Agile versus Waterfall Project Management - Which is Better for Your Project?

Linh Nguyen

Linh Nguyen | 20/05/2021

Agile versus Waterfall Project Management - Which is Better for Your Project?

Before planning and executing a software development project, the first thing you have to decide on is how to run the project with your team. In other words, which project management/development methodology your project will follow.

Deciding on a Software Management Methodology

Before planning and executing a software development project, the first thing you have to decide on is how to run the project with your team - or in other words, which project management/development methodology your project will follow.

There are two well-known and most-used software management methodologies that most software development projects follow, which are agile and waterfall project management. Both have their own pros and cons, and specific project requirements your team has to follow. These methodologies are to ensure that your team can develop high-quality software and carry out the best values for your investments; however, there are several distinctive differences to separate the two and knowing clearly their pros and cons will help you decide on the best management methodology for your team.

Deciding on a Software Management Methodology

Waterfall Software Management Methodology

Waterfall Model, or Linear Sequential Life Cycle Model, is a software management methodology where your team executes events in a linear or “waterfall” order. This is considered the traditional software management methodology where everything starts and finishes before moving onto the next stage. A typical waterfall model project will look similar to this:

Waterfall Software Management Methodology

  • Establishing requirements – The customer and the team go over the requirements and expectations for the project. These include what they are looking to make, the budget, the deadline, the technology, etc.
  • Planning and designing – Once the initial picture is drawn, the team then goes ahead and plans for the entire project, including the technologies that will be used, how many team members and what document will be needed, and the tasks for all the members.
  • Development – This is when the software development starts. Developers start working on the project to build a proper, working software that fulfills all the customer’s needs.
  • Testing – After the development phase is over, the testing starts in order to make sure that everything works.
  • Product deployment/delivery – The product is handed over to the customer.

Advantages of Waterfall Model

Advantages of Waterfall Model

As the traditional software management model, waterfall is very to proceed and follow through. This model requires you to have specific conditions and goals for each and every part of the development cycle and makes sure that everything is ready for the next stage.

Waterfall is a very straightforward model as developers and decision-makers agree early on in the development process, and expectation is transparent from start to finish. Progress is also easier to measure, as it is linear and moves from one stage to the next. Thanks to this, the waterfall method allows fastest delivery speed for all projects and works extremely well on smaller, less complicated projects.

The customer is only involved in the first and last stages; this means that it is easier for developers to concentrate on their expertise and less time needed to review the project over and over again after each stage. Furthermore, if staff change occurs in the middle of the process, it is easy to adapt the staff to the change as tasks can be handed over swiftly and without compromises on quality.

The best advantage of this methodology is that you can expect a completed, working software at the end of the project and the delivery time is usually measured accurately with no delay.

Disadvantages of Waterfall Model

Disadvantages of Waterfall Model

The first thing you should consider before applying the waterfall model to your project is that it is not a very suitable method for large and complicated projects. If you are going to make a lot of changes or consider having a long-term project where technologies might change or be updated, this might not be the best method as the waterfall model is not adaptable to changes.

Once the design stage is over, it is much harder to apply changes to the project. Since the team strictly follows the process set up during the planning stage, they will carry out all the tasks as planned instead of improvising or improving during the process. In addition, once a stage is over, it is considered finished and it is much harder to revisit the previous stage in the future.

Another point is that the testing is only done after the development stage is over. This makes it harder for developers to fix the errors that occur earlier in the process and might delay completion time, or even worse, makes the project more costly.

Since the customer is only involved in the planning and the delivery stages, there is a potential that the final product cannot satisfy the customer. This makes it much harder for developers to change according to the customer’s will as this most likely means that the project has to be restarted and executed all over again.

Agile Software Management Methodology

Agile on the other hand, is an iterative, incremental, team-based approach to software development. This methodology is based on the fact that technology is constantly changing, as well as customer’s demands. Whereas waterfall relies on the fact that all requirements do not change during the development of the software, agile allows developers and customers to work together to build the best, most suitable software for their businesses.

