Before you begin a project, it’s important to know which development method you’re going to use. Waterfall and Agile are two approaches to organizing the software development phase of your project. The Agile approach emerged in response to the Waterfall method.

In this blog series, we’ll introduce you to both development methods, provide the pros and cons for each, and help you determine which approach is best for you.


The Waterfall Method

The Waterfall method is the more traditional and technical of the two approaches. Its foundation consists of six steps that must be followed in order to complete a project. Each development process may have a slightly altered version of these steps:

  1. System and Software Requirements
  2. Analysis
  3. Design
  4. Coding
  5. Testing
  6. Operations

These steps are typically organized in a sequential order that mimics the way a waterfall flows in one direction, hence the name.

Diagram of the Waterfall method.

Each of these steps must be completed before moving on to the next one. This is because the output of one step is used as the input of the following step. If this approach is carried out correctly, the phases should not overlap. Projects that employ large teams with members who work remotely typically use the Waterfall method.

Committing to the Waterfall approach means committing to your goals, requirements, timelines, and parameters from the very beginning. This method follows a very strict timeline that’s determined before the project even begins.


The Agile Method

As previously mentioned, the Agile method appeared as an alternative to the Waterfall approach. Therefore, it’s essentially the opposite of the Waterfall method.

Agile is much more informal with a timeline that is organized into “sprints.” Each sprint has a fixed duration and set “deliverables.” Deliverables are tasks that should be accomplished within the sprint. If deliverables can’t be completed within the duration of a sprint, you can reprioritize the work for the next sprint.

Circular diagram to illustrate Agile method.

Projects that have a small, concentrated team that work together in a single location are likely to use the Agile method. The Agile approach is based on a set of four statements called the Agile Manifesto:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

The Agile approach can be tailored to suit the client’s needs throughout the project timeline, so these statements are meant to establish a baseline.

Your project needs a game plan but deciding which route to take can be hard. We’ll continue the series with a more in-depth look at the Waterfall approach. We’ve used aspects of both the Waterfall approach and the Agile approach in our projects. Let us know if you have any questions, or comment below if you have experience with these approaches. We encourage collaboration and would like to help you with your project in any way we can.

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