Agile vs waterfall methodology: which one is the best for you?

By Giorgia Frezza
Published: 30/06/2021
definition backgroundAgile vs waterfall methodology: which one is the best for you?

What are the most important aspects in a project?

Every project can be summarised in two key words: planning and management. However, the most important element in any project is its outcome.

No matter which development methodology is used, the final result is the yardstick for all the work done. It is therefore essential for a company to find the approach that is most in line with the company's organisation and production requirements.

That's why today Appvizer will analyse two different methodologies for you and compare them.

Then it is up to you to choose which one fits your company best.

Waterfall methodology

What is the waterfall model?

Origins

The waterfall model, designed in 1970 by Royce, was the first publicly documented product life cycle model. The waterfall model is a popular version of the systems development life cycle model at the heart of software engineering.

Definition

The waterfall process was the first process model to be introduced. It also refers to a linear/sequential product life cycle model. It is very simple to understand and use. In a waterfall approach, each phase must be fully completed before the next phase can begin. This type of product development model is basically used for a small project or one with certain requirements.

At the end of each phase, a review takes place to determine whether the project is on the right track or needs to be corrected.

Advantages and disadvantages of the waterfall methodology

Advantages

  • Definition of a clear structure. The waterfall methodology is based on a precise and defined set of phases. Teams must complete an entire phase before moving on to the next one. So if obstacles to a successful project arise, they are easily identified at an early stage.
  • The working model of the Waterfall method is intuitive and does not require any specific certification or training for project managers or other staff.
  • Establish final goals in advance. One of the characteristics of the Waterfall method is that the objective set in the final phase is respected. Teams work from the outset with the end goal in mind.
  • Accurate transfer of information. The Waterfall method is by definition methodical, so the accurate transfer of information from one phase to the next is one of the pillars of this method.

Disadvantages

  • Difficulties in making changes. The methodology, in its most traditional version, does not allow for sudden or last minute changes or modifications. A sudden change in the project guidelines could undo much of the work you have done up to that point, with a consequent impact on deadlines.
  • Exclusion of the client or end user. As an internal process, the Waterfall methodology excludes the end user or client involved in a project. Clients often prefer to be involved in the evolution of a project, adding opinions and clarifying what they want.
  • Testing phase at the end of the project. Leaving the testing phase at the end is highly risky. The project is likely to have taken time and energy away from the team before being completed, so last minute changes may jeopardise the success of the project.

The Agile methodology

Origins

The agile philosophy began to appear in the 1990s in software development and development projects in general.

But it was in 2001 in Utah, when a group of software developers came up with the agile methodology as an answer to the rigidity of traditional approaches.

Over the years, several agile frameworks have been developed, such as :

  • Scrum
  • Extreme programming
  • DSDM
  • Lean software development
  • Crystal

These sometimes share specific agile tools such as the Kanban board, burn up or burndown charts… to help at each step of the project.

Definition

The agile methodology is a set of activities and practices that make the management of a process more flexible. Overall, its main characteristic is that it allows the project manager and team members to follow current priorities throughout the different phases and adapt their work accordingly. Thus, in case of blocking elements is still possible to adjust priorities or activities.

The 4 principles of the agile methodology

  1. Individuals and interactions instead of processes and tools
  2. Performing software rather than excessive documentation
  3. Collaboration with the client is preferred to contract negotiations
  4. Being responsive to change rather than sticking strictly to a work plan

Advantages and disadvantages of the agile approach

Advantages

The Agile methodology has countless advantages. The most important are:

  • greater flexibility
  • better customer relations
  • continuous collaboration between partners
  • sustainable development
  • increase in quality through an exponential reduction in errors
  • better compliance with deadlines
  • better visibility of project progress

Disadvantages

The Agile methodology has, however, a few disadvantages:

  • Need to present extremely clear objectives
  • A working strategy that is not in line with more traditional mentalities
  • Difficulty in clearly establishing costs, time and resources at the beginning of the project
  • Difficulty in keeping track of progress because the agile methodology is based on a system of increments.

Comparison of the two methods

Agile Waterfall
Division of the project development lifecycle into sprints The development process is segmented into distinct and precise phases
It is based on a strategy related to increasing turnover It is based on a strategy related to sequential processing
The Agile methodology is renowned for its flexibility The Waterfall model is a well-organised development method and therefore has a rather rigid approach.
It is presented as a collection of different projects The success of the team will be the result of a single project
It is a method characterised by flexibility. Strategies and objectives can be changed during the course of the project. Nothing can be changed once the design phase is complete.
The test phase is performed after each sprint or iteration The test phase is only carried out at the end of the project.
The Agile methodology is based on an iterative development strategy. The planning, development and prototype creation phases are repeated cyclically. All stages of project development are repeated once and, once completed, are archived
Agile development is a type of project that adapts to changes along the way. The waterfall method is perfect for projects that are well-focused and have fixed objectives
The focus is on the end customer, so changes are made according to the customer's needs and requirements. The focus is on the project and its success
The agile methodology is preferable for small but specialised teams in an area of expertise. A high degree of coordination and synchronisation is required from the different teams. The waterfall method is preferable for large teams with several departments. Synchronisation of all teams is therefore not a prerequisite.
The Agile methodology lends itself well to bespoke contracts. It can be more limiting in fixed price cases. It is advisable in fixed-price contracts as the risk is calculated at the beginning of the project.
Together with the product owners, the project can be changed on a daily basis. Through the business plan, even before starting work on the project, objectives and deadlines are decided and remain so until the very end.
Agile team members are interchangeable, so the work is done more efficiently and quickly. The project manager is not essential, as the teams work together to realise the project. In the waterfall method, the process is always linear, therefore, the hierarchical structure is important and the project manager has a strong decision-making power during each phase of the process development.

And you, which is the best for your company? Leave us your answer in the comments.

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