Agile vs Waterfall – Understanding the difference.

Agile vs Waterfall - Understanding the difference.

In software development, two critical methodologies are used amongst teams; the Agile methodology and the waterfall model methodology. This article seeks to discuss the underlying difference between the two methodologies.

The Waterfall model methodology

This methodology is also known as linear sequential life. It is a method that is followed in sequential order. When using this model in software development projects, it only allows team moves to the next phase of development or testing if the various step is completed successfully. This makes the process not flexible. 

The waterfall model has six phases, and they include;

  • Conception: This is the idea stage where developers decide what they want to design and why.
  • Initiation and Analysis: This stage involves gathering and documenting what the 
  • Software project will require, including system and software requirements for the product or project. It is also a phase known for requirement gathering.
  • Design: In this stage, developers determine how they want their software to work and determine which code or programming language to use for the product.
  • Construction and coding: With inputs taken from system design, the system is first developed in small programs called units, which are integrated into the next phase. Each unit is set and tested for its functionality which is referred to as Unit Testing.
  • Testing: This involves testing the software system-wide; it may include user testing, bug testing and going back to fix specified issues. This phase is continuous until the product passes the test.
  • Implementation: This phase entails delivering the finished product or outcome to the customer or rolling out the comprehensive system software.

The outlined stages are the entire system built for a project using waterfall methodology. 

One significant advantage of this methodology is that it is easy to prepare for. When using this methodology, each phase has and a review process. This results from focusing on one stage.

Additionally, it means that everything is carefully thought out in this method. It is easy to progress through each stage. It can make waterfall projects simple as one always know what is going to come.

The major disadvantage of this methodology is that you can’t test as you go. Testing commences once the development process is done. This, however, has some cons since testing is done when the project is developed; there are chances of finding issues.

If the testing process reveals too many issues, the process is subjected to being repeated. It may even get harder to manage risk with large batch sizes considering the solution is released all at once.

When to use the Waterfall model?

This model is used when the requirements are precise and may not be subjected to change

The Technology used is understood.

The project is short

Resources and required expertise are available.

The Agile Methodology

Agile development is an iterative and incremental project management method based on change and flexibility. This methodology breaks down large projects into smaller, manageable development Cycles called sprints. 

This can be followed by forming cross functional teams of 5-11 to work. This encourages team collaboration, and it is time boxing.

The Agile Process Flow

Concept – This phase is when projects are envisioned and prioritized

Inception – This phase majorly consists of identifying team members, ensuring funds, initial environment and requirements 

Iteration/Construction – The agile development team works to deliver working software based on sprints requirements and feedback

Release – Quality Assurance testing, internal and external training, documentation development, and final out of the sprints into production

Production – Ongoing support of the software

Retirement – This phase includes End-of-life activities, including customer notification and migration

Also, the steps outlined above happens in each sprint. Sprints help teams fully develop and release each segment of the project to the customers for quick feedback. That way, groups can apply their recommendations to iteration before moving to the next part


Advantages of implementing an agile development process:

  • There is increased flexibility.
  • Enhanced Team Collaboration
  • Quicker and Efficient Release on deliverables 
  • There is more Transparency

Disadvantages of Agile development process

  • Long term projects have tendencies to suffer from incremental delivery
  • The level of collaboration can be challenging to maintain.

The fundamental difference between waterfall and agile project management

  • Agile methodology is flexible as compared to the waterfall model, which structure is rigid.
  • The software development process is divided into different phases in the waterfall model, while the agile methodology segregation the project development lifecycle into sprints.

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