Comparing and Contrasting Waterfall and Agile Software Development

Waterfall and Agile Software Development: which is better?

Waterfall and Agile are the names of two different software development methods. Both can help you and your team transform a simple idea into an elaborate, useable product, but neither are right for every team or every project.

Waterfall and Agile in a Nutshell

The Waterfall approach is completely linear; each phase of the project begins only when the previous phase is complete.

On the other hand, Agile software development operates in a feedback loop, where the project is broken down into small pieces that are worked on simultaneously and may be in different stages of development.

To help explain them further and to help you decide which methodology suits your needs, here are some pros and cons of both developmental approaches.

Customer Involvement Much Higher With Agile

First, let’s consider the customer’s involvement and level of input required during each approach. Waterfall development has distinct phases, which generally include the following:

  1. Determine requirements
  2. Design
  3. Code
  4. Test
  5. Fix any problems
  6. Deliver

The customer’s involvement is only required for the very first phase, in which it is crucial to work closely with the client to accurately document requirements and expectations, and the Test or Review phase. While the client may be relieved at the minor time commitment associated with waterfall development, the downside is that any future requests will be difficult to accommodate, not to mention expensive.

In a fast-paced modern world, customer requirements can change rapidly, and Agile software development is better able to incorporate changes than the Waterfall method. But this is possible only with close collaboration with the client. The design team is in constant contact with the client to determine requirements at various stages of development and to review phases as they are completed.

Agile development follows the same basic outline as the Waterfall methodology, but instead of designing the entire project at once, for example, only part of the software is designed, coded and tested before moving on to another feature.

Agile Risks a Piecemeal Finished Product

With the Waterfall approach, all of the planning takes place before any coding happens. This means the entire development team knows what the final product will look like and all of the features that it will offer. The result is often a more cohesive software.

Because Agile development emphasizes creating a useable product and adding extra features later, the result can sometimes be a “piecemeal” software that lacks cohesion or does not live up to its full potential. Care should be taken to ensure the coding is compatible with each new feature and that there is cohesion in the final iteration.

Agile Works Better for Teams Located in Same Office Space

Today it is easier than ever for software developers to work remotely. The comfort of using a home office or a cozy coffee shop as a workspace is often one of the perks of the trade. And when it comes to a Waterfall development approach, remote teams can work very well; there is plenty of documentation describing what needs to be done, and the phases move ahead only when everything is ready.

In contrast, Agile software development protocols require a high level of collaboration between project managers, designers and coders. A shared physical office can prove to be a truly essential element in successful Agile design because it facilitates rapid communication, collaboration and assistance.

Which Is Better?

Take a survey of 10 different software developers about their preferred methodology and you’re bound to get 10 different responses; everyone has their own way of doing things. However, the Agile software development framework has been proven successful time and time again in delivering high customer satisfaction and workable software in a short amount of time. It’s easy for developers to breakdown the software requirements and create a finished product without losing focus, and Agile also provides an excellent opportunity to adjust the scope of the project if funding allows.

But at the end of the day, the “best” software development methodology is one that works for you, your team and your client. Agile and Waterfall are two of the most well-known frameworks for software developers, but there are plenty more variations to inspire you.