Agile vs Waterfall: Differences in Software Development Methodologies
Agile and Waterfall are both valid software project management methodologies used by diverse development teams across the world.
Did you know that the Agile approach is more suitable for more complex projects with smaller but highly organized and synchronized development teams that prioritize openness to change in direction?
Are you aware that the Waterfall approach is far more used than what some information may suggest, and that the approach reduces the risk of fixed-price contracts while catering to customers that don't have time for constant project involvement and prioritize fast delivery?
But, how do these industry-renowned methodologies suit your specific requirements and how do they deal with compensating for the shortcoming of their apprsoach?
Read the thoroughly-researched comparison below, and find your software solution in one of the project management methodologies.
Leading Agile Project Management Software Platforms
Best cloud-based project management software for workflow automation.
The color-coded boards allow users to quickly see how projects are progressing, which tasks are finished, and what do certain members need to finish their tasks.
The boards convey due dates and relationships between assignments, and users can view the boards based on the person, status, text, date, or timeline.
Rows called “pulses”, are part of each board and they can contain comments and file attachments, with real-time notifications and the possibility for users to message the entire team or specific members.
You can invite clients as guests to view the progress of their projects within the relevant boards.
The timeline is perfect for tracking projects and tasks that span over multiple days or for larger teams dealing with multiple workloads simultaneously.
The users can view multiple timelines on a single timeline board, while the drag-and-drop interface allows you to drop timeline bars and extend the due dates if there is a chance for a project or task delay.
The Basic plan is $8 per month per seat and it includes unlimited boards, 200+ templates, 20+ column types, unlimited free viewers, iOS and Android apps, and more.
Best project management tool for enterprise-grade organizations.
The cloud-based solution enhances collaborative work management services, helping organizations respond to accelerating market conditions.
Managers are provided with real-time visibility into all of the team's projects.
Thorough project and portfolio planning, resource management and capacity, financial planning, time and expense management, work request, and project demand management are some of Clarizen's capabilities that accelerate team performance.
Clarizen delivers enhanced agile task management capabilities, and you can create as many Kanban boards as you wish and divide the work between several teams using different workflows, and track progress by sub-projects, phases, customers, etc.
Clarizen will create the environment for effective customer collaboration through one-stop-shop portals, access to their projects, files, conversations, and requests, matching portal brand looks, version control tools for tracking interactions and updates, workflow configuration tools, exportable links to fully-updated reports, and more.
With Clarizen, your team will get access to powerful issue and risk tracking, document management, and digital proofing, security and user management, and various analytics.
Clarizen offers Enterprise and Unlimited edition pricing plans, both of which you have to request the pricing to see which features come at what price.
#1 Visual Project Management Software for IT, Creative, and Legal Workflows.
You can manage projects according to Kanban, Scrum, NEXUS, SAFe, and other approaches.
Targetprocess equips the businesses with insightful data visualization so that all members have complete project visibility, while real-time information helps them synchronize project strategy and development.
With an overview of every project, Targetprocess enables you to scale for details, while the timelines enable users to plan projects, track and visualize activities, and document work progress over time.
The powerful board allows you to share and broadcast the planning and progress tracking information, while the lists enable the users to see the projects' hierarchy and manage backlogs.
Full customization, inline editing, and beautiful design add to the software's holistic planning, tracking, and complex-work-managing solution.
The users can utilize its customization tools to define risk, and set up automatic notifications from the system alerting them of the same, while the prioritization allows anyone to automatically factor considerations and help the teams make informed decisions.
Other notable features include custom reports and dynamic visualization, service desk, integrations with more than 60 apps, iOS and Android apps, and more.
The software does have a free trial, but the pricing is individual and varies from customer to customer.
Ideal PM Solution for software and product development, design, marketing, HR, sales companies.
The visual board allows the companies to access time tracking, WIP limit setting capabilities, as well as the capacity to add column categories, sub-columns, and swimlanes.
The visual sprint board holds tools for burndown charts, estimation, progress tracking, backlog, smart links, versions, and releases.
Hygger equips its users with a backlog board through which you can collect ideas for the next features, and score them according to effort, priority, and value.
With smart links, the team can send tasks to development and track their progress.
