Battle of PM Methodologies – Waterfall vs Agile vs Scrum

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Battle of PM Methodologies – Waterfall vs Agile vs Scrum

Multiple methodologies can make it a little difficult to decide which one to choose. Get an assessment of the major frameworks here.

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Technologies are constantly changing and so do management methodologies. What worked yesterday might not work today, and vice versa. How can you then be confident that your project is managed correctly?

We are experiencing a real boost of project management approaches and methodologies. In the IT world, the most widespread and popular one is, of course, Agile. However, there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to software development, that’s why it is crucial to know your project scope first.

Rather than relying on the popularity of a certain approach, ask yourself:

  • Is the environment of the future app/service changing quickly?
  • Is it possible to accurately plan and budget the project beforehand?
  • What are the time and budget limitations?
  • The level of commitment the customer and the team are ready to provide?
  • What are the size and characteristics of the team?

Without answering these questions, you won’t be able to choose the correct project management model. Project scope dictates the conditions that the right methodology has to meet.

With this being said, we can now move on to the actual list. So here are the top three project management methodologies used today in software development, reviewed.


This framework has been borrowed for software development from the strictly structured construction and manufacture industries. It offers a linear, straight order-to-project management with a great respect to planning, documentation and previous agreements. That’s also why so many older companies are still heavily relying on it.

Waterfall is simple, straightforward and predictable. However, on the other hand, lacks the flexibility and tolerance for changes. The main idea is planning the whole project at the very beginning and then following the planned stages till the product is delivered. This means that the team goes through every stage in a linear way and can neither move forward without completing the previous task nor move backward.

The first of the PM concepts there is, Waterfall has been much criticized once it was singled out as an approach and received its name.

The Main Flaws of Waterfall

  • Changes are not favored. Development is not adaptable and thus the software product cannot be quickly improved in the face of new competition.
  • Planning risks are very high. Poor planning is much more costly due to the strict budget and time limits. Once the project is started, it’s either win or lose, serious setbacks can easily halt the whole development process.
  • The working app can only be seen at the latest stages of the project when it’s too late and costly to fix anything and introduce new features.
  • The development process is driven by the contract and documentation more than by efficiency and usability of the product.

According to researchers, these disadvantages make the pure Waterfall projects 3 times less likely to succeed than Agile. And yet, it would be impractical to advise totally against this methodology as it can appear suitable in some situations.

Waterfall Is The Best Project Management Model In Case Of...

  • An inexperienced team. The method is easy to use, doesn’t require special training or extra managerial positions, like in some other practices.
  • A customer who needs a turnkey solution and isn’t ready to be involved in the development process.
  • Simple, typical app or service when competition is not in question.
  • Limited time or budgeting.
  • A project where following the contract and/or documentation is of utmost importance.

The Waterfall methodology is still used in many organizations in “pure” or hybrid form. Although it becomes less and less popular with the widespread adoption of the Agile frameworks.


As opposite to Waterfall, Agile approach made embracing change a part of its philosophy. In its basic principles, Agile places interaction, customer collaboration, changes, and working software over plans, processes, documentation and a contract. It has made Agile the innovative approach aimed at delivering up-to-date well-adjusted software that brings value to the customer.

Agile project management process is divided into iterations, the main goal of which is producing a viable product.

Agile development stages include traditional planning, analyzing requirements, design, coding, testing, and deployment, but they form a cycle rather than a line. This means the processes are flexible, repeatable, can happen in any order and in parallel. This allows gathering the user feedback, continuous testing against different environments and changing the scope of the project on the run.

The Main Advantages Of Agile

  • Customers are highly involved. The concept welcomes high level of collaboration both within a team and with the customer. As a result, the customer gains full visibility of the project and the app fulfills the customer expectations.
  • A working product in early stages. As the goal of every iteration is delivering a working product, the app or service can be presented almost at the beginning and the customer can pre-assess the result. Some software can already be deployed halfway, that means they start bringing a return on investment long before the end of the project.
  • Reduced development risk. Continuous refining and recalibration of the app inspired by repeated testing, feedback from users and changes in the industry ensure that the final product is up-to-date and achieves its goals.
  • A positive working atmosphere for the team. Constant communication and interaction within the team contribute to the overall team efficiency and free creative environment.

Agile For Mobile Application Development

The flexibility and efficiency of the Agile approach make it highly suitable for rapidly developing mobile apps environment. Mobile application development projects are constantly challenged by technical innovations in mobile devices, the growing demands of end-users, the increasing competition between apps in a segment. The app developers are expected to respond to user complaints and propositions and provide updates. That makes it almost impossible to develop a successful app while sticking to the predefined conditions of traditional approaches.

Agile Methods

As mentioned above, Agile is not a single tool but rather an approach inspired by the limitations of traditional application development project management practices. Agile philosophy has driven the creation of many different practices like Extreme Programming, Kanban, Lean Development, and many other original and hybrid methodologies. The most mainstream Agile practice is Scrum.


As a subset of the Agile framework, Scrum model is iterative and flexible. As a practice, it offers more specific rules and procedures to the project application development project management process. In 2016, SCRUM was reported to be used by 58% of software development companies.

Scrum cross-functional team usually consists of 5-7 members and suggests a set of roles and steady processes repeated in every iteration. The iterations in Scrum, named with a rugby term sprints, are usually 1 or 2 weeks long. One of the most well-known features of Scrum is a daily stand-up meeting lasting about 15 minutes. Along with the meetings, every sprint involves planning, product demonstration, and a retrospective.

Why is Scrum Popular?

Scrum combines the innovative Agile ideology with a set of definite rules and practices. That means:

  1. Benefits of the product development process: flexibility towards changes, regular software shipments due to short sprints;
  2. Benefits for the team: well-organized and time-efficient workflow.

Scrum is implemented in many software development teams throughout the world, and most Scrum projects are considered successful.

The main problem with implementing Scrum lies in relatively high financial and time investments needed to start working. Specific Scrum rules and practices have to be taught by an invited Scrum-master, and even then teams usually slowly adapt to the changes. Therefore, a wise change management is required.

Possible Pitfalls In Agile/Scrum Implementation

Before implementing Agile/Scrum as the project management model for your software project, make sure that you avoid the following pitfalls:

  • Using Agile because it’s trendy. For many customers, this approach is the new standard and the word Agile itself is a synonym to classy. But make sure it suits your project. Otherwise, you may end up spending time and money on a trend.
  • Not working enough on implementing and purifying the methodology. As mentioned earlier, Agile can be a demanding undertaking. But if you decide to go for Agile, you must do it properly. It only works with a full set of rules and practices.
  • The customer is not ready to be involved. It happens that the customer just wants to set the goals and get the result at the end. No commitmen, no Agile.
  • The team or some team members don’t want to go Agile. Again, the lack of commitment will not produce the high level of synergy Agile/Scrum is aimed at.

So Which Methodology Leads to Success?

While some experts are pretty outspoken on the topic, as we understand now – there is no “one size fits all” PM methodology. Every model has its benefits and downsides, and each can be more or less suitable for a certain type of software projects.

Keep in mind the scope, risks, and obligations of your project, and you will be able to choose what’s right exactly for you. Or let our team of experts help you. We have successfully finished over 130 software projects in various industries, both for mobile and web applications.

Contact us today to find out how we can help you develop a solution that will ensure your success.

If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more about Scrum, check out our compendium of tutorials and articless.

agile advantages, agile development, benefits of agile, benefits of waterfall, frameworks, project management, scrum, waterfall

Published at DZone with permission of Liubomyr (El.) Kachur . See the original article here.

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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