Before jumping into the debate of the Agile vs Waterfall methodology for project management, let us first understand the importance and essence of these methodologies and how they have emerged over the period of time in software development.
Introduction to Project Management Methodologies
Software development has evolved considerably over the past decade. Businesses have started to build their technology on solid and scalable platforms and programming languages with the aim of making the solution extensible for future additions of features and capabilities.
While the number of frameworks, platforms and programming languages have grown several folds, there is an equally important evolution that happened in the way software development initiatives are managed.
Project management has diversified into a comprehensive practice that aims not only to deliver software on time, but also to ensure zero defects, provide accurate forecasting for stakeholders and enable seamless visibility and transparency between dependent teams in a project.
While traditional project management focused on the waterfall development principle, today successful technology projects have transitioned into agile and scrum-based project management methodologies to deliver more value for the invested effort.
Difference between Agile and Waterfall Project management
Before we proceed further, you need to understand the difference between Agile and Scrum. In simple terms, agile is an implementation principle or philosophy that encompasses a set of practices to complete a development project from start to finish.
Scrum is one of these practices or in broader terms, a platform to implement this agile methodology. Scrum is an agile approach while agile does not always imply you are using Scrum. Kanban is an alternative agile platform you can use instead of Scrum.
So since the difference is cleared between that, you will have the obvious question:
Which project management method should I choose for software development in my business?
Let’s have a brief look at how the most popular methods i.e. Waterfall and Agile fare in modern software development initiatives. The comparison will help you make a decision suitable for your unique software development challenges.
The waterfall method is a linear and sequential way of building software wherein every stage of development happens in a sequence starting from requirement analysis to design, coding, testing, implementation and maintenance.
Agile is an iterative and modular form of software development wherein a single software product or project is broken down into functional components and each component is assigned to a person or team and then the development of these components are tracked in time-bound phases called sprints.
In each sprint, there will be an itemized set of deliverables to be done in the sprint duration. At the end of each sprint, there will be a retrospective analysis on what went good and what did not in that sprint and lessons learned will be used for re-organizing or prioritizing tasks in future sprints.
In a waterfall model of software development, project deliverables and requirements are gathered in the initial phases and then worked upon and delivered to the customer in the end. Intermediate feedback sessions or scope changes become very difficult to be accommodated due to this approach.
Customer involvement in short ends at the requirements gathering phase for the waterfall model of software development and they only get a say after a version has been developed theoretically. Agile on the other hand offers customers an opportunity to be involved across every sprint of the project and offer their feedback and comments to make the project more desirable.
This also includes changing scopes from the initial requirement gathering. Since the project management is done in sprints, new customer changes can be accommodated in upcoming sprints and dependencies can be easily mapped between teams to accommodate the scope change without any disruptions.
Also, agile gives the advantage of timely interventions from the customer as they get to review a version after every sprint rather than a completely built solution as provided in a waterfall model.
Customers are often demanding in their requirements and market changes may force them to alter the initial scope midway. As we have mentioned previously, scope changes are easier to accommodate using an agile methodology.
But from a development perspective, change accommodation is not an easy task. There needs to be a well-defined approach to map out dependencies from across the project that will be affected due to this scope change.
Hence an ideal scenario would be to keep scope deviations to a bare minimum. In a waterfall model of software development, this is possible. By following a linear approach, the entire project is discussed and agreed initially before the start of the development activities. This allows developers to build a solution that can be strategically positioned to meet all requirements gathered initially.
But, in an increasingly dynamic market, change of scope from a customers’ perspective is more of a necessity rather than a luxury that they may ignore. This obviously throws the ball in favor of agile even though it may take a small toll on developers. In the longer run, agile will prove beneficial to all stakeholders.
A waterfall model of software development follows a comprehensive initial documentation phase wherein all requirements are supposedly gathered and documented as an SRS (Software Requirement Specification) document.
Further proceeds of the development activity are done keeping the SRS document as the reference point. Typically, it does not allow any deviations from the SRS. This makes the importance of documentation felt strong in the initial phase. Agile, however, follows an iterative model of software development wherein business analysts or technical architects create a storyboard for each sprint and every team member is made aware of their tasks in the respective sprints.
Documentation though done is mostly according to individual sprints and done by the developers in due course of time or by business analysts as the project progresses. This gives it the flexibility to accommodate changes in scope during the project progress.
This is a major factor that needs to be considered while choosing a software development methodology for your business. Cost can be controlled in a wide variety of ways, but it depends on how flexible your mode of development is.
For large scale continuously evolving software needs, it is always advisable to follow an agile approach. Agile favors an incremental mode of development that helps businesses incorporate new features into their digital systems over time efficiently at lowered costs.
A waterfall model of development will result in large amounts of initial planning and documentation with limited scope for change. Though it will lead to decreased effort as scope will be well defined initially, there is a chance for high variations in the actual budgets when projects are large.
Large projects may require scope changes during development which will result in the entire iterative cycle being re-defined and implemented. This will push up costs considerably.
In today’s rapidly evolving consumer landscape, speed in which you roll out features for your digital applications can make a difference in brand loyalty. In the traditional waterfall, you will have to complete an entire cycle for features to be rolled out and will result in longer release times.
For agile software development projects however, the component-wise development ability allows businesses to roll out software quickly and then continuously push updates and upgrades of features without disrupting the existence of the entire application.
This results in applications as well as new features getting rolled out into the market faster leading to better consumer satisfaction.
As you can see here, Agile methodology is clearly a step ahead of the Waterfall model in terms of successfully orchestrating a winning journey for your digital application development. For large enterprise software development initiatives, the right choice is Agile as it offers flexibility, speed and ease of project management which greatly impact the quality of software delivered.
Nevertheless, if the technology is not your core business, then you need the advisory and support of a trusted software development partner to deliver agile or waterfall-based software development activities for your digital ecosystem.
This is where Citrusbug can change the game for you. Get in touch with us to identify the right software ecosystem, the right project management and the best fit journey to success for your software development needs.