The roadmap board enables users to plan and visualize their releases, communicating the product strategy so that every phase is concise, logical and all the stakeholders are kept informed.
Hygger integrates with GitHub/GitLab, Bitbucket, Slack, Zendesk, Dropbox to help you do everything from proactively monitoring pull requests' statuses to managing your files without switching between the apps, and more.
Hygger provides projects and collections-driven organization, inbox, conversation threads, live activity streaming, API, mobile apps, among many other features.
The next subscription plan after the free one is $7 per user per month.
Best Project Management Software for Digital Agencies, Development Teams, Consulting Firms, and Product Teams.
Nifty offers multi-user capability with flexible permissions, and you can structure user roles according to your company's requirements.
Organized help guides and video tutorials will assist you in the onboarding process, while the 24/7 premium support will respond to and resolve any issues.
On-demand API service for qualifying teams, expense tracking, product and project management, task and resource management, client and team collaboration tools are displayed on Nifty's easy-to-navigate dashboard.
Nifty allows a variety of integrations, including Slack, GSuite, GitHub/GitLab, Salesforce, Zendesk/Intercom, and more.
This project management tool orchestrates team and client workflows smoothly while facilitating better team alignment with progress reporting that comes built-in just like the time-tracking feature.
Attaining team alignment is crucial, and the remote access tools are the best assistants to do so for the remote employees looking to contribute with their part of workflow progress.
Nifty's automatic project tracking allows team members to accomplish tasks, propelling the project milestones progress for automated reporting for all project stakeholders.
You can import data from Asana, Basecamp, and Trello and maintain your workflow while connecting clients with the project through clear communication channels.
Dynamic roadmaps and task management with automated milestone progress tracking are complemented by task completion tools and a birds-eye view of all projects and team members' workloads.
The Starter plan is $39 per month, billed annually.
Best Project Management Software for Projects and Ongoing Work.
Wrike is a team collaboration platform that continues to add exciting features such as the work intelligence feature that predicts when a project is at risk of failing and alerts of the possible causes.
Forecasting the risk factors is especially significant when setting ambitious and challenging goals, and a robust progress-tracking framework like OKR will assist the risk-predicting tool like Wrike to keep teams on course of achieving measurable goals.
Besides project risk prediction, Wrike offers the mobile app document processing feature that allows you to scan documents and extract text and transfer it into an editable format, for both printed and handwritten documents.
Wrike offers the same view options for both project and non-project work, and these include board, table, list, and Gantt chart, with two tabs for uploaded project files and a summarized scrollable list of all project activity.
Wrike administers all its communication channels effectively with comment boxes for every task and @mentions, and a stream showing all project activity.
Many add-on services can extend the tool's functionality, and these include a document editor, a publishing service, a proofing workflow, and more.
In Document Editor, you can open a file someone uploaded and make changes and annotations.
Wrike offers special account types and subscription plans for marketing and creative teams, and professional services, which is why it's best practice to speak with a representative that will recommend the right account type for your team.
Best Project Management Software for Programmers.
It provides the features which are key for starting an agile software development project like diff checker, version control tools, and merging code snippets.
Issues are what other PM tools generally categorize as tasks, and these include tasks, bugs, requests, and others.
Backlog allows you to classify any issue, add a subject line, write descriptions using rich formatted text and emojis, rate the issues by priority, and assign it to a team member.
Apart from the diff viewer for comparing code snippets, Backlog provides SVN and Git repositories, as well as a pull request, merge request, and branch management, along with version tracking.
The interactive Gantt charts allow you to adjust the starting and finishing due dates for issues by dragging them across the timeline.
The platform provides a space for your team to keep wikis for everyone to share notes and valuable information, and these can be edited by anyone on your team.
For reporting, Backlog displays a burndown chart with a status summary, and you can find a list of milestones with a progress bar for each milestone, along with similar reports for categories.
The Starter plan is $35 per month.
Most Versatile Project Management Software for Software Development, DevOps, and Project Management Teams.
The Atlassian project management tool JIRA provides a visual representation of the tasks' progress through the projects' timelines and gives its users a roadmap to help them navigate.
