Waterfall and Agile are the two central methods of organizing software development. While Waterfall used to be the reigning method, Agile has become increasingly popular since “The Agile Manifesto” to keep up with consumers’ standards in today’s face-paced technological environment by ensuring continuous integration and continuous delivery.
To obtain a better understanding of Agile vs Waterfall, we’ll look at the differences between the two methodologies as well as which one is best for your development and testing teams.
In the most basic sense of the definition, Waterfall is a non-iterative or sequential design process.
With Waterfall, there are several distinct stages. These include requirements and analysis, design, development, testing, deployment, and maintenance that are completed in a linear flow where each stage must be finished before the next one can begin.
Those who still use waterfall might prefer the method because it requires a clear and concise plan from the beginning, ensuring that it’s easier to estimate timetables and associated costs.
Additionally, since the project has a more defined design, there’s usually a clear vision between customers and developers. To someone using a Waterfall methodology, a successful product always matches the initial plan without any surprises.
However, it’s rare that a customer won’t change their mind about a single feature or function throughout the entire development process. Agile supporters argue that Waterfall is extremely limiting in this way because it can’t keep up with changing customer needs.
The issue with Waterfall is that once a stage is completed, it’s almost impossible to go back and make changes. Consequently, it’s inflexibility does not serve as a practical option for teams that strive for continuous integration and delivery.
Not to mention, the high dependency on initial requirements leaves little room for error. If a requirement needs to be adjusted for any reason, you’ll likely have to start over from the beginning.
Agile is certainly a newer methodology that came to being by seventeen developers who created the “Manifesto for Agile Software Development” during a trip to a Utah ski resort in 2011.
Ultimately, they agreed that Waterfall wasn’t meeting their needs and came up with this alternative methodology that is known today as Agile to better support change throughout the development process.
Like Waterfall, Agile also follows a process, but its incremental approach allows more flexibility, feedback, and testing. The process includes a sprint planning session with smaller tasks and testing at every increment rather than just at the end before product launch.
This makes Agile the ideal environment for Continuous Integration, which requires team members to integrate their work frequently. In fact, CI was created for Agile development so teams could solve issues as they come instead of trying to predict and solve every issue up front.
Compared to Waterfall, developers find this often generates higher quality software because bugs and inconsistencies are caught earlier and fixed easier.
Agile also allows more communication between customers, developers, managers, testers throughout the entire process to ensure the product is moving in the right direction and adhering to the customer’s specifications.
Additionally, Agile can better accommodate the evolving requirements of customers because feedback is given simultaneously with development so that additions, changes, or complete feature removals can be easily adapted and tested without having to start over.
This ensures that as a customer’s vision changes over the time of development, it can be easily accounted for to build a truly successful product.
Tips for Transitioning from Waterfall to Agile
Perhaps the Waterfall methodology you’ve been using is working exceptionally well for your team and customers. If that’s the case, then keep doing what you’re doing. However, if you feel Agile may better suit the needs of your stakeholders, consider these points during your transition.
- Culture and communication – One of the best things about an Agile process is that it enforces more departmental collaboration. However, this won’t come naturally, and the transition will likely require a culture change. It’s important to have that all the necessary team members to accommodate an Agile process, while transparent communication will become increasingly crucial for successful deployment.
- Digging deeper into agile – As Agile is more of an umbrella term, deciding which specific Agile process you’d like to delve into is essential. The Agile methodologies include scrum, lean and kanban, extreme programming (XP), crystal, FDD, and DSDM. Learning more about the methods of each will allow you to tailor Agile to your projects.
- Transition your customers, too – Your internal team isn’t the only one who needs to be updated. One of the benefits of Agile is constant customer feedback, but this means you’ll need to keep them in the loop. Make sure they are invested and committed to a more agile process and know what it requires, as they’ll probably need to be more involved in development.
- Prioritize your tests – You can’t testing everything, especially in Agile. Executing a risk analysis will help your team understand the likelihood of bugs occurring and the impact features have on customers to determine how tests should be written and which ones should be included in the test suite. Assessing the priority of individual tests will ensure that the Agile process is an effective and efficient use of your team’s time.
- Know that Agile is not a silver bullet – While Agile is becoming popular among software engineers being that it’s largely considered a more efficient organizational process, it will not solve all your problems and shouldn’t be expected to. Transitioning will likely require new hires and a shift in culture that may not always be smooth sailing, even if the ROI is optimal. Like anything else in the software industry, you need to examine the pros and cons of each method to determine which is best for your needs.
Do you follow a Waterfall or Agile methodology? Share your thoughts about them in the comments!