Waterfall vs Agile Development: Which is the Best Methodology for You?

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Digiryte April 21, 2020 08:37 5 min read 454 views so far!


As the new project manager at a software firm, your first task is a simple software development project. The requirements distinctly frame-up and the customer base is limited, unlikely to modify the most prominent requirements. Knowing various distinct project management models aids the purpose.


Waterfall Methodology is one of the most comprehensible and practicable project management models used today. It is a traditional project management methodology established on a sequential design process much as a waterfall falls from top to bottom. It executes in linear phases, and each phase has its value. The team needs to complete every phase sequentially before the initiation of the next phase. You cannot proceed to the next phase without completing the preceding phase successfully.


Waterfall Approach Software Development consists of six phases. They are:

  1. Requirements
  2. Design
  3. Implementation
  4. Verification
  5. Deployment
  6. Maintenance

Let’s go through each.


  1. REQUIREMENTS: It starts with the idea of what the customer wants to do and analyses the collected requirements to check the actual feasibility of the project—all these information records in a requirement specification document. 
  2. DESIGN: This phase consists of logical design and physical design. The system design is made as per the requirement specifications. It helps in defining the system requirements and overall system architecture.
  3. IMPLEMENTATION: This phase consists of building the design into actual software. In this phase, small programs called units are developed which incorporate in the next phase. All the units test for their functionality and this process is called Unit testing.
  4. VERIFICATION: In this phase, the software tests against the requirements. The entire system is tested by a group of active users for any bugs or failures.
  5. DEPLOYMENT: After the successful completion of verification, the product is deployed into an actual market or customer environment in several phases for the ease of maintenance. 
  6. MAINTENANCE: In this phase, the issues encountered by the customers are resolved by releasing patches and enhances the product by releasing some better versions.

All the above-stated phases are outpouring to each other, and the workflows steadily in a linear sequence. In this methodology, phases do not overlap.



  • Easy to understand and easy to manage
  • Requirements are well understood 
  • Very few production issues
  • Suitable for small projects
  • Clear milestones


  • It is not flexible.
  • Not suitable for long-term and complex projects
  • Amount of risk and uncertainty is high
  • Difficult to measure the work progress within phases



Agile methodology is a new type of customer-centric methodology which is based on the iterative approach. In this method, the whole project is divided into small phases called ‘sprints’. Each sprint has a well defined time duration consisting of a list of deliverables that are planned at the initiation of the sprint.


In this model, the development and testing activities are in the continuous iteration process. The customer has early and constant involvement with the team for continuous improvement and iteration at each stage.


Here are the phases that are involved in the agile methodology.

  1. PLANNING: Once the viability and feasibility of the idea are deemed, the project team works together to identify features. It aims to break down the idea into smaller chunks of work as per the priorities and then assigns it to iteration.
  2. REQUIREMENTS ANALYSIS: This phase identifies the business requirements by involving many meetings with the stakeholders, managers and customers. Thus the team gathers the information which is relevant, detailed and quantifiable.
  3. DESIGN: After identifying the requirements in the previous phase, the system and software design are prepared.
  4. IMPLEMENTATION AND DEVELOPMENT: In this phase, creating and testing features, scheduling iterations for the deployment takes place. The development phase commences with iteration 0 and goes on up to iteration n where the desired product is achieved.
  5. TESTING: The code is tested against the requirements once it is developed to test whether the product is meeting the customer requirements and solves customer problems. This phase comprises unit testing, system testing, integration testing and acceptance testing.
  6. DEPLOYMENT: The product is released for customer use after testing. The team needs to address the problems that are encountered by the customers during their use



  • Flexible in nature
  • Quick problem identification
  • Short term planning works well
  • Great adaptability
  • Suitable for those projects where changing requirements involve
  • It’s a highly collaborative process
  • Customer satisfaction is ensured by involving the customer throughout the project


  • Requires frequent refactoring
  • Less predictable
  • Since the delivery is time-bound, it may involve additional cost
  • Trying to practice when compared to the waterfall method
  • Sometimes it is problematic for the customers since their involvement is highly anticipated.



Waterfall and Agile software development methodologies are very different and beneficial in their way.

To compile this post, let’s describe core distinctions and highlight them here:

  • Waterfall fits projects with well-defined requirements and no modifications. Agile seems best where there is a higher chance of any changes.
  • The Waterfall is simple to operate and a sequential approach. Agile is flexible, allowing to cause changes in any phase.
  • In Agile, project requirements change frequently. In Waterfall, it is determined solely once by the business analyst.
  • In an Agile project’s information, details alter anytime, which is not possible in Waterfall cases.

So which method do you prefer- Agile vs Waterfall?


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