written by
Sean Thomas

Agile vs. Waterfall; Which Is the Better Approach?

4 min read

Regardless of the scope, objective or size of a project, an understanding of the project life cycle is necessary for creating a path to success. The project life cycle works as the glue that holds all processes in the project together and fills in gaps that can lead to financial losses.

A recent study found that $122 million of every $1 billion invested into projects by companies within the United States went to waste due to a lack of project performance and synergy. As a result of these excessive financial losses, a high majority of projects in the country fail before completion.

Methodologies in project management act as a guiding principle for project managers. While project management methodologies aren’t meant to be tool-specific, today’s software-reliant world has intertwined these methodologies with the organization’s software management tools.

In this article, we discuss two of the most prominent project management methodologies in the form of Agile and Waterfall. Stick with us as we find out which one is better.

Agile Project Management

Adaptive project management is a systematic and structured process that allows businesses an opportunity to gradually improve their practices and decisions. These decisions are influenced through outcomes we take in previous stages of our product (Kloppenborg, 2013). As the name suggests, project management processes change over time, and an adaptive methodology helps businesses keep tabs on these changes.

Photographer: Jo Szczepanska | Source: Unsplash

Adaptive Project Framework has multiple variations; the methodology is more about creating the right recipe rather than just following it. Project managers are in charge of the situation at all times. This means that project managers are tasked with ensuring that they not only understand the situation at hand, but also develop and adapt their approach to the technique accordingly.

The important characteristics of the agile methodology include:

· Learning from discovery

· Thriving on change

· Client driven

The Adaptive project methodology is distinguished from other methodologies based on how it places the client as the central figure while deciding progress on the project. This however holds true for corporate clients alone. The situation is entirely different for public or individual projects.

Why Do We Need Agile Project Methodology?

Traditional project methodologies come with a static strategy that might make management easier, but has its own limitations. The fast-paced technological advancements in the world around us today have changed project management in the following ways:

· Strategy – it is difficult for businesses to predict processes

· Work – the speed of work has increased

· People – teams and individuals collectively work toward projects

Taking these changes into account, it is necessary that we innovate and improvise along the way. We can follow the analogy of the cook and the chef. While the cook follows a recipe to the letter, a chef improvises and uses their knowledge to create recipes in the process. The Adaptive project management methodology allows project managers to be chefs, rather than cooks.

Waterfall Project Management

Waterfall or predictive project management methodology focuses on planning and analyzing all future anticipated risks. This methodology is focused on a detailed breakup of features and tasks for an early development process.

Standard timelines are set to complete tasks in this methodology. Predictive project management methodologies are set in stone and it is extremely difficult for managers to change the direction of a specific project if things go wrong or contrary to what is expected.

Predictive methodologies do not appreciate changes, which is why buffers are added to the overall process if something goes outside of the desired plan of action.

The predictive methodology is highly suitable for cases:

· Where the project and its requirements are clear to the team and they have previously worked on a similar project before

· Where the specifications of the project are concrete, and you cannot expect any changes

· Where the project’s team is rather large and is set in remote locations

· Where the project manager has no experience with other more flexible methodologies

· Where the project development process is shared across the board with all relevant stakeholders

The waterfall methodology requires a deep sense of understanding and responsibility. The final product will not meet customer requirements if representatives are unable to follow the exact requirements. Predictive methodologies aren’t meant for corporate settings, where businesses are required to follow all requirements to the letter.

Which Is better?

Differences between Waterfall and Agile project management methodologies can best be discussed through a detailed understanding of the pros and cons of both methodologies.

Pros of Waterfall Methodology:

· This methodology is easier to follow, since you cannot expect changes

· The instructions are laid down and the concise workflow make work easier for developers

· Organizations are able to predict an expected timeline and budget

· Each stage in the project has a specific timeline

Pros of Agile Methodology:

· Iterative and evolutionary flexible guidelines

· Efficient in nature and enhance collaboration

· Reduced vulnerabilities and bugs that the business might experience

· Focused on delivering high quality in time, with adaptive changes

Cons of Waterfall Methodology:

· Additional costs for delays in the process

· Projects can fail due to simple changes

· Timelines are hard to meet

Cons of Agile Methodology:

· Teams have to work together continuously, which can lead to numerous conflicts.

· Frequent development changes are allotted, which might lead to a lack of documentation

Both, Agile and Waterfall methodologies for project management, are tasked with conducting the same activities. The amount of flexibility might change over project management styles, but the activities are the same. Activities include collecting, designing, testing and deploying.

Lastly, in both project methodologies, the foundation is to bring the project to life through planning and then to monitor its progress until the results are achieved. The level of monitoring and reporting is the same for both projects, and the ultimate choice should be made on the basis of the project you have to oversee.

Agile Project Management