Agile vs Waterfall: What is the Difference? Which Method is Best for You?

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Agile vs Waterfall: What is the Difference? - Skillier

In the ever-evolving landscape of project management, two methodologies stand at the forefront: Agile and Waterfall. Each approach has its distinct philosophy, processes, and advantages, setting the stage for a perpetual debate over which is superior. Whether you’re a seasoned project manager, a budding entrepreneur, or an individual eager to understand the dynamics of software development and beyond, the Agile vs. Waterfall dilemma is likely to have crossed your path.


In this comprehensive blog, we embark on a journey to explore the fundamental differences between Agile and Waterfall methodologies and delve into the inner workings of each. We’ll examine their strengths and weaknesses, uncover the ideal scenarios for their implementation, and ultimately empower you to make an informed decision on which method aligns best with your unique project needs.


Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC):

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Before diving into the Agile vs. Waterfall debate, let’s take a step back and review the basics of software development life cycle (SDLC). SDLC is an essential framework for successful software development, providing project teams with a holistic approach to designing, coding, testing, and deploying high-quality applications in a timely fashion.


To begin, project teams must define the scope of their product and create a list of features to be implemented. Next, they will design architectures and wireframes, eventually moving toward coding the source code. Then comes testing and debugging, ensuring each feature adheres to quality standards before being released publicly. Finally, SDLC will see its completion with the release of the application into production.


The two most famous and popular SDLC models are: 


  • Waterfall Model
  • Agile Model


What is the Waterfall Model?

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The Waterfall Model is a traditional and linear approach to software development and project management. As its name suggests, the model progresses in a sequential manner, flowing steadily through various phases of development. Each phase is well-defined and must be completed before moving on to the next, making it a highly structured and rigid methodology.


The typical phases in the Waterfall Model include requirements gathering and analysis, system design, implementation, testing, deployment, and maintenance. Once a phase is completed, there is minimal room for revisiting or making changes, as the model assumes that all requirements are known and fixed from the outset. While this predictability can be beneficial for straightforward and well-understood projects, it may encounter challenges in dynamic environments or when client needs evolve during development. Additionally, due to its linear nature, the Waterfall Model often lacks adaptability, making it less suitable for projects that require frequent iterations, feedback, and collaboration between stakeholders.


How Does Waterfall Work?


To understand how the Waterfall Model works, let’s consider an example of a project team creating a new website. The first phase of the Waterfall Model is requirements gathering and analysis. At this stage, the project team will work with stakeholders to determine project scope, functionality, user stories, and other essential details.


In the system design phase, mockups and wireframes are created to visualise the user interface. This is followed by the implementation phase, where developers write code and create databases for the website. Once everything has been coded, testing can begin. Here, quality assurance teams will test the site for functional accuracy and performance optimization.


When all tests have passed, the final stage of deployment can commence. The project team will launch the website to the public and monitor its performance. 


During this time, they may need to make bug fixes or perform maintenance tasks. After deployment is complete, the