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”, https://www.kosovatimes.net/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”, https://wikipedia-lab.org/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”, https://wikipedia-lab.org/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:
- Analysis: as a result of models, scheme, and business rules
- Design: as a result of the software architecture
- Coding: developing, proving, and integrating software
- Testing: systematic detection and debugging of defects
- Operations: installation, migration, maintenance, and upkeep of complete systems Reference: “Agile vs Waterfall Project Management”, https://agileprojectmanagement.home.blog/2020/09/01/agile-vs-waterfall-project-management/
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”, https://ossalumni.org/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: http://teachers.wikidot.com/agile-versus-waterfall-project-management
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”, https://eduwiki.me/comparison-of-agile-scrum-and-waterall-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?”, https://pm.mba/posts/waterfall-vs-agile/
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”, https://projectmanagers.joomla.com/12-waterfall-vs-agile-project-management.html
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”, https://bvop.org/learn/
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… https://phron.org/waterfall-and-agile-project-management/
“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… https://agileprogramming.org/agile-project-management/
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”, https://newia.info/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.