Agile vs Waterfall (Five Big Differences You Must Know as a Project Manager)

There has been a lot of talk about agile and waterfall when it comes to project management. However, the waterfall model appeared somewhere around 50 years ago, and the agile model seemed just 20 years back, which is relatively new in the industry.

Agile VS Waterfall (Five Big Difference You Must Know as a Project Manager)

The best part is there are so many hidden opportunities in agile methodologies, and again the success rate is very high. That’s one of the very reasons why PMI is focusing solely on agile in PMP certification, and almost 50% of the questions come from agile concepts.

Clearing PMP certification will make you better at agile methodologies. You get to work on the proven frameworks that will hone your project management skills and ability to make critical decisions. And if you’re not certified yet, here is your handy guide on how to crack PMP certification in the first place.

Now, what are the key differences between the agile and waterfall model? This blog will talk about five essential differences you must know as a project manager. So let’s dive in to explore them in detail.

Five Key Differences Between Agile and Waterfall You Must Know Being a Project Manager

Agile versus Waterfall

In the ever-expanding world of project methodologies, the never-ending debate between agile and waterfall gives new possibilities to look into project management deeply. While both have their pros and cons, they are best in their ways and can’t be ignored in any case.

The first and primary differences are in the waterfall model, creating a plan and sticking to it (all about the pre-defined and sequential process. But in the case of Agile, it’s more flexible and iterative; it gets more accessible as the project develops.

Agile Stick to Features While Waterfall To Phases 

Agile is more of principles than one methodology that applies to scrum, kanban, Scrumban, etc. This process goes on the continuous iteration of development and testing and runs simultaneously rather than a pre-planned process.

The waterfall is more linear, focusing on all the pre-planned phases with requirements fully defined before the project commencements. But the only goal here is that one process should be over before the next one can begin.

Estimation and Prioritization in Agile vs. Waterfall

Estimation and prioritization are highly essential to the success of agile and waterfall methodologies. If either of these or both go wrong, the whole project fails.

In agile, it works in sprint environments; therefore, when the estimations go wrong, it severely impacts the agile methods. And for the same reason, demo-ready products need to be developed in each sprint. But the vast advantage with agile is you can take necessary steps along the process as it is easy to spot in this process.

But in the case of the waterfall, if you get biased, it’s again tough to spot as everything is pre-planned, and when you spot it, you would have carried a long way. But, then, you might miss the deadlines, or your project may cross the estimated budget.

Therefore prioritization is essential in each case as the most crucial features are prioritized to minimize the risk and avoid project failure. But in the waterfall’s case, the development team work-on finishing everything agreed upon in the early phase.

Team and Customers Availability in Agile vs. Waterfall

Agile project management focuses a lot on customer centricity; they involve people throughout the process. They are always open to customers’ feedback and bring necessary changes to the entire project.

But in the waterfall model, the involvement of customers is almost little to no in the developing process. Either they present in the very beginning or at the milestone moments, or towards the end of the process. Therefore, no changes are involved in the middle of the process.

Scope and future in Agile vs. Waterfall

The changes can be made well in advance in an agile process, in the given time and budget. But, on the other hand, suppose you don’t have the scope in advance; the process is even successful.

But in the case of the waterfall, the whole result is quite the opposite. And it works well when the scope is known in advance and contract terms limit changes.

Feasibility in Agile vs. Waterfall

The agile project is suitable for the project that has to evolve and those that involve changing the requirements. And again, on top of it, it can respond quickly to the changes. And although it doesn’t include a lot of planning, client suggestions are easily incorporated as it gets delivered phase by phase.

On the other hand, the waterfall model is suitable for projects with clearly defined goals and requirements and doesn’t require changes in the middle. And here, the ability to respond to the changes is rare.

And as it requires a lot of planning, clients’ suggestions are hard to incorporate, as you know it gets delivered once the project is fully developed.

Final Words

Many project managers always get confused when they have both available options and choose between agile and waterfall. They get confused in choosing which could be the right one for the whole project — whether agile or waterfall?


And this blog will answer your question on this in multiple ways, and these five differences will help you understand the core differences between the two models and choosing the suitable model for your next project.

Agile vs. Waterfall (Five Big Differences You Must Know as a Project Manager)