Project Management Made Simple: Agile vs Waterfall

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JetRuby Agency LTD
  • Date Published
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“When it comes to project management, there is no silver bullet that could magically balance every possible risk and perfectly streamline the development process. The biggest downside about sticking to the Waterfall model today is that you won’t be able to change the requirements. And, with more disruptive technologies emerging on the market, the ability to promptly adjust to the user needs is important as ever.”

Agile

In a nutshell, the Agile philosophy is all about step-by-step (incremental) development. The process of building a digital product is divided into a series of short cycles (usually, it’s 1-4 weeks) called “iterations”. Each iteration represents a sub-project with regular activities: planning, designing, coding, testing, and a retrospective.

Incremental versus implementing changes all at once

Image source: http://www.agilenutshell.com/

Agile is based on the 12 principles also known as the Agile Manifesto. The key takeaways are the following:

  • A working solution is the best indicator of how effective a team is;
  • A client is welcome to adjust or change their requirements at any stage of the development process;
  • Personal communication is the most productive way of communication;
  • New product versions come out either after each iteration or every few months, depending on the project.

The research among 601 development and IT professionals conducted in 2015, shows that nowadays Agile is the primary management approach.

Agile Pros

  • Even if you’re a couple of iterations through the development, the project can still be completely reworked.
  • The work on the project is divided into short and transparent periods – iterations.
  • Thanks to the overall flexibility of the approach, most of the related risks are minimized.
  • Allows for quick MVP release.

Agile Cons

  • Due to constantly changing requirements, it’s not always possible to calculate the exact amount of work.
  • Requires a highly-skilled and client-oriented team of developers.
  • New requirements may conflict with the existing project architecture or functionality.
  • With all the adjustments and changes, there is chance that the work on the project may never end 🙂

Waterfall

The Waterfall methodology is based on the principle of sequential development. Briefly, the whole process is divided into the following steps:

  1. Requirements analysis
  2. Planning
  3. Implementation
  4. Testing
  5. Deployment & release
  6. Maintenance

Waterfall development model

Moving to the next step is possible only if the previous one is completed, wherein any new features can be added after the release and bugfixes.

Waterfall Pros

  • Provides a clear and simple management structure; easy to get started with for teams with little experience.
  • Elaborated documentation excludes any misinterpretations.
  • Allows you to easily keep track of the project resources, risks, and time.
  • The scope of tasks for developers remains the same.

Waterfall Cons

  • Once specified, the requirements cannot be changed; no room for adjustments.
  • Compared to Agile, Waterfall requires more time and resources.
  • You can try your product only after its release; being able to change something during the development process isn’t the case.
  • Waterfall implies a minimum amount of interaction between you and the developers’ team; don’t expect to receive much feedback on the results after each stage.

So which one should I choose?

Agile Is Your Choice If:

  • You have an experienced team of developers.
  • There is no exact vision on the final functionality of the product; changes have to be made as quickly as possible.
  • You want to actively participate in the project throughout the whole development process.
  • You need to quickly build a working product.
  • You’re a startuper.

Choose Waterfall If:

  • Your project requirements are unlikely to change.
  • The quality of the product is much more important than the time and resources you’re willing to spend.
  • You’re not quite interested in seeing results after each development stage as well as participating in the process.

Further, statistics show that projects developed using Agile are 3 times more likely to succeed than those developed with the help of Waterfall.

Conclusion

Agile fish eating waterfall fish eating smaller ? fish

When it comes to project management, there is no silver bullet that could magically balance every possible risk and perfectly streamline the development process. The biggest downside about sticking to the Waterfall model today is that you won’t be able to change the requirements. And, with more disruptive technologies emerging on the market, the ability to promptly adjust to the user needs is important as ever. Still, it doesn’t mean that you can’t leverage Waterfall. When combined, Agile and Waterfall can offer you much more benefits and management perks than either of them taken separately.