Agile vs. Waterfall: Which Application Development Methodology Is Right For Your Business?
At 3.8 billion, smartphone users currently span nearly 48% of the global population. As of April 2020, the number of active internet users worldwide has already crossed 4.57 billion. These figures stand as evidence of the unwavering popularity of instant internet access and mobile usage, and by extension, to the possibility of monetizing that demographic and driving revenue.
However, success in this arena relies on numerous factors. One of the most critical ones is choosing appropriate software and application development methodology.
The project management landscape is continually facing disruptions in new techniques, tools, and frameworks. Newer SDLC models are being discovered, and the older ones are being updated to match the new-age development principles and advancements. Of all those choices, the Waterfall methodology represents the pillar of traditionally-proven approaches, while Agile methods stand on modern ones.
Both of them are currently being used across the global IT landscape in ample instances, which begs the question- how do you choose the right one that suits your business and matches your application’s expected outcome?
SDLC Methodologies, Failure Rates, and Their Impact on Your Business- A Preface
A great deal of confusion ensues when we sit down to quote a reliable estimate and precise causes of software and application development projects that fail. Among IT projects initiated and executed over the last decade, many studies have presented figures that tie project failures with cost, time, and budget overruns. For instance:
- As per a PricewaterhouseCoopers study held in 2012, only 2.5% of all the 200 companies reviewed across 30 countries completed all their projects.
- An IBM study reported that only 40% of projects manage to meet the quality, schedule, and budget estimations.
- 75% of business executives expect their projects to fail.
- Only about 70% of projects met their ultimate intent in 2018, up from 62% in 2017.
Regardless of the research you pick and the failure rate it cites, both- Waterfall and Agile -have their popularity to speak for them. As per the 13th Annual State Of Agile Report, the longest-running and most-cited report on Agile developments:
- 97% of the respondents actively use Agile development methods in their organization.
- 74% of companies cited accelerated software delivery as their top reason for adopting Agile.
- 69% of businesses consider the ability to manage morphing priorities as the most significant Agile benefit.
- 48% of respondents reported a majority of successful Agile projects.
- 30% reported The Scaled Agile Framework as the most popular scaling method.
On the other hand, product development veterans still stand by the Waterfall approach. It is considered useful for projects with a rigid timeline or budget constraint. They especially appreciate this approach to software development because of its ability to understand the process, deliverables, and underlying principles comprehensively.
Therefore, the ultimate consideration remains one- choosing a methodology that brings the most profit to your business.
Waterfall and Agile Software Development Workflows- Introduction, Advantages, and Challenges
Waterfall Development Methodology
This traditional application development model employs a predetermined, sequential process. The linear approach makes the waterfall model more natural to understand and implement. But, since any change or review is only possible after development, often, improving the final result requires rework.
Product development using the waterfall model involves six phases.
- Requirement collection
- Feasibility study
This model operates on a very formal change control system. However, if the project’s scope changes too much during the development process, the software development process would need to be planned from scratch every time. That would inadvertently result in excessive resources, time, and cost consumption.
- Easy planning and implementation
- Simple learning curve
- Easy to manage
- Fixed deliverables for each phase
- A clear, sequential structure of the development process
- Well-documented process and results
- A fixed starting point, firm deadlines, predetermined evaluation process
- Rigid structure
- Little room for error or modification on the part of the development team
- Requires careful creation of a detailed plan before the development phase can be initiated
- Since testing occurs after the working software has been developed completely, implementing modifications becomes complicated and costly.
- Requires exhaustive research on the part of business analysts for project requirements
Cases where the Waterfall Model is a suitable choice-
- Short-term projects
- Projects with a clear definition of requirements and scope
- Projects where the requirements are the least likely to change mid-process
- Projects with an abundance of available resources
- Projects that can be created using a less complicated technology stack
- Projects with flexible deadlines
- Projects where substantial documentation is required to build a knowledge bank
Waterfall works best when the customer chooses not to get involved in the development & testing phases. Although it is regarded as a traditional approach to software development, the waterfall model has a design-heavy plan. Hence, it reinforces disciplined development and can end in a productive outcome if implemented appropriately.
