Software development has become a staple in today’s tech revolution. Brands run countless programs that use computer technology essential in executing various business processes across different industries. This has led to an environment where the construction of a framework is needed, so projects can be implemented within specific protocols.


Project management methodologies have been created over the years to help developers attain the most efficient software deployment outcomes. Two of the most common are Agile and Waterfall software development, with each having their pros and cons depending on the project you’re tasked to complete and the outcome you wish to have.


The Agile Methodology

The Agile approach refers to the process that aligns with the concepts of the Agile Manifesto created in February 2001 by 17 software developers in Utah. They discussed lightweight development methods and published the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. This contained ‘better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it,’ which also included four values and 12 principles.

The Agile software development lifecycle combines an iterative process with incremental models. It focuses on process adaptability and customer satisfaction through rapid delivery of working software products. Essentially, Agile methods promote adaptive planning, evolutionary development, continuous improvement, and early delivery. It also advocates quick and flexible responses to change.

Developers break the product into small incremental builds, which are provided in iterations or sprints. Each sprint generally lasts from about a week to three weeks, from development to testing.


The Waterfall Methodology

The Waterfall approach, on the other hand, started in the manufacturing and construction industries—two highly structured environments—where changes can either be too expensive or even impossible at times. Its first formal description was cited in a 1970 article by computer scientist Winston W. Royce where he presented it as a flawed software model.

The Waterfall model is referred to as a linear-sequential life cycle model and is very simple to understand and use. Each phase must be completed before moving on to the next, so there’s no overlapping of phases.

This approach was the first software development life cycle model used widely in software engineering to ensure the success of a project. The whole process is divided into separate phases, with the outcome of one phase acting as the input for the next phase in sequential order.

To give you a more detailed look into both methodologies, this infographic lists the differences, broken down into various factors.




Agile vs Waterfall: Which One to Choose?

As with any methodology in software development or any field for that matter, each has its pros and cons that make them preferred by developers in specific projects. Both have different approaches when tackling a given project, so it’s up to you which one is best for the project you’re about to get involved in.



  • Structure

One of the major differences between the Agile and Waterfall methodologies is the structure of each process. With Agile’s sprint approach, project development lifecycles are separated into short sprints or tasks, where the team works together within the time boxed in each sprint. The goal is to create a shippable product at the end of the cycle.

The Waterfall approach has a linear structure, with each stage having a checkpoint where the current state of the product should satisfy the criteria before moving on to the next stage. Each stage is also well-documented.



  • Team

With tasks broken into smaller chunks, Agile was designed for smaller teams that encourages collaboration and cooperation. The time limit imposed per sprint allows smaller teams to do what it takes to complete each task. Many organizations find this effective, which is the reason why 71% of them use this approach.

When it comes to the Waterfall methodology, coordination between teams is only done at the hand-off points or at the end of each stage, before going to the next. Since this software development approach is sequential in nature, it requires a thorough check if the current state of the product passes all the criteria at each stage prior to proceeding.



  • Funding

Agile has a more flexible approach when it comes to funding. You’ll be able to work with smaller budgets since the project is broken down into sprints. And for this reason, funding isn’t fixed, so work isn’t limited to a budget, giving this methodology a higher success rate than Waterfall.

In contrast, Waterfall needs to have an agreed-on budget, which includes the scope of the project before it can even begin. While this is more beneficial for customers that are on a relatively strict budget, the product’s quality can be compromised particularly if there are changes or improvements that need to be made.



  • Scope and Features

Being more open to changes is clearly an advantage and Agile is the approach ideal for such projects. But the more changes that are needed to be made, other features such as cost and schedule would need to be adjusted. In situations where you can benefit from features of a certain methodology, there’s always a trade-off.

Waterfall has a more traditional approach with its sequential process. It has a higher chance of success if the scope is known before the project even starts. The terms of the contract will also dictate the changes that are going to be done during the whole process, if there are any.



  • Prioritization of Features

In terms of features, you can prioritize them according to their value with Agile. This is advantageous in reducing the risk of ending up with an unusable product if ever funding runs out and the project is terminated. This ensures a project that achieves ‘partial success’ doesn’t reach the end of its contract prematurely.

Waterfall takes on a more straightforward approach to address what the customer wants. You’ll be tied to do everything you’ve agreed on, so they get what they asked for. This may seem like a good way to appease your customers, but there is a high chance of failure involved here.



  • Customer Availability

It’s always a good thing to have the customer involved in every step of the way, and Agile gives you this kind of availability. You’ll be able to consult them in every step of the cycle and apply the necessary changes the product needs as you go with the stages. This ensures a better product while appeasing your customers with their involvement in it.

This kind of approach may be ideal for customers who are more hands-on when it comes to projects, but there are those who prefer to have the least involvement as possible or perhaps only during the times when a project hits a milestone.



  • Mindset

Having a product mindset is what the Agile methodology is all about. You and your team should be able to focus on creating a software product that satisfies the needs of your customer while being open to changes when needed.

Waterfall, on the other hand, is more focused on completing the project instead of working on a product that aims to please its customers. This may look good on paper in terms of project accomplishments, but it could fall short when it comes to product quality.



  • Management

Management is fairly easy in the Agile department, with its interchangeable team members that allow work to flow at a faster rate. The beauty lies in the fact that this approach doesn’t need a project manager to supervise the whole process since all the team members know their roles.



It’s fairly obvious that Agile methodology has a considerable edge over its Waterfall counterpart, which is the reason why more organizations are using this approach in their software development processes. However, according to a Gartner Hype Cycle, Agile project management is hitting the peak of inflated expectations. This means issues with this type of methodology will start to make themselves known better in the project management community.

With Waterfall falling short in many aspects and Agile soon following suit, hybrids or a combination of methodologies are in order. In fact, 56.6% of organizations are starting to rely on these hybrid approaches. The bottom line is, you should be able to customize your methodology according to the needs of the project to hit your ideal goals and achieve considerable success in creating your software products.


Find out how the experts at Intelligent Bee can help you with your software development needs today!