not pre-defined, you can make the changes well in advance with time and within the budget.Waterfall works well when the project scope is defined in advance. As it includes contract terms, it limits the changes.
TeamAn agile model can be great for a small or mid-sized team with high coordination.The waterfall model demands to have large teams. Moreover, it decreases coordination among team members.
CustomersCustomers can be available throughout the project.Customers are available only at specific milestones.
Customer RelationshipCustomers and developers are closely associated throughout the process.There is a long-distance between customers and developers.
Feature PrioritizationIt prioritizes features and resolves issues according to the set priority. This improves efficiency and eliminates complete failures.As features are not prioritized, there are chances that this model leads to either complete success or complete failure.
FeasibilityThe agile model looks better when the project is feasible.The waterfall model does not depend on the project’s feasibility.
FundingIt works towards increasing funding efficiency.It works by reducing fixed funding via up-front contracts.
ReleaseIt includes repetitive iterations and multiple releases.There is a single cycle and only one release.
FlexibilityThe agile methodology is highly flexible.The waterfall methodology is non-flexible and organized.
TestingTesting happens in parallel with the development so that quality is ensured continuously.Testing is done only after the development is finished.
Project Schedule RiskIt involves a little project schedule risk.There is a high project schedule risk.
Product DeliveryA Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is delivered at the end of each sprint/phase.The product gets delivered at the end of the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC).

Wrapping up

In this article, we determined the exact difference between agile and waterfall along with a comparison table demonstrating waterfall methodology vs agile. We hope this information will help you gauge the best model for your project.  

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Fretty Francis is a digital marketing and content strategist at SoftwareSuggest, a software recommendation platform. She's passionate about analytics, conversion rate optimization and ice-cream.

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