If Waterfall and Agile Got Into a Bar Fight, Who Would Win?
Just kidding. But seriously, which methodology are you willing to put your money on for your next software project?
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While each methodology focuses on efficient resource management and code development, both have their own advantages. One is seen from a traditional perspective, while the other is more innovative and fast-paced. Depending on the scope of the project, managers may opt for either one to reach key checkpoints on time.
Managers need to start with the right strategy and then use the appropriate methodology to produce a technological solution. Research from PwC consulting suggests that Agile projects outperform traditional ones by 28 percent. However, Waterfall provides the structure and stability needed for effective development. Depending on the goal of the project, managers can opt for either approach to develop code more effectively.
Rapid Pace Development vs. Structured and Streamlined
Both methodologies come with their own unique set of challenges that managers have to address early on. A rapid pace environment focuses on iterative development, while a more streamlined approach gives you structure and stability. Managers may also choose to include inputs from a variety of stakeholders at different stages of the project as well.
This requires an Agile approach, especially when working with developers from around the world. Startups are increasingly opting for Agile methodologies so that they can involve as many teams in one project as possible. They can also keep up with changing tech environments by constantly iterating.
When it comes to Waterfall, you’re getting the power of structure and simplicity. Each pathway is well defined, and projects move from one block to another. There are six predefined stages, namely Planning, Analysis, Design, Implementation, Verification, & Maintenance. Each stage involves a group of stakeholders to participate and complete their checklist. While this ensures process compliance, there is limited input from outside teams, once the stage has been cleared.
Larger development firms are moving towards Agile for faster iteration and getting an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) out in the market. Since customer feedback is immediate, companies are then able to introduce new features quicker.
They’re also able to scale up as per the demand they generate from the consumer group. Real-time analytics also feeds back into the iterative process, ultimately giving Agile more precedence when it comes to rapid development.
“Doing things sequentially is called the waterfall model and that waterfall way of working has been the bane of large programs. In effect, the company that is putting its money at risk is taking a leap of faith that the returns will come five years later, seven years later. Agile, on the other hand, gives the ability to break up that big piece of work with a concept called the minimum viable product. Do a small thing, prove the benefits, and keep moving on. You can do things much faster.” -- Krishnan Ramanujam, President, Tata Consultancy Services.
Continuous Testing and Quality Check
One of the main differences between Agile and Waterfall relates to how testing is done throughout the development process. In the case of Waterfall, the ultimate code repository is shared with the Quality Check team which then takes a few months to find bugs and coding errors. This information is then shared back to the assigned teams who edit their code to remove errors. The process is a linear one, which relies on effective coding in the first place. If there aren’t a lot of bugs in the code, then QC should take significantly lesser time.
The reality of coding is that there are plenty of bugs that emerge after constant coding. When companies attempt to innovate, there are a lot of challenges that come their way. From incompatibility to unprocessed data, there are many areas of focus that teams must address. That’s where Agile provides a flexible model of development, which involves communication from Quality Teams early on.
This collaborative process helps churn out quality code that can be reviewed as it is being developed. It also helps in streamlining resources and focuses on lead time as much as possible. Agile also helps in getting a market-ready product out there, which ultimately gives rise to better customer data. New features can be designed and tested in an Agile manner, to give customers what they want quicker.
Interactivity and Change Management
Often times, the project scope changes in response to market dynamics. This means that the original vision and mission of the application may be edited according to customer insights. This lends to the need for Agile methodologies in a rapidly evolving marketplace. However, when companies opt for a longer-term vision of developing large scale applications, Waterfall becomes the right choice.
Agile involves a great deal of interactivity within teams to get the product shipped out. While many companies may prefer this model, the project manager needs to prepare for a plethora of inputs. While parsing the right feedback becomes key, there may be too many resources locked into certain projects. Waterfall methodology focuses on limited interactivity and change after the specific stage has been cleared. This works out well for firms that are developing business applications, complex systems, and highly technical software. Limited interactivity works in their favor through this approach.
Change management is another critical component of the development cycle. Agile handles this via sprints, while Waterfall emphasis on the original goal. That’s where project managers need to select the right approach that works well with their organizational culture.
If the culture of the firm reflects the iterative change and innovating along with key steps, then Agile works best. If the firm has been developing products based on a core process, then Waterfall becomes the company’s process-based asset. Change management is an essential factor that must be considered when choosing either methodology.
While it is true that most companies are using some form of Agile-Waterfall hybrid, each methodology has its own benefits. For companies that require short-term development and quick ROI, Agile is the best way to move ahead. When it comes to Waterfall, companies are generally looking at a few years’ time. Inevitably, it’s about blending your corporate culture, your talent, and your technology together. For either methodology, managers will have to introduce new systems and processes in place to ensure seamless integration.
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