Agile vs Waterfall Methodology – What are the differences

Agile vs Waterfall Methodology - What are the differences

Agile and Waterfall are project management approaches for product development. In the report, we describe in detail both Agile and Waterfall methodologies and share the advantages and disadvantages of each method.

Also, below you will find real applications of management practices and a list of features of each approach.

What are the differences between Agile and Waterfall methodologies?

What is Agile?

The Agile methodology (flexible methodology) was developed in 2001, and the idea of ​​the inventors of this methodology is based on the stages of Project Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation. Agile adheres to constant communication and cooperation with the customer. Good communication between team members and project stakeholders is key in decision-making. Agile has the opportunity for customer feedback, and the teams in turn can adapt the development according to the new customer requirements. Reference: “Agile vs Waterfall management methodology”,

The work begins with a pre-set end goal by the client. This clarifies the client’s expectations of the team leading the project.

Agile methods or Agile processes adhere to a well-structured project management process that encourages frequent inspections and adaptation. Leadership, as the main driver, promotes teamwork, self-organization, and accountability, and also adheres to best engineering practices designed to offer fast delivery of a high-quality end product.

Agile methodologies are also Scrum, Lean Software, Extreme Programming, and Kanban. Reference: “What is Kanban methodology”,

Agile methods focus on various aspects of the software development lifecycle. Some focus on practice, while others focus on software project management (Scrum).

The four core values ​​of Agile are:

  • Individuals and communications over processes and instruments
  • Operating software over extensive documentation
  • Client collaboration over agreement discussions
  • Reacting to change over developing a strategy

What is Waterfall?

The Waterfall methodology relies on teams that follow a sequence of steps and never move on to the next until the previous step/stage is completed. This structure is suitable for smaller projects with results that are easy to define from the beginning. Reference: “Waterfall and Incremental model in project management”,

Compared to other methodologies, Waterfall focuses mostly on a clear, defined set of steps. Its structure is simplified – each project goes through the following steps:

The waterfall model provides a structured approach; the model itself progresses linearly through easily understandable and explicable phases and is thus easy to understand. It also provides easily recognizable stages in the development process. Perhaps, for this reason, the waterfall model is used as an initial example of a development model in many software engineering texts and courses.

Pros of the Agile methodology

This methodology has many advantages. Let’s start with the pros for customers. Given the emphasis on cooperation and communication at Agile, customers understand that the supplier is kinder and more responsive to his project requirements. The goals are achieved in a short time and high-quality work. Suppliers reduce losses by focusing development efforts on high-value features but reduce product release time. This is a significant difference with the processes of the Waterfall. Such customer satisfaction leads to positive recommendations.

All team members are satisfied with their work as it is used and evaluated. Agile reduces unproductive work such as writing specifications or other documentation that is virtually unusable and allows quality and productive work to be done. Reference: “Agile, Scrum and Waterfall project management”,

Product managers are facilitated in terms of allowing frequent job prioritization options to ensure product delivery is maximized to customer requirements.

The good thing about project managers is that planning and tracking are easier and more specific than Waterfall processes. The focus on tracking the stages of the task, using Charts to show daily progress and daily meetings, give the project manager a huge awareness of the status of the project at all times. Reference:

Disadvantages of the Agile methodology

Some of the things that can negatively affect the success of a project are:

  • Large-scale development efforts (> 20 developers), although there are descriptions of scaling strategies and evidence of applicability to some large-scale projects.
  • Distributed development activity (geographically divided teams.
  • The forced incorporation of flexible methods in the team.
  • Critical systems when failure is not an option (eg air traffic control software).

Agile methodologies may be ineffective in large organizations and some types of projects. They are best used for evolving and inconsistent projects. Many organizations believe that flexible methodologies are too extreme and adopt a hybrid option that mixes elements of Agile and planning approaches. Reference: “Comparison of Agile, Scrum and Waterfall project management”,

Pros of Waterfall project management

One of the main steps in this methodology is the final product, the goal, the results. In the beginning, the teams should not deviate from the overall idea of ​​the project. For some projects where the goals are clear, this basic step would introduce the team to the general idea from the very beginning. This is to avoid losses and the project to go consistently with each of the steps.

Waterfall focuses on the end goal all the time. If your team has a specific goal with a clear end date, Waterfall will eliminate the risk of failure as you work to achieve that goal. Because until the previous phase is completed, it does not proceed to the next.
The overall methodology of Waterfall is based on the fact that there is no failure at a certain stage of the overall life cycle of the project. Reference: “Waterfall or Agile? What methodology to choose for your project?”,

Disadvantages of the Waterfall method

The methodology in its traditional form leaves almost no room for unexpected changes. If the team follows Waterfall’s steps until the end of the project but then faces an unplanned problem that requires a change in the original goals, then change would not be easy. A sudden change in the parameters of the project can make useless much of the work that has been done so far.

The Waterfall methodology focuses very little on the end-user or customer involved in a project. Its main purpose is to help internal teams move more efficiently through the phases. In other projects, customers often want to be directly involved in creating the product, adding opinions, and clarifying what they want as the project progresses.

Testing is a phase of the last half of the project and this makes the methodology quite risky. Outside of the software industry, the testing phase may mean displaying a new website design to a customer or test content. In such cases, the Waterfall methodology is not so appropriate, as it is possible that all the work so far will be repeated to solve the problem.

