Project Management: Agile vs. Waterfall

sugarcrmdevelopers —  May 28, 2013

You may have noticed the latest trend in software development has been in moving from the Waterfall Methodology to an Agile process. This blog provides a little insight into what is involved with each of the processes.

The Waterfall Method is a sequential design process that involves an extended amount of planning that can lead to an execution time of months or even years depending on the scope of the project. The thought is that time spent early in the process, making sure requirements and design are exact, will save time and effort later in the project.

Waterfall execution takes place in various stages, with the idea that the project should only move to a new phase when the preceding phase has been completed and perfected. The stages of execution include:

1. Requirements

2. Design Phase

3. Construction

4. Integration

5. Testing

6. Installation

7. Maintenance

While using the Waterfall method has worked well in the past, the level of technological innovation taking place on a daily basis lends itself well to a more Agile approach. Companies are constantly being challenged to further develop their businesses, make their products better, faster and do so while using fewer resources.

They must be able to meet the needs of their users, but also adapt to rapidly-changing needs from customers as well. Additionally, if your group works with multi-team projects or enterprise level customers, you may have several key players with conflicting ideas about how the end product should look and function. This is the point when engaging an Agile Methodology would be most helpful.

Agile Methodology is an iterative and incremental development strategy that allows for continuous improvement. Using short iterations of one to four weeks in order to build the project in short batches, or increments, keeps development aligned with changing business needs and allows Agile projects to see a higher rate of success. The mindset when engaging in an Agile project should always be that of striving to be not necessarily the best, but always better than the previous version.

Highlights of the Agile Method:

  • Promotes productivity at all stages of the process.
  • Allows for continual innovation and improvement to meet the overall end goal.
  • Significantly improves the wait time from idea to market.
  • Requires continuous collaboration and involvement from the stakeholders.

One of the reasons an increasing number of companies have already adopted an Agile Methodology is primarily because of the significantly improved results it can deliver over a Waterfall Method. According to the Standish Group, software applications developed using Agile techniques have three times the success rate of applications developed using the traditional waterfall method. The Standish Group defines a successful project as one delivered on time, on budget, and with the required features and functions.

We have adopted and been using the Agile Methodology for some time now and have found it to work quite well for our needs and the needs of our customers. Something to think about: What method does your business use? Why? What are some of the reasons why it works best for you?