With JIRA, you will be able to connect all team members and their work through Scrum and Kanban boards, agile project management reporting, roadmap views, real-time commenting, and more.
With Scrum boards and Kanban boards, you can create cards that convey task information such as assignees, due dates, comments, and file attachments.
There are two JIRA task management products, and these are JIRA Core and JIRA Software.
JIRA Core allows teams to manage task-oriented projects, collaborate and share information across multiple devices, and keep the workflows organized, as well as a 7-step workflow that enables time-saving task automation.
JIRA Software adds Agile functionality to JIRA Core, including the capability of working from project backlog to sprint, as well as fully-customizable Scrum and Kanban boards.
Additional functions of JIRA Software also include advanced reporting features, including burndown charts and velocity measurements.
Besides the Free plan, JIRA offers a Standard plan for $7.
Understanding the Differences Between Agile and Waterfall
1. Agile is flexible to change and urges experimentation
Agile separates the project development process into sprints, the time-boxed phases with a fixed duration of two weeks, with a list of deliverables prioritized at the start by the customers, and evaluation and future sprint planning at the end.
The incremental model Agile methodology applies focuses more on the principles of satisfaction and flexibility, catering to contributors, clients, collaboration, accurate results, adaptability, breaking down the development into increments completed in multiple iterations or short time frames.
Each iteration includes all SDLC phases, and the updated product is released once the iteration meets the intended design.
Waterfall is a sequential approach that divides the projects into distinct phases, and to proceed into the next phase the previous phase must be completed first.
The phases can include many processes, including gathering requirements, analysis and designing, coding and unit testing, system testing, user acceptance examination, and deployment.
2. Waterfall has a sequential, predisposed action plan for projects with fixed requirements
In Waterfall, a document is signed off if there are no deliverables in between each phase, but the phases are completed only once without the possibility to make changes once the project has started.
Taking all this into account, we can conclude that Agile is more flexible, composed of many different projects, allows changes in the development even when planning has been completed, a test plan is reviewed after each sprint, requirements are expected to change and evolve, but that is not all.
On the other hand, Waterfall has a more rigid sequential structure that doesn't allow changes once the path has been set, development is one big project, all the phases are completed once, the test plan is rarely discussed during the test phase, which means it's best suited for projects with fixed requirements.
The system comes off as quite rigid because of all the requirements needed to be gathered flawlessly to facilitate the budget, schedule, and resources effectively.
Unlike the Waterfall approach where testing is conducted strictly before any development has begun, Agile methodology enables testing and software development to be conducted simultaneously.
3. Agile’s Flexibility vs Waterfall’s Punctuality
While Agile approaches the project with an attitude of adaptability to change and doing as many revisions as necessary to experiment with the customer's vision, Waterfall prides itself in punctuality and project accomplishment on the due date and by predefined norms.
Agile methodology indeed performs great under non-fixed funding but can come across divergence in fixed-price conditions, while Waterfall reduces risks in the fixed-price contracts with precautional risk agreements before the process.
Your project goals are influenced by your financial goals, and vice versa, which is why you need to define your savings, spendings, limits, and investments to find the middle ground between expanding your business and saving money.
Smaller but committed teams with a high degree of coordination and synchronization can benefit the most from the Agile approach, while Waterfall provides little synchronization/coordination flexibility for the independent, low and high dependency teams.
4. Waterfall’s one-off thorough business analysis vs Agile’s daily readjustment
The one-off, to-the-last-detail business analysis in Waterfall differs from Agile's everyday continuously-changing requirement preparation by the product owner and the team.
It is more difficult for the test team to influence any requirement changes, unlike Agile where this is quite common.
While Waterfall implements its software development approach for detail descriptions, Agile allows the project details to be altered whenever during the SDLC process.
Because of its predisposed nature, a project manager plays a vital role in the development process which is not the case with Agile where the team members manage the projects and are interchangeable.
What is Agile Methodology?
Agile methodology is a team-based project management approach to project development that practices discovering requirements and application of fully functional components by cross-functional teams with a focus on customer satisfaction.
Functioning under a more flexible framework, the agile methodology advocates adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery with iteration possibility, while empowering thorough understanding and improving the client's vision, and openness to change.
