Waterfall vs. Agile

by Bhavani Munnilli on June 2, 2020
Precision Blog

As we all know, Waterfall and Agile are methodologies used in development. To recap on these methods, the Waterfall development model is a linear project management approach where activities are broken down into sequential phases. The Agile development model, mainly used in software development, is a process where requirements and solutions evolve through a collaborative effort of self-organizing and cross-functional teams and their clients.

The purpose of this blog article is to explain everything you need to know about Waterfall and Agile. Continue reading to discover their differences, similarities, advantages, and limitations.

Why Waterfall Development or Agile Development?
To start, Waterfall is heavily preplanned with no changes to the project once the planning is completed. Agile is very adaptive and susceptible to changes throughout development. When choosing a methodology, you must ask yourself “how do we add value to the customer?” In any Agile project, you work in short cycles and receive feedback from the client and you then adapt to the feedback. In these shorter cycles (Sprints), you are able to develop around the needs of the client and change whatever is needed. For this reason, Agile adoption is growing with many IT organizations.

When choosing between Agile development and Waterfall development, companies should look specifically into the project requirements. If a project has specific requirements that cannot change, then it would be wise to use Waterfall. If there is a want or a need for client participation in the progress of a project and a requirement to build in a shorter cycle, then go for the Agile development methodology. Many parameters make up a project, and it’s those parameters that should make the decision of whether to use Waterfall of Agile.

In my opinion, gathered from experience, very few companies strictly follow just Agile or Waterfall. 90% of IT organizations use a Waterfall and Agile hybrid. This is due to the want and need of all development methodologies for a single project. Organizations want the planning used in Waterfall and the execution used in Agile. Both methodologies have great benefits, which is why many IT organization use a mixture of both.

The Differences
In Waterfall development, all activities are structured and divided into distinct phases with no change in the requirements. In Agile, there are chances for change and flexibility as well as the ability to divide the project into manageable sprints. The biggest benefit of Agile development is the ability to add value to the customer or client, which is why it is always subject to change throughout.

Another difference is that in Waterfall, the team members are assigned to particular tasks and they are not to move to other tasks. For example, project managers stay in project management and developers stay in development. No one is expected to move into another field of expertise or change their given tasks. With Agile management, team members are able to switch their roles based on the projects needs. For instance, if a project is short of testers, a developer is able to contribute to the testing team when and if they are needed. Adaptability is very important in Agile, whereas Waterfall is very defined.

Another aspect that differs between the two methodologies is the overall planning. In Waterfall, every activity, including all parameters and milestones, is preplanned and set in stone. In Agile, the customer is engaged throughout the lifecycle, especially when changes are made in the beginning of the project. The client or customer is only engaged in the end when using Waterfall. Agile welcomes and adapts to any changes throughout the lifecycles, and Waterfall builds it’s progress once milestones are completed.

At the end of each day using Agile, you are able to see customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction due to their knowledge of what you are delivering every day of the project. In Waterfall, you cannot see customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction until the entire project is completed.

The Similarities
For both methodologies, the goal is very similar. The goal is to successfully execute the project with client satisfaction. The activities are also very similar. Every activity, in any project, needs a set of requirements/goals and those requirements/goals need to achieve. In that case, both Waterfall and Agile methodologies are capable enough to meet specific requirements. Activities such as designing, developing, testing, and deployment activities remain the same across all the projects. However, the execution of Waterfall vs. Agile remains different. Overall, the goals, activities, and project monitoring remain the same across the two methodologies.

Advantages of Waterfall Development and Agile Development
Every methodology has its pros and cons. Let’s discuss the pros and advantages of each methodology. Starting with Waterfall, the methodology of linear sequence, next phase is dependent on the successful completion of the previous one like, planning, requirements, design, development, testing and deployment. In this methodology, you have extended documentation and a very structured process. The extensive planning that comes with Waterfall is designed to prevent any mistakes from occurring or it gives the ability to quickly rectify mistakes throughout the project. It’s very well-detailed and planned to deliver success and client satisfaction from the beginning.

Agile is broken down into shorter cycles called 2-3-week sprints. In these short cycles, you must develop the product for the client. The duration of these cycles is so short because of the high involvement of the client. With Agile, you are receiving daily feedback on the project. When the developer finishes, they receive feedback quickly and they make the necessary corrections on the fly. There is more frequent communication with the agile methodology. With the constant communication and daily feedback, the project becomes less at risk upon completion. Sprint after sprint, you are able to improve the quality of the product and save money in the long run by preventing unnecessary work.

If you were to choose one methodology over another, it’s possible to experience limitations as there are pros and cons to each method. If you choose Waterfall over Agile, it’s possible to experience limitations such as effectiveness of the requirements and lack of constant feedback throughout the project. In Waterfall, if you complete a requirement, there’s a chance it may not even be needed. You would not know if it was needed or not due to the preplanned actions and lack of client communication and feedback.

Choosing an Agile approach over Waterfall also comes with its limitations. With Agile projects, the client is constantly involved with the progress of each phase of the project. With that, if there is not a clear direction of what the client needs, then the project can go off track.

Both Waterfall and Agile have their pros and cons. Choosing a methodology really comes down to the project and client satisfaction. With this blog, I hope you now have a clear understanding of these two methodologies and what works best for your upcoming project.

About Precision
Precision Technologies Corp. (PTC) is a leading full stack IT Company with a diversified portfolio comprising staffing services, application development, and mobility solutions and beyond. Since 2010, our clients have leveraged our staffing and consulting experience to obtain escalated technical services across the industries. We often are told that our solutions are very precise, cost-effective and process driven, thereby delivering intended results. https://precisiontechcorp.com/