Critics of Waterfall believe there is a very high probability of problems that could go unnoticed until the final stages of the project. This type of change would make the project more expensive. Reference: “Waterfall vs Agile Project Management”,

Agile applications in business

The Agile methodology always starts with defining the users, the problems, the opportunities, and the values ​​that need to be addressed. The teams work on the vision of the project in stages, tightly and disciplined. Reference: “The BVOP Agile Guide”,

Agile breaks down tasks into small steps with minimal planning, without affecting long-term project planning. The stages take place in short periods (timeboxes), which usually last from one to four weeks. During each iteration, the team, composed of people with different functions, works on each of the functions: planning, requirements analysis, design, development, testing, and verification at acceptance. At the end of the iteration, the working software is presented to the stakeholders. This reduces the overall risk and the project can be adapted quickly to change.


“Waterfall and Agile project management”

The methodology of this model, which is also known as the sequential linear life cycle model. The waterfall model follows in sequential order, so the project development team only moves on to the next phase…

“Agile Project Management”

Agile Project Management includes different subjects and many Agile and Scrum practices as well, but we will discuss here several major topics…

The roles

User – always started by the user/client. This is one of the roles that the software used to distribute the tasks supports.

Product Owner – The owner of the product is a person who is in close contact with the customer and his requirements. This person accepts all ideas and provides feedback to maximize the vision of the product we are aiming for. He divides the product vision into user stories, which specify in more detail what problem is being solved, why the solution is important to them, and what criteria and features determine the solutions.

Software development team – At Agile, the team and responsibilities of its members differ from those of traditional software development. The teams are disciplined, made up of people with different skills. As the focus is on providing working software, the team needs to work on functioning end-to-end applications. To do this, team members must cooperate. They need to communicate frequently to make sure everyone is consistent with what they are building, with exactly how the software is being developed. Reference: “Waterfall vs V-Model vs Scrum vs Kanban”,

Waterfall applications in business

In the Waterfall methodology, the role of the product manager is to create all the requirements and ask all the necessary questions. As the team performs all analyzes in the initial phases, the given requirements must be as complete as possible. Also, the requirements determine the details on which the overall project plan will be based.

The Waterfall methodology is a difficult approach in terms of documentation, as it relies on the theory of “measure twice, cut once”. The workload of the product manager is much greater at the beginning of the project than during the next stages. The goal is to set all the requirements in advance to minimize changes during the development process, especially since the change would be costly.

The nature of this methodology is based on the fact that each phase is completed before the start of the next. This does not allow customers to review and give feedback on a project before launching it.

2 thoughts on “Agile vs Waterfall Methodology – What are the differences

  1. The Waterfall methodology is the earliest project management, model. It is characterized by the fact that the activities take place in a process in which the stages of product development follow in a specific order, which can be described as follows:

    1. Analysis of product requirements
    2. Product design;
    3. Product development;
    4. Product tests;
    5. Implementation;
    6. Support;

    Waterfall processes are linear and sequential. This means that each stage of the project starts only after the previous stage has been completed. If the methodology is strictly followed, it is not possible to return to an earlier stage of the project due to a change in product requirements, which is one of the disadvantages of this method. This method is used for the implementation of software development projects in which no change in scope is expected and is not critical.

    The advantages of Waterfall methodology are the following:

    1. The principles of operation of the model can be easily explained to the user;
    2. Has a well-structured approach to development;
    3. The different stages and the activities in them are precisely defined;
    4. Planning the project and its implementation on schedule is easier;
    5. Specific results are seen in each phase.

    The disadvantages are:

    1. It is based on the presumption that the system is “frozen” and the requirements and wishes of the customer will not change, which is difficult to achieve in the real world;
    2. It is not possible to return the team to a previous stage, which has already been completed;
    3. There is too little flexibility in regulating the scope of the project and any change to it is time-consuming and expensive.

    In conclusion, this type of software development methodology is expensive and time-consuming. On the other hand, there is quite good documentation and each element of it meets the requirements of the applicant and is tested in detail.

    What is the Agile project management methodology

    Agile is a methodology following a flexible approach to project management. With this method, the applicant of the product is not initially fully aware of the requirements for it. Work in small sessions called sprints, usually one week (maximum 4 weeks), and work in small parts of the project. The aim is to transfer working functionality to the product specified by the applicant for short periods. After each sprint, a meeting is organized between the participants, during which a report is given on the implementation of the previous stage and the goal and scope of the next stage are determined.

    The finished parts are tested for each new version of the product according to the customer’s needs and then put into production.

    The advantage of this type of methodology is that during the project the initial requirements to the final product can be changed. Typically, this type of project management approach is used to develop software that changes rapidly and the long-term wait for completion is not good.

  2. The Waterfall model works in a fixed order following strictly defined steps and the project development team does not go to the next stage of development or testing until the previous step is completed successfully.

    The steps are:

    Initiation of the project
    Planning the project
    Execution of the project
    Monitoring and controlling of the project
    Closing the project

    The Waterfall methodology is best suited for a project whose scope is precisely defined, for example, the opening of a new store. There we know that we must have X in several crates, at a certain distance, in the middle we must have parallel long lines with promo products, and the bakery must be next to vegetables and fruits.

    Agile methodology is a practice that supports continuous repetition of development and testing in the development process. The product is given for review and test before it is completed and no strict design line is followed. This process automatically leads to more communication between customers, developers, managers, and testers.
    The Agile method is suitable in cases of developing a new software product for which we can not clearly define all the functionalities and it would be useful to make sprints (meetings) to give us part of the development, we test, evaluate, change or continue. onwards.
    We present brief pros and cons for both methods, and I recommend choosing the method according to the project, as I more often consider Waterfall to be more suitable.

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