1. Sprints and deliverables
Marked in a duration of usually two weeks, time-boxed phases called sprints are defined by a list of deliverables as prioritized by the customer.
At the end of each sprint, the team and the customer evaluate and review the sprints, leaving notes for improvement or adjustment for future sprints.
As Agile relies heavily on the customer's involvement during the development process, it empowers reviews through daily builds and end-of-sprint demos.
Deliverables in each sprint are prioritized by business value, and if they can't be completed within the set timeframe, the work is reprioritized and the information is left for future sprint planning.
The small increments (or sprints) divide the project and minimize the up-front planning and design, allowing cross-functional planning, analysis, design, coding, unit testing, and acceptance testing teams to handle the iterations.
2. The goal of iterations
At the end of an iteration, the assigned team presents the working product to stakeholders which minimizes the risk of investing resources into an irreversible process and enables the product to adapt to changes quickly.
The goal of each iteration might be to have an available release with minimal bugs that either reinforces the original vision of the customer or points to the necessary changes, rather than rushing into the market release.
While multiple iterations might be necessary before the product release, incremental development allows the product to fail and test its limitations, so it can be presented as the best version possible at the end.
The incremental development approach not only produces alternative realities for products and shows how feasible an idea is, but it develops a relentless work ethic in each team member that will create financial independence for your team and each member.
3. Collaboration and customer involvement
The customer gets to see the product in action early and frequently throughout the development so any changes are possible at any time.
Just like co-location allows the co-workers within a team to establish a group identity with face-to-face interaction, the customer gains a strong sense of ownership and participation by working directly with the teams.
This kind of system creates the perfect conditions for a faster software development life cycle, predictable sprint schedule, efficient and all-inclusive communication between customer representatives and the team resulting in higher stakeholder satisfaction.
4. Daily scrums, techniques, and ROI
Common characteristics of this customer-centered methodology are a short feedback loop and adaptation cycle, where team members in daily scrums report how they progressed forward to the iteration goal the previous day, what is on their plan today, and what roadblocks they have noticed.
Due to the daily involvement and readjustment, Agile advocates co-location which isn't always possible, but there are always video conferencing software platforms as alternatives with high-quality video and fully-featured collaboration tools.
The more frequent customer direction, flexibility in making changes, and empowering team communication results in the stakeholders regularly re-evaluating priorities and optimizing ROI, and higher product quality.
Tools and techniques such as automated unit testing, continuous integration, test-driven development, pair programming, behavior-driven development, design patterns, code refactoring are used to facilitate product quality at the beginning and the ability to demonstrate software for customers at any stage.
If you need to market a specific application and demonstrate its quality more than releasing a market-ready feature set at the initial launch, Agile can produce the basic version of working software that can be later boosted through iterations, faster than any other method.
The Agile development process has an established set of principles, valuing competent individuals and interactions over methods and tools, working software over extensive documentation, interactive customer collaboration over contract negotiation, and a change-accommodating plan over a strict one.
Pros and Cons of Using Agile
- The customer has early and regular opportunities to see the work delivered, influence change, and steer the course of project direction
- With direct collaboration and project influence, the customer gains a strong sense of credit and ownership
- Instead of one large application, you can modularize the program into several pieces, and release the basic version of the software that can be equipped with iterations later
- Group similar features into applications or smaller components, with API contract between each component which you can automatically test to ensure compatibility and reduce risk in the final release
- With more inclusive and frequent direction from the customer, the development is more user-focused, while the collaboration increases the stakeholders' trust in the team's ability to produce a high-quality product
- The fixed-schedule nature of 1-4 week sprints allows the features to be delivered quickly and frequently, which becomes expected, and this level of predictability prepares the software for beta-testing sooner
- The amount of work performed by the team within the set time phase limits the sprint cost, which along with the estimates the client receives before each sprint helps them grasp the approximate cost of each feature
- Besides improving the decision making and iteration prioritizing, Agile provides regular opportunity to reprioritize and refine the product backlog, setting the scene for future iterations
- Apart from framing the product through business value, Agile utilizes user experiences with business-focused approval criteria to establish product features
- Each feature delivers a user-focused value, which provides software beta-testing opportunity after each sprint, as well as valuable feedback to make changes early in the process
- Frequent builds, testing, and reviews during and after each iteration enable the team to identify and solve defects and aligning the expectations, which improves the product quality
- The methodology helps you better incorporate demo feedback, usability testing, and client and customer feedback
- Agile helps teams prevent common project pitfalls such as cost, schedule predictability, and scope creep
- Agile demands a high degree of customer cooperation which is not something everyone prefers
- The teams decide on the project methods and resources without the manager's orders, which requires decision-making power and restructuring
- Priority changes and additional sprints may be necessary to accommodate all iteration deliverables, which adds additional cost
- Co-location, which is recommended for its full effect, is not always possible
- Some items set for delivery may not be completed within the set timeframe
- Additional features requested throughout the project evaluation may cause extra cost
- Large-scale projects can suffer from decreased quality when the refactoring and the full scope of the system aren't aligned in the initial design
What is Waterfall Methodology?
