Currently, the software industry offers various methodologies, reflecting the significance of project management in software development. When I first ventured into this field, all these names and methodologies are what scared me the most; because I had to know what all these names mean first! But after years of working in the industry – particularly with Waterfall and Agile methodologies that are also currently dominating – I have finally found my way around it.
I like to think of the models this way – Agile is like a sprint, where teams work in small cycles, delivering and improving constantly. Whereas working mechanism of Waterfall methodology is like a marathon, with consecutive steps and a fixed plan. That is while Agile is giving you the luxury of being flexible, Waterfall is providing you with a more clear structure. So at the end of the day, the choice really comes down to the specific needs or requirements of the project that you are working on.
So, in this blog, I will provide you with a checklist, based on my years of experience working with these methodologies, that will cover every single aspect possibly related to a software project. So that you can simply tick off which box fits more perfectly with your particular project’s needs, Agile or Waterfall, and just start building your software already. Let us dive straight into it then!
Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)
But before getting directly to the two methodologies at hand, let me first break down the jargons in our discussion:
What is SDLC?
“It is basically a checklist with a flow of steps guiding the entire software development process”
If you have googled the words Agile or Waterfall, you must have come across the word SDLC as well. SDLC or its elaborated form, Software Development Life Cycle, is a method of developing software. In this method, you have a budget and a deadline, so that you can manage your software project effectively and deliver your software successfully.
Different types of software development have different purposes, but they all follow a common life cycle.
What is the SDLC checklist?
Now I will provide you with the complete SDLC checklist itself! Software projects, whether developed using an Agile or Waterfall methodology, always incorporate these common lifecycle phases. I have added a small description with each of the phases so that you know what they are about:
1. Planning – define your project scope, goals, and timeline.
2. Analysis – conduct a feasibility study of your project.
3. Design – develop a blueprint of the software.
4. Development – build and code the software.
5. Testing – perform software Quality Assurance (QA) and testing.
6. Deployment – start production and distribution of the software.
7. Maintenance – monitor and update the software from time to time.
What are the SDLC Models?
At this point of discussion, you must be curious about the other models of software development. Firstly, yes, there are several other SDLC models, other than Waterfall and Agile, that you can implement in your software project. And each of these models also differs from the other by a lot. Below, I have listed some of the more popular software development methodologies out there, with a tiny description about each of the models, just for your curiosity:
1. Waterfall Model – linear or sequential approach where each stage must be completed before the next.
2. Agile Model – iterative or flexible approach with continuous improvement.
3. Iterative Model – model where the process is broken down into smaller and repeating cycles.
4. Scrum Model – Agile framework for complex projects focusing on collaboration and continuous improvement.
5. Kanban Model – Agile framework emphasizing on work visualition, limiting work in progress, and continuous delivery.
6. Prototyping Model – model where a prototype is created to test and improvise before development.
7. Spiral Model – model with continuous evaluation and risk management throughout development.
8. Big Bang Model – model with no clear stage or process.
Differences between Waterfall and Agile Methodology
Now that you are updated with the world of software project development, I will start today’s main discussion:
What is Waterfall methodology?
The Waterfall Model is perhaps my most used methodology for developing software projects. I personally like it for its simplicity and clarity.
So, in this model, you begin with a phase; and only after you are done with that phase completely, do you move on to the next. That is, a complete phase “waterfalls” into the next one and this continues until the project is entirely finished.
You define each phase clearly with deliverables and timelines before starting the project. However, one small problem I particularly face with this model is one small hiccup, and my entire project comes to a standstill until I am able to solve the problem.
What is Agile methodology?
I generally implement the Agile method on projects I need to work on in sprints or small cycles.
What is great about Agile methodology is that you work on constant communication with the customer, and it makes things a lot clearer to work on. On the other hand, the only drawback of this model is also the same thing – a complete dependency on customer feedback. This sometimes leads a project to be off-track or take longer to finish.
I know I have just been dumping one piece of information after another till now, and it’s a lot to take! So here is a quick summary of everything so far:
Advantages of Waterfall methodology
i) Timeline is maintained
ii) Deliverables are easier to understand
iii) Time is saved in communication
iv) Good for short-term and rigid projects
Advantages of Agile methodology
i) Project requirements are changeable and adaptive
ii) Transparency is maintained due to good communication
iii) Bugs and other issues can be easily identified and fixed
iv) Good for long-term and flexible projects
Limitations of Waterfall methodology
i) Not efficient for long-term projects
ii) Testing becomes more expensive later
iii) Difficult to predict the outcome
iv) Cannot be used for maintenance projects
Limitations of Agile methodology
i) Lacks in setting deadlines and proper documentation
ii) Lot of time is lost in customer communication
iii) Time consuming and inefficient for short-term projects
iv) Cost implementation is comparatively more complicated
Differences between Waterfall and Agile Methodology
Now I will present you with the checklist which will ultimately help you choose between Waterfall and Agile methodologies for your project. I have made the checklist by providing a comparison between the two methods for every single aspect involving a project, that I have come across while working. So get your pen and paper and start ticking off the boxes matching your project essentials!
|Project Development Lifecycle||Divided into sprints||Divided into distinct phases|
|Approach||Incremental||Linear or Sequential|
|Scope||Multiple projects||Single project|
|Changes to Project||Allowed after initial planning||Not allowed after project starts|
|Project Team||Roles are managed by entire team||Project manager manages every stage|
|Development Approach||Iterative||Completed only once|
|Testing||Performed simultaneously with software development||Testing phase comes after building phase|
|Implementation Frameworks||Scrum, Kanban, Lean, XP, Crystal, FDD, DSDM||Agilefall, Sashimi, Incremental Waterfall, Wagile|
|Product Mindset||Emphasized||Not emphasized|
|Requirements preparation||Prepared daily by team||Prepared before project starts|
|Drawbacks||Frequent changes in requirements make it difficult to estimate timelines||Lack of customer involvement and an overwhelming amount of documentation (SRS, DDS, etc.)|
✔️ Both Waterfall and Agile are Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) methodologies. They share all common SDLC phases but differ in their order and execution.
✔️ The key difference between Agile vs. Waterfall is that Waterfall follows a linear and sequential approach where each project phase must be completed before moving to the next, while Agile allows working on multiple project phases simultaneously.
✔️ An Agile-Waterfall hybrid approach is also possible for software development. However, integrating the two methodologies can be challenging for certain projects.
While selecting the appropriate methodology or approach for your project is one of the crucial factors of software development, what matters at the end of the day is that you deliver your software successfully. My personal suggestion would be to take a methodical approach – go through the differences, tick off the boxes matching with the project requirements, select the method with most boxes checked off for the project – and NOT TO DWELL ON IT! So choose the methodology that aligns best and start with your project right now.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Can Agile and Waterfall have the same lifecycle?
No. Because Waterfall follows a sequential approach while Agile follows an iterative approach. This means the methodologies require different steps in their life cycles.
2. Which methodology is better for software development?
Depending on project needs, Waterfall is better suited for large and complex projects while Agile is better suited for smaller projects with more flexibility.
3. Can we work on Agile and Waterfall together in one project?
Yes, it is possible to work on the Agile-Waterfall hybrid method for developing software. However, the two can get challenging to integrate for specific projects.
4. How is testing different in Agile vs Waterfall?
Testing is done continuously in Agile and in the end in Waterfall.
5. How is Agile project planning different from Waterfall?
Project planning in Agile has scope for continuous feedback and adaptation, whereas, in Waterfall, it follows a fixed plan with a strict timeline.