Agile vs. Waterfall – What's the Difference?

Agile vs. Waterfall – What’s the Difference?

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by Amelia Scott — 3 weeks ago in Development 4 min. read
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Ask two software developers and they’ll give you two different answers. Because development is both a creative and logical pursuit, there is plenty of room for personal opinion.

However, there are two main approaches to software development: agile and waterfall. The more popular agile software development approach is used by a larger percentage of individuals and businesses.

This approach is often called the “superior” one, but is it? Are there any situations or projects in which the waterfall approach is more effective?

What is Waterfall Development?

Let’s start by taking a look at the waterfall design method.

Imagine a waterfall in nature. Water flows in one direction: from the source, through the waterfall, down to the pooling water below. Similar to waterfall development, it is unidirectional.

It all starts with a detailed plan of what and how you want to build it. You’ll build the architecture in a series of phases that include research and planning.

You want to build the product as completely as possible with as few changes as possible.
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There are several advantages to this approach

Clear central planning

The waterfall method requires that you invest time and effort at the beginning of your project. Analyzing the competition and preparing documentation on the product type you wish to create, brainstorming the possibilities, and making critical decisions that will affect the project’s future for many weeks or months.

You will have more information and a clear plan to follow throughout the project.

A phased, clean approach

Waterfall development is also phased. You don’t have to know when a phase ends and there are no competing priorities. This allows for simple, painless development in many situations.

Simple coordination and workflow

Developers also love the ease of working with others, especially those in project management roles. It is obvious when the project should be transferred and it is clear when the project will be launched.

Less back-and-forth

Conversation and the “back-and-forth” process of collaboration can prove to be very valuable in software development. It can be tedious, confusing, and complex. There are fewer micro conversations and fewer meetings required in waterfall development. Developers will spend less time talking and more time programming.

What is Agile Development?

Agile development, on the other hand, is about adaptability and flexibility. While you will still need to research and plan, you will not spend nearly as much time as if you follow the Waterfall method.

The goal here is to get started as soon as possible and create a rough sketch of the product. You will then need to fill in the details later.

You’ll be reviewing and discussing your work with clients, working together, and refining your approach. Even after the product launches, you’ll continue to develop, adding new features and polishing existing ones.
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These are the greatest advantages

Startups can be launched faster

While intensive planning during the initial stages of waterfall development is beneficial, it can also slow down your startup. Agile development is a better option if you want to develop a minimum viable product quickly or need to get things moving immediately.

Simple modifications

You might need to modify the product’s core features or the product’s nature during development. You might need to consider new technologies, competitors, or market dynamics.

It is possible to rethink a key feature, or even come up with an entirely new idea. Sometimes, your original idea might not work out as you expected. Agile methodologies let you adapt to your situation, rather than sticking with your original plan.

Continuous testing

Agile software developers now have continuous testing at their disposal. They can spot flaws and bugs while they are developing software, so they can eliminate them before they impact users.

Active client involvement

Agile is also well-known for its ability to facilitate active client engagement. Clients and project managers can have open conversations with developers to analyze the product and provide new direction. Together, they can guide the product to its final destination.

Continuous communication and refinement.

Agile methodology offers opportunities for constant communication. It’s possible to continually polish your product until it is as perfect as you had hoped.
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Why has Agile Become the Most Popular

Agile software development has gradually grown to be the dominant methodology within the development field. Although it has many advantages, why is it so popular?

These are some of the most important factors

Scope evolution

Scope creep can be a problem with all types of projects. Clients can change their minds. New requirements are created by stakeholders. People get new ideas. Agile is a way to get new ideas. You can be responsive to changing requirements and continue moving toward your goal.

A changing landscape

Your software’s landscape is constantly changing. New technologies and competitors will be introduced to your software. Waterfall can make you feel trapped, but agile allows you to move on.

Rapider progress

Tech companies have a pressing need to generate as much revenue as possible. Only agile development can get you off the ground running.

Customer service

Agile development offers many opportunities to provide better customer service. Customers are more involved in the development process and will be more invested. Therefore, you’re more likely to get better results when creating products for other people.
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When is Waterfall Better?

Is waterfall ever better?

The short answer to this question is yes. The waterfall is faster, more efficient, and more streamlined when it comes to certain types of projects such as these.

Small, quick projects

The smaller the project, generally speaking, the better it is for waterfall development. You don’t have to use the continuous phased approach if you only have a few hundred lines or the scope of your project.

Projects with low priority

These projects, which have minimal impact and require little outside attention, don’t require group coordination or much coordination. These projects can be easily planned and accomplished using a waterfall method.
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Internal projects

One advantage of agile development is the involvement of your clients in the development process. This advantage is lost if there are no clients. Working internally means there are fewer voices and opinions to be concerned about, which could make waterfall a more appealing option.

Amelia Scott

Amelia is a content manager of The Next Tech. She also includes the characteristics of her log in a fun way so readers will know what to expect from her work.

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