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When To Use Waterfall Or Agile?

When it comes to software development, the million-dollar question is always whether to utilize the Waterfall or Agile methodologies. Everyone has an opinion on the subject, and favouring one way typically means dismissing the other as a viable choice. Waterfall was the first, and Agile was the second, but we're still debating which is best for development.

Is Waterfall no longer active? Is it safe to say that Agile has taken its place? Is one superior to the other?

Waterfall Methodology

The Waterfall methodology was named after the sequential phases arranged in a descending pattern (similar to genuine waterfalls) to symbolize the many aspects of software development from beginning to conclusion.

Waterfall Methodology

In the decades that followed, other variants of the original model appeared, but the reasoning underpinning Waterfall stayed the same. When one phase is finished, the output becomes the input for the next, which begins immediately after the previous. It considers all of the important aspects of software development, and its clarity made it simple to grasp and implement right away.

While the Waterfall model was far from being the only way to develop software, it was not until 2001 that it underwent a significant paradigm shift. What went wrong? Agile software development!

Agile Methodology

The ideas of incremental software development had already been implemented in a variety of techniques. Even so, Agile software development (as we know it) was only launched and popularized in 2001 with the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. This simple document, created by a group of developers, defied software development traditions and limits, giving a viable alternative to the Waterfall process.

Agile Methodology

The cycles, which are commonly referred to as sprints, aim to offer value in a cumulative manner, as part of a larger picture that leads to project completion. That's where it differs from the Waterfall technique the most.

Agile aims to be more flexible, enabling regular increments and focusing on shorter timeboxes to reduce planning time. Each iteration adds value to the product and delivers working software as it comes to a close, planning the next step in greater detail than the ones that come after it.

Different subgroups adopt Agile as a philosophy, comparable to how Waterfall has evolved over time. Agile is used to perform software development procedures by DSDM (Dynamic Systems Development Method), FDD (Feature-Driven Development), XP (Extreme Programming), and, most notably, Scrum.

Regardless of differing viewpoints, it is undeniable that Agile transformed the way software developers approached new projects. What did this entail for Waterfall now that we knew what each technique represented?

Is Agile the start of the end for Waterfall?

At first view, it does not appear to be a favourable situation for Waterfall. We can declare that Agile is the most popular strategy, and there is no way to refute those statistics. However, ignoring the large number of developers who use Waterfall is a mistake.

However, Agile did show a few limitations and problems in the Waterfall paradigm, such as how difficult it is to address issues in initial phases and how long it takes to build working software. All of this takes place amid a great deal of uncertainty.

As the message spread, being Agile became popular, and everyone wanted a piece of it. As a result, all processes became Agile. Nobody brags about their Waterfall workflows. From marketing to economics to software design and development, every organization wants everyone to know that they are Agile, even if they aren't sure what it means. That is the root of the fundamental fallacy supporting the claim that Waterfall is no longer relevant.

Agile Marketing Methodology

Everyone seems to be missing the point: neither Waterfall nor Agile are universally superior software development methodologies. Adopting one over the other in the name of being superior is often a ruse that hides the lack of a good procedure.

When to use it?

Waterfall is the ideal choice for reliable projects since it involves extensive planning at the outset, taking into account all factors (both internal and external) that can affect the project's execution. Waterfall is the best option, regardless of the project's size, when the external environment is stable and unlikely to alter over the plan.

Waterfall was the best approach for these types of projects before Agile, and it is still the best approach now. If you can design a project ahead of time in a low-risk environment, dividing it into numerous sprints to offer value each week isn't necessary. It's best to concentrate on the end product as soon as possible.

On the other hand, Agile is the way to go for projects that demand a more flexible process due to their unpredictability and instability. To put it another way, if the product vision and its components are subject to change due to external circumstances (such as market dynamics), it is preferable to design and modify the product utilizing Agile. It's also the greatest way to ensure that the project doesn't languish in development for months before delivering a final product. After each sprint, there will be a checkpoint where the product owner can test and approve the finished work.

The lack of adequate checkpoints in changing projects that use Waterfall adds risk because it's more difficult to resolve potential faults discovered near the development conclusion. The extra time set aside for project planning does not guarantee that the design and development phases will flow smoothly to the conclusion, as most challenges are as undesirable as they are unpredictable.

Waterfall vs Agile Comparison

Selecting between Waterfall and Agile should be more than a marketing decision. It should consider all of the factors that can influence a project and how well-defined a product is a priori. Choosing the incorrect tool for the work can result in additional time and effort being spent.

Every software development challenge is unique, and the requirements phase of any technique is usually when the cards are laid out on the table. However, before you get started, you need to understand a few things about the project's nature.

Different techniques to solve variations of the same problems exist, such as Waterfall and Agile. Several projects may be better developed and more suitable for each other, depending on their specificities.

Why use Agile?

Overall, why do we favour Agile over Waterfall? Given everything we've seen up to this point, we should all be over explanations like "Waterfall is dead, long live Agile." As a general rule, one is not superior to the other, and it is frequently erroneous to believe otherwise. We tried Waterfall for a long time before switching to Agile when we realized that, given the nature of most of our projects, it was the best option.

We used a Scrum approach, which is a subset of Agile, in our Agile Development Process, with a few tweaks to match the needs of our clients. We believe that this is the preferable option for our projects since we can either finish with an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) - which would come under the Proof of Concept phase - or continue with a series of sprints that will add incremental value to the product.

Again, it would be a mistake to believe that this is the most effective approach in every project, so we constantly assess and change it to meet our needs. That's why we switched from Waterfall to Agile in the first place, and we'll continue to improve if necessary. On the other hand, creating universal solutions is a concept that will never exist in software development.

In the end

It's as obvious as water, Waterfall isn't dead, and Agile isn't necessarily the best option. That's the simpler way to look at it, but it's also the riskiest way to approach software development. It all boils down to your individual requirements and the most effective means of achieving your goals. Any further talk about it will only add to the noise.

Over the last few years, being Agile has come to be regarded as a benefit. A distinguishing feature that a company might be linked with that rapidly demonstrates its quality. Neither everyone is Agile, nor does everyone understand what Agile is. Despite this, the bustle makes it difficult for anyone to correctly comprehend what Waterfall and Agile approaches are all about.

The most excellent way to go beyond appearances and genuinely make a difference with a software development process is to thoroughly grasp each project's requirements, choose the method that best suits them, and adjust accordingly.


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