Agile Development Methodology
The Agile SDLC model combines the incremental work cycle with an iterative process and divides development into small timeboxes. Its four core operating principles rely on interactive actions, customer collaboration, adaptation, and value-centric outcomes.
As one of the most realistic software development methodologies, Agile improves the sequential waterfall model by creating small iterative direct action blocks. It allows the space for requirements, and hence the solution, to evolve. It enables faster value delivery, enables project teams to respond to changes more effectively, and promotes organization, teamwork, and accountability.
Agile vs Waterfall
- Very flexible in adapting to changing customer requirements
- Encourages expansive stakeholder engagement
- More opportunities to understand expectations from the final product
- Transparent process of development
- Frequent and predictable delivery schedules
- Constant feedback generation and incorporation in the product ensure a customer-centric outcome.
- Continuous testing and remedial development in the Agile process help in improving the quality of deliverables.
- The test-driven development approach reduces the risk of project failure.
- Promotes collaboration, motivation, interaction, and teamwork
- Sprint-wise cost and deadline estimations fuel informed decision-making for the product owner and facilitate easier prioritizing for the developers.
- Since the Agile approach focuses on creating working software, comprehensive documentation often takes a back seat.
- Requires constant commitment and motivation on the part of the development team
- The final deliverable is hard to predict.
- The frequent reprioritization of the development process, combined with timeboxed delivery, can lead to increased sprints and an added expense.
- A complicated planning process
- A requirement of cross-functional team members
- Organizational maturity
Cases where the Agile Model is a suitable choice-
- Projects that require rapid production
- Projects with minimal expectations about the final product and scope for frequent changes
- Projects that involve regular product owner involvement and constant feedback incorporation during development
- Projects that are very likely to benefit from iterative development
- Projects with more focus on project requirements and less on cost and schedule constraints
Some of the most popular and widely-used Agile methodologies include Scrum, Kanban, Lean Software Development, Crystal, Dynamic Systems Development Method(DSDM,) Extreme Programming (XP,) and Feature Driven Development (FDD.) In almost all these methodologies, the iterations can continue even after product release for continuous optimization.
Agile vs. Waterfall – Which Project Management Methodology Is The More Profitable Choice
Both Agile and Waterfall are SDLC approaches that can come in handy for managing different project requirements. Both carry significant benefits, drawbacks, and use-cases. The former is adaptive, while the latter is predictive. On the one hand, numerous enterprises are adopting different Agile methodologies. On the other hand, Waterfall remains the top choice for specific project types and needs.
So, when it comes down to Agile vs. Waterfall, pros and cons can only help so much. Deciding between them is a matter of assessing numerous factors that cater to a product’s needs, goals, and restrictions.
- Initial Requirements
- The Rigidity of Development Constraints
- Time to Market
- Product Owner Involvement
- Enhancement Requirements
- Development Timeline
- Budget Constraints
It’s important to note that most organizations (74%, as per a KPMG study) utilize Agile methodologies to some extent. Nearly all the surveyed enterprises admit to combining Agile and traditional SDLC processes to create a hybrid concept customized to a project’s needs.
Agile or Waterfall’s choice entirely falls upon a thorough evaluation of the project’s workflow, budget, structure, process, and collaboration. Whichever way you go, ensure that it works best for your development goals.
Nathan Smith is an application developer at TechnoScore as well as a technology enthusiast and writer. He takes immense interest in decoding complicated tech concepts and sharing them with others through engaging narratives.
Agile vs Waterfall: Which is Right for Your Business?
- Free Project Management Certification Practice Test
- PMI-ACP Exam Prep Workshop and Online Learning
- Agile and Scrum Fundamentals Workshops and Online Learning