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Waterfall, Agile or Hybrid – What Development Method Should I Choose?

by James Scott on May 30, 2018 –

Software Development with Waterfall, Agile or Hybrid?

When it comes to software development, one thing you’ve got to have is a set method of development. Waterfall, Agile or Hybrid?

Which one you choose depends on a lot of things. The context of your project, your developer’s skill set and of course the project leader’s ability to make the right decision.

Up until recently, waterfall and agile were the only popular methods used. But now more and more have come to see the true value of a hybrid approach.

Here’s a breakdown of waterfall, agile and hybrid and why many companies are using the latter.

WATERFALL

This method is a little like building a house. The key to success is the groundwork because your concept is your foundation and you have to stick to it. The team works on one section at a time and once it has been completed they move on the next one, and so on. Testing is only carried out once the product has been deployed.

That’s why your initial concept of the software should be set in stone right in the beginning. Because once a phase is completed, there is no going back, unless you want to start from scratch.

Advantages of using Waterfall:

  1. Everyone knows what they are in for because the project size, timeline and costs are determined from the get-go.
  2. Everything is documented in detail along the way. So, if your suddenly short a developer it shouldn’t have an impact on the project.
  3. Detailed documentation, makes it easier to improve your software if you plan to do so in the future.

Disadvantages of using Waterfall:
Once developers complete a section, there is no going back. You are less flexible and able to adjust to changes throughout and it gets even more complex if clients are involved. You might even end up with prolonged deadlines and going over budget.

Generally speaking, the classic waterfall approach is good when there is a clear and definite picture of the project scope, it is not overly complex and there aren’t too many stakeholders involved and any that are – should know what they are in for.

AGILE

Agile was developed as a result of the pitfalls of using waterfall. As opposed to waterfall, agile (as the name suggests) is a more iterative approach.

A project is divided into sprints or smaller “chunks,” and collaborative teams are divided to work on sprints separately. At the end of a sprint, they come together to discuss their progress and to work out issues collaboratively. Testing is also carried out at the end of each sprint, rather than at the end of the project, to ensure bugs (i.e. mistakes) are fixed right away.

Read about how you can make user testing a habit here.

Advantages of Agile

  1. You can adjust and iterate requirements along the way.
  2. It’s also quite easy to add or delete features as the project moves along.
  3. Bugs are caught and fixed early on.
  4. Clients can give input at the end of each sprint rather than wait until the entire project is finished.

Disadvantages of Agile:

This methodology requires a team that is fully committed to a collaborative approach and a skilled project manager that is able to define and assign sprints correctly. Issues with either the team or the manager can doom a project.

Agile is best used when clients and developers know that the scope of the project will change as it moves along, and when rapid production is critical.

This method has been adopted by many industries other than software development, especially when large projects are complex and can be partitioned out into chunks. Consider a professional copywriting company, for example, that provides large and complex products for its clients – chapters, e-books, white papers, etc. Sections, chapters, or tasks can be divided among research and writing teams that can work simultaneously, coming together regularly to report and discuss. That way they can meet tight deadlines and ensure high quality.

HYBRID

Without question agile development is rapidly becoming the preferred method of development. And yet the advantages of waterfall cannot be denied. Project managers face the decision to go with one or the other and tend not to be completely satisfied with either. This is where a hybrid model comes into play.

The goal of a hybrid method is to be able to both define the requirements up front (planning, budgeting, etc.) as with a waterfall approach, and then to move onto an agile approach when it comes to design, development and testing.

Hybrid combines the best of agile and waterfall and makes them work together. The advantages and disadvantages that come with these methods remain the same.

Which method of development to Choose?

Clear picture, scope and little stakeholder influence? Waterfall is the way to go.

Don’t want to set anything in stone in the beginning? Agile ensures you can switch it up at any time.

Want the best of both worlds? Hybrid is your friend.

But to put it simply; there is no option that fits all especially when it comes to your skill set. So know your options, be prepared for projects, set the time frame and ask yourself plenty of questions!

Here are just a few that might help:

  • What is the context of the project?
  • Is it set in stone or rather vague?
  • Will external stakeholders have an impact?
  • Do you have the skill set in your team?
  • What’s the time frame?

That’s all folks. If you’ve used any of these methods please do let us know your opinions in the comments below!