Agile method is built on self-organized, cross-functional teams working together on developing a product that is not only advanced in technology, but is easily adaptable and fulfills all requirements and expectations from the customer. With this method, development, testing, and evaluation are done constantly to improve the product as the process goes. Software is developed in stages where changes are done to improve the product to the utmost quality, along with the customer’s input on a daily/weekly basis.

Agile model

Main Agile Methodologies

There are several Agile methodologies that IT companies often use. Even though the basic core elements are the same, there are a few differences along with their own advantages and disadvantages. If you want to use Agile as your software management method, here are a few you should consider choosing from:

1. Scrum


Scrum is undeniably the most well-known, most popular Agile framework for software management. Scrum method is based on short cycles called sprints, where a full rotation of development is done. The team also meets for a daily or weekly meeting to plan for the work day or the week. After every sprint, the feedback is collected and the next sprint is then planned. The full rotation is usually as below:

  • Establishing requirements
  • Planning and designing
  • Developing
  • Deploying and testing
  • Evaluating
  • Collecting feedback
  • And repeating

2. Extreme Programming (XP)

Extreme Programming (XP)

Developed by Kent Beck, this methodology prioritizes customer satisfaction over all else. This means, the customer is constantly encouraged to make changes even at the last stage of the project. Teamwork is crucial as once there is a problem, the whole team of leaders, developers, and customers are supposed to work together to figure out the best solution.

3. Kanban


Created by Taiichi Ohno and used by Toyota, the Kanban method focuses on maximizing efficiency and improving continuously. It is also called the “just in time” method for software management. The workflow is demonstrated on a white board, or an agile task board, where the process is clearly stated and everyone is updated on what everyone else is doing in order to coordinate in a timely manner and produce the best outcome with the least amount of time.

Advantages of Agile Model

Advantages of Agile Model

Agile model is created to build the “perfect software” for clients. It is usually used for more complicated, large projects where more advanced technologies are used. Agile model encourages testing and evaluating so there are less errors in the final product, and makes sure that customers are satisfied with the project outcome as their inputs are needed in every stage of the development process.

By including the customers in the development process, they can have a better sense of what the product outcomes are going to be, and a better sense of ownership as they actively participate in the development process. Customers are also updated on the latest technologies and can be confident that their product is ahead of the trend and can attract the end users.

A team leader is usually present in teams that use the agile method.The team leader usually holds the teams together and can push collaboration between the teams, and between the team and the customer. This improves communication and makes sure that everyone is in on what is going on so they can concentrate on doing what they do best.

Even though the agile method might take longer than the waterfall method, there is no potential delay or start over as the final product is usually as expected and of high quality with no to little bugs as testing is done throughout the process.

Disadvantages of Agile Model

Disadvantages of Agile Model

Agile model is considered much more complicated compared to the waterfall approach, and might not be suitable for small-scaled, short-time projects where all the requirements are already set in stone and the deadlines are short. The customer is also involved in all of the stages, so requirements might change very often, which leads to confusion and time extension on the project. This means that agile projects are usually longer, compared to waterfall projects.

In order to execute all the stages properly, the teams are supposed to work together flawlessly. This means constant communication and teamwork are required, and the customer is always updated on the project. Even though this might sound amazing at a glance, having awesome teamwork requires a lot of work and can be very time-consuming. The responsibility lies heavily on the team leader to keep the project going and the customer happy.

Since technology is always changing, it is very tempting to continuously update and upgrade the project, even though it extends the time and delays the deadline. There is also a potential of disagreement as requirements are always changing and the best solution that the teams offer might not be what the customer wants.

So, Agile or Waterfall?

So, Agile or Waterfall?

There are very distinctive advantages and disadvantages between the Agile method and the Waterfall method, which should help you in picking the best method for your project. Are you looking for a short-term project where all requirements are set and limited technology choices are needed, or do you need an advanced software that follows the market trends and can provide the best possible outcome in order to stay competitive in the market?

No matter which method you choose, it is also important to make sure that the teams can carry out tasks flawlessly, and the right technologies are used. Picking out the right software management methodology might be the first step, but there are many more steps to go in order to develop the best software solution for your business.

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