Agile vs. Waterfall - A Tale of Two Software Methodologies

A breakdown on the differences between Agile and Waterfall methodologies

Agile vs. Waterfall - A Tale of Two Software Methodologies
Z. Reese Downing
Z. Reese Downing
Director of Marketing

It’s no secret that the most successful software development projects are well managed. In order to be successful, it takes a tremendous amount of training, time management, communication, and hard work. While there are many different software development methodologies utilized throughout the world, Agile and Waterfall are the two most popular and widely used methods of software development. What’s the difference between the two? Let’s take a closer look.


The Agile methodology is a more modern approach that is used often in software development companies, especially when working on larger projects with a flexible timeline and budget. As opposed to Waterfall where the process is very rigid, it’s expected that there will be several developmental steps and requirement changes, so Agile is flexible by design. Teams develop and release software in iterations instead of tackling an entire application step-by-step for the entire project.

Agile methodology begins with identifying requirements. As previously mentioned, this is understood to be flexible as it’s anticipated that the product will adapt and change throughout the developmental life cycle. Once requirements are laid out, teams identify what functions and features can be most efficiently developed in sync. Once organized, the steps of discovery, plan, build, and review are repeated through each iteration until the project is completed.

  1. Agile minimizes risk when adding functionality and introducing new features into the equation, as iterations of the software are developed and finalized in stages versus all at once.
  2. Quality control is easier, as the team is tackling things in sections and not all at once.
  3. User inclusion is by nature more impactful, as clients are involved throughout the development process instead of having to wait to see the Alpha phase of a software or app until everything is done.
  4. Transparency is another benefit, as it allows clients to see value earlier and more often with frequent improvements and iterations.
  5. The Agile approach improves efficiency, especially in larger projects, because it allows teams to find and fix defects in sections instead of trying to deal with bugs and glitches for an entire project scope all at once.
  1. Given that it’s fluid and flexible by nature, the Agile approach brings about less predictability.
  2. Developers, organizations, and clients may have difficulty adapting to this method, as they may be more familiar with a more traditional approach like Waterfall.
  3. As there are several different forms to the Agile system, there could be an issue with team familiarity on which iteration of the methodology is implemented for the project.
  4. The Agile approach can be inefficient for smaller projects, as well as for larger organizations.
  5. Due to the need to continually recycle the discover, plan, build, and review steps until the project is complete, this method may not be a cost-effective approach.


The Waterfall model is often considered the most traditional approach to software development. Waterfall works best when teams are working on tight deadlines with inflexible budgets and it’s known up front that there will be little to no changes in requirements throughout development. Taken as a true step-by-step process, teams follow a regimented guide from planning through deployment.

Waterfall methodology begins with a full analysis of all of the requirements needed so the end goal is fully understood. This is a research phase that involves no building. Once the analysis is completed and the project is accepted, the remaining steps are done in chronological order: design, implementation, testing, and maintenance. Each phase must be 100% completed before moving on to the next phase, which can keep teams focused on the primary task at hand. This linear approach makes it easier for teams to understand and manage.

  1. The Waterfall model is a well-established and comfortable approach for many developers, as it is widely considered to be the most traditional method.
  2. Due to the structured nature of the Waterfall approach, projects are more easily managed.
  3. The Waterfall methodology is predictable by nature, as it operates on the “one step at a time” approach.
  4. It’s efficient and fast, especially for smaller projects.
  5. With Waterfall, you are able to definitively articulate and commit to the end goal at the beginning of the project, making it less likely that the team can get sidetracked or lost in the details.
  1. Due to the very structured nature of the Waterfall model, there is a lack of flexibility in its approach.
  2. The Waterfall model works in a linear fashion versus Agile, where multiple steps are worked at the same time, so various iterations are not presented to stakeholders until the entire application is completed. Because of this, there is an inherent lack of transparency.
  3. Each phase is reliant on the previous phase to be completed before the next can begin.
  4. The appearance of quality can be a bit muddied, as the Alpha phase of release often contains bugs. While developers understand is part of the process, it can cause an unfavorable reaction from clients if expectations are not set up front.
  5. It can be difficult, time consuming, and costly to go backward in the process if changes are needed to an already completed process step.

It’s clear that both of these methodologies have their benefits and drawbacks. This is why more and more companies are increasingly tackling projects with a hybrid methodology instead of focusing on just one method. Teams are able to benefit from the plus side of both, staying structured where needed and adaptable when necessary. To learn more about how CODE/+/TRUST can help you bring your idea to life, contact us today and set up an appointment.

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