Waterfall methodology is a linear approach to software development that divides the project down into seven sequential, distinct phases.
The next phase can only proceed if the previous one has been completed, and you can't make adjustments and restart the planning process like in Agile.
If the deliverables are not produced by the end of each phase, or a document will be signed off.
Waterfall breaks down the SDLC process into seven sequential phases
1. The idea conception
The stage before any requirements are collected or the budget is determined is the beginning stage where the developers brainstorm what they want to design and why.
2. Document gathering and requirements
This is where all the system and software requirements that are necessary for successful development are considered.
You can find the common requirements needed for software product development in the Product Requirements Document, and these include title and author information, purpose and scope, market assessment and target demographics, functional, technical, and environmental requirements, constraints, dependencies, and more.
Business documents like PRD and RUD need to be properly stored, edited, organized and backed up with the document management software that also provides collaboration, workflow streamlining, and access limiting solutions.
After a thorough analysis, a Requirements Understanding Documents (RUD) is created, with the phase resulting in models, schema, and business rules.
In this stage, the software architecture is constructed with developers determining how they want the software to work and which pieces are necessary for the program to operate.
Software documentation facilitates communication between stakeholders, capturing early decisions about high-level design and allowing the reuse of design components in later projects.
To align the software's development, proving, and integration, each unit of the software has to be coded and tested, as well as integrated into alignment with the architecture from the design phase.
Along with designing, documenting, and bug fixing, unit testing puts the individual units of source code under examination to determine whether they are fit for use.
This phase involves an all-encompassing system testing procedure where systematic discovery and debugging of defects is conducted through user testing, bug testing, and going back to search and fix specific issues from the previous phases.
The final stage includes presenting the final product to the customer, as well as installation, migration, support, and maintenance.
Once you have determined the methodology that aligns with your team environment and objectives, you can select one of the listed software to increase your team's productivity or try the best task management software alternatives.
Pros and Cons of Using Waterfall
- The planning and designing process is straightforward and has the fastest starting phase, with its systematic framework giving you a clear understanding of the project timeline and deliverables before the project starts
- The development team and customers easily agree on the deliverables early in the development lifecycle, establishing the full scope of the project especially well for smaller-size projects with simple requirements
- Each phase of the project has specific deliverables and a review process while being documented in detail to avoid any misunderstandings
- Faster delivery that's in a large proportion caused by the shared workload and defined scope of work, taking some time off of the development's team so that individual members can focus on other aspects of work
- The method is flexible to handle team shifting so it accommodates the project, while various team members can be involved in other work like business analysts learning how to propel the project forward, testers preparing requirements documentation test scripts, and more
- Dedicated resources can work parallel in specific tasks, and multiple software components sometimes must be designed in parallel for integration with external systems
- The approach is more hands-off, allowing less customer involvement on an ongoing basis before the review phase, as well as for approvals and status meetings
- Due to the sequential nature of finishing phases before starting the new ones, finding and resolving task dependencies is simple
- Less suitable for large-scale projects
- Less opportunity for customer involvement
- Potential difficulties for customers navigating through the requirements gathering phase
- Rigid structure doesn't allow changes that can improve the product and customer satisfaction
- Testing is done only at the later phases of the project
- The complete planning process needs to be executed flawlessly before the project starts
- High chances of bugs appearing later in the development process when they are difficult to fix
- When the requirements are less clear in the beginning, the final product decreases in quality significantly
Agile vs Waterfall FAQ
While the development process is ongoing, the marketing team generates u0022buzzu0022 in anticipation of the product while the sales team demonstrates why the product is a solution for the customer's issues.
