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“Agile” and “Waterfall” both refer to software development methodologies used when creating new and updating existing software.

The Waterfall methodology refers largely to what it sounds like, a waterfall: The software development life cycle cascades linearly from one event to the next, in sequential order.

One way to look at the Waterfall method is to relate the process to filling out a March Madness bracket. You jot down your selections at the beginning of the tournament, considering things such as which matchups will cause the biggest upsets, what teams will get blown out of the water, and which players will carry their teams to the end, in order to determine what gives you the best chance of having a perfect bracket. Before you know it, you are left to wait and see how everything unfolds.

On the other hand, Agile methodology is a much less linear process due to the capabilities it provides. It allows you to make adjustments and changes throughout the software development life cycle based on specific software project needs, as well as a development teams’ progress and/or setbacks. When it comes to filling out a March Madness bracket, wouldn’t it be great if you could apply the Agile approach and update your predictions at the end of each round?

So, what should you consider when determining if the Agile or Waterfall approach is right for you? While both methodologies deliver a project from start to finish in the software development life cycle, it’s important to understand the differences between the two, so you can choose which methodology is right for your project and business.

Waterfall methodology

Waterfall methodology is the more traditional approach to software development. It is a linear process that sets out a step-by-step, lifelong plan for your project, completing one step after another without reverting to previous steps. Members are assigned to specific project management and team roles that are intended to be static until its completion. It is important to keep extremely detailed documentation, allowing all involved team members to know of the progress within each step.

If you’ve ever filled out a March Madness bracket, then you likely are familiar with just how fast the excitement can quickly be diminished when games do not play out as expected. You might spend weeks tuning into numerous college basketball games, scoping out players’ stats, and trying to analyze different matchups, all before filling out one of the renowned brackets. Suddenly, it is the end of day one in the tournament and all of your hard work goes down the drain, as none of your predictions stacked up accurately. Don’t feel bad, the odds of actually completing a perfect bracket range and are roughly 1 in 128 billion.

The same sense of frustration can be experienced during the Waterfall process in software development. Somebody looking to create new software or a mobile app likely has a similar sense of excitement – they are one step closer to seeing their product come to life and the anticipation builds as the requirements process begins. Waterfall methodology, while delivering great insight into the big picture of a product, doesn’t allow visibility into the specific details of the software development process. This can cause delayed testing, additional costs, and client frustration. But it is important to remember that every project is different and sometimes the Waterfall method makes the most sense.

Agile Methodology

The Agile approach has continued to be a game changer for those in the software development industry. Agile methodologies use a more incremental process than the sequential process and long cycles compared to the Waterfall methodology. Rather than waiting through the entire software development life cycle to test a product and make adjustments, evolutionary development and continual improvements along with adaptive planning, allow for project changes that are flexible with the client’s evolving needs.

When it comes to comparing the software development process and college basketball, the Agile approach would clearly be the preferred method for many when it comes to filling out March Madness brackets. Much like the Agile methodology, March Madness brackets have continued to evolve throughout the years and some companies now offer real-time bracket updates. This allows the user to make any desired changes during a specified time period of the college basketball tournament games. I’m sure you can only imagine how this would increase your odds – according to the Realtime Brackets website “Last year 50% of participants still had a chance to win their group heading into the Final Four™.”

By applying that same process in development, it ensures flexibility, that will allow any software project to respond to demands from stakeholders and users.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The Waterfall and Agile methodologies do have their own unique sets of advantages and disadvantages, allowing each to be more suitable for certain projects over others. This leaves many questioning which method they should implement on their next project.

Advantages

Waterfall Methodology
• Basic approach for developers to understand and implement
• Straightforward timeline helps teams plan and define expectations early on
• Development phases don’t overlap
• Works well for small projects where requirements are understood

Agile Methodology
• Full transparency: Frequent collaboration with customer allows for clearly communicated updates between stakeholders and developers
• Optimal flexibility: Newly discovered features can be added throughout project development
• Project priorities evaluated incrementally
• Incremental testing and evaluation insures quick fix for bugs during project’s development and allows changes to be made as the client’s needs evolve

Disadvantages

Waterfall Methodology
• The entire project depends greatly on the first step: requirement gathering and documentation
• The final software product is only tested after being developed, which leaves many issues undetected
• There’s little room for project flexibility and anticipating the clients evolving needs

Agile Methodology
• Due to flexibility throughout, unwanted scope increase could potentially arise
• Greater demands on development team with time and effort
• The project can get derailed if the client is not clear about requirements and expectations

The Main Differences

Understanding the advantages and differences between the two methodologies can help you when deciding which process to choose on your next project. Waterfall is best suited for software development projects that have clearly defined steps and goals. Projects that require a sequential process for optimal results benefit the most from the Waterfall methodology. On the other hand, it would not make much sense to use Waterfall for projects that don’t have a clearly established end goal or sequential steps.

Agile works best for projects and/or clients that have an idea of what they want, but don’t know how to get there. Agile development is suitable for almost any size business and project. This process produces optimal results specifically with clients and projects whose needs change throughout the software development life cycle.

Geneca’s clients benefit from our expertise with Agile software development

It may surprise you that the software development industry has a failure rate of approximately 70%. Geneca, unlike most software development companies, is proud of our 92% success rate throughout 19 years of product development.

Geneca uses Agile software development for its adaptability, responsiveness and speed. The Agile methodology allows Genecians to help clients at any phase of the software development life cycle. Geneca is able to jump in regardless of what point you might be at in your project. We understand that not all aspects of your project may be Agile, as there may be strict requirements on various facets of your development. We work with you to suggest changes to areas that can benefit from our expertise.