Updated April 2021

Choosing the right project management methodology is crucial for the success of a project. But when you have so many planning methodologies to choose from, how do you know which one will yield better results? At Asahi Technologies, staying true to our values, we keep you – our clients – informed about the pros and cons of using different project management methodologies, to help you decide. 

Waterfall vs. Agile

Today, the methods that will be scrutinized in detail are agile software methodology and waterfall methodology – the two much-talked-about approaches in software development. Let’s understand each of these methodologies better and evaluate which one is a better choice, when it comes to delivering superior software products.

Waterfall – The Pioneer of SDLC Processes

The Waterfall method exemplifies a typical sequential model, where the software development life-cycle is divided into different phases, each phase having its own tasks and objectives. Often called the first most-widely used project management methodology in the software industry, waterfall was initially used in the manufacturing and construction industry. So it won’t be wrong to understand this model in the context of a manufacturing line. Just as it is in the case of a typical assembly line in manufacturing, the output of one phase in the waterfall software development model becomes the input for the second phase. It is mandatory that the first phase is completed with perfection before you move on the next phase because overlapping is typically impossible in this methodology. This means, if you wish to make a change in the proposed product feature much later in the implementation phase, there is a lot of rework required. While the waterfall approach certainly qualifies as a precise and well-defined method, with a need to think through and describe all the requirements upfront, this in fact is a major drawback of the methodology. Reason being, it is simply impossible for someone to define all requirements upfront. This is probably why, after the big Visual Studio doom, even Microsoft decided to do away with their waterfall-like development methodology.

Why The Waterfall ModelLet Most of Us Down?

Aside from the inherent inability to accommodate change requests without a significant increase in project cost, there are several other drawbacks, which make waterfall project management methodology not-so-ideal.

  • Moving back to the previous phase is a challenge. This means, if a set of change requests are introduced into the product while it is undergoing testing, pausing the testing phase to do development is extremely cumbersome and expensive.
  • It is not suitable for big and complicated projects, where requirement documents may change frequently.
  • Since testing is one of the last stages in the waterfall methodology, identifying risks and challenges in the earlier stages, and preparing a risk mitigation strategy, becomes challenging.

Agile Software methodology – The Iterative Approach

Agile is a development method that is quick and responds swiftly to change. It is an iterative approach to software development where variables like requirements, the design process, building, testing etc. run parallel to each other, in smaller time frames called Sprints. In Agile software development methodology, project requirements are not defined upfront, but evolve naturally through collaboration with clients.

With the Agile method, the project is broken into small tasks that do not require a lot of planning. The time frame for iterations is also small, typically between one and four weeks. At the end of each iteration, the product is presented to the clients. As a result, the risk is minimum and the project can adapt to any change in requirements quickly. The feedback loop is very short. As a result, any issues can be addressed immediately. The lines of communication between clients, the development team and the testing team members are open, which leads to increased efficiency.

If you are looking for a project management methodology, which has an easy learning curve and can help your team improve and grow in a collaborative environment, Agile is the answer. As more and more enterprises work towards deploying cloud based services to render the best IT experience, and the focus shifts to quality and productivity, adopting agile methodology for software development is certainly a step in the right direction. According to the 2015 CHAOS Report by Standish Group, the success rate of Agile projects was 39% as compared to only 11% in case of Waterfall. While introducing Agile into your organization might seem challenging in the initial stages, but the effort is totally worth it. Practicing Agile introduces elements like continuous quality improvement and cost-effectiveness into your system, which makes it a perfect alternative to the traditional waterfall methodology.

Agile as an Alternative to Waterfall

When compared with the Waterfall methodology, Agile offers numerous advantages especially when you’re working on large and complicated projects. Some of the main advantages, and also the key reasons why enterprises are switching over to Agile, are:

  • It has short planning cycles, so changes can be easily accommodated at any phase as per evolving requirements of clients.
  • The stakeholder i.e. the client, is continuously involved with the product development and this results in a solution that meets his expectations and satisfies him.
  • As an organization practicing Agile methodology, with the kind of interaction involved, you can be sure of achieving a higher level of team cohesiveness.

Recently, Gartner did research which revealed how CIOs are looking at agile development as a way to adjust new ways of doing business. And according to Gartner,adopting agile is the need of the hour for IT leaders and executives, just like Microsoft recently did under the supervision of Senior Knowledge Manager, Michele Eichhorn.

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