Generally, Agile methodology is used more frequently, but it is not always the most preferred or suitable option.
When the requirements are clear from the start and highly unlikely to change, Waterfall is the best solution.
Also, if the customer prefers not to be involved in the development on an ongoing basis or at all before the review phase and final presentation, Waterfall might be a better fit for you.
Besides the system education that's the same regardless of the method used, which can also be altered to fewer educations ahead of a larger release, the Waterfall approach only requires the customer to receive and install the product.
If the project is small and the speed of delivery is irrelevant, Waterfall might be better suited for you.
If the delivery is to be applied to a legacy system that's not prone to change, and you have similar projects in the future that allow reuse of the project plan and can draw from the previous documentation, Waterfall can elevate your project while saving time and resources for your team.
Finally, if you are dealing with more complex dependencies, Waterfall is the way to go.
It can be when the company culture and management work against the approach's basic principles and place too much pressure on certain developers without a clear objective or provided information.
The constant strive for improvement, feedback that doesn't match the expectations, sudden changes in direction are among the main factors people have been assigning to Agile's description of a stressful management method.
The constant strive for improvement can be a strain without having a tool to measure how effective your team is in achieving key business objectives, and a measurable value system like KPI will help you evaluate the target-reaching success of your team.
Agile increases the level of responsibility expected of a developer, along with iterative and choppy nature posing the question of how to attain the speed and deliverables while decreasing fragmentation and intense, unsynchronized communication between the team?
Spreading out the responsibility more, meaning the team and sponsors taking action to make the pace sustainable for each developer, will allow the customers to reap the benefits of a highly functional team.
When the team reflects on how to become more effective regularly, readjusting its behavior accordingly, space will open for the right developers to identify issues and impediments and take any action they deem the best to extinguish them.
It doesn't save you money if you have unrealistic expectations or don't care about the intricacies in the quality of the product, but it is a surefire way to eliminate any unexpected or unnecessary costs.
If you are working on the development of a custom information system software for your client, for example, and the funding gets cut massively for some reason, the incremental payments would ensure you'd still have the funds to steer the development focus towards features like employee monitoring while postponing the rest until funding recovers, Agile doesn't leave the customers in the dirt.
Agile ensures the risk of creating futile software is alleviated, and the customers are guaranteed that the team will meet the intended design and functionality by offering expert feedback.
The system drastically decreases the possibility for developer burnout and reduces turnover and wastage, eliminating the extra hours and the need for wasting the client's budget.
Everything comes from and is approved by the client, while the team focuses on developing the most practical and elaborate solution for the client's requirement within a team that assigns the tasks to experts in each field of development while promoting knowledge sharing and generating higher quality.
In Agile, the team and the customer get their money's worth every time.
Agile or Waterfall: Which Software Development Methodology Should I Choose?
If your client prefers customer involvement only at milestones, the full scope of the project is known in advance and few changes are expected and want to reduce the risk in the firm-fixed-price contracts with an upfront agreement, the Waterfall approach is better suited for you.
For a team developing a project where the client prefers continuous involvement, welcomes changes at the expense of budget, schedule, and other features, and maximized funding efficiency, the Agile methodology is what they need to elevate their dedicated, coordinated, synchronized smaller teams to another level.
Many user reviews and testimonials showed dissatisfaction in Waterfall when it comes to time-wasting practices that could be avoided while the rigid structure doesn't welcome necessary changes, just like the Agile has been criticized for unsynchronized work conditions and frustrations with the developers' experience.
Either way, it's important to acknowledge the potential drawbacks and recognize how they weigh against the numerous advantages of both approaches.
Commonly, you will see development teams using a hybrid model for a waterfall approach, as Agile's adaptability is considered a major advantage with Waterfall being the right choice in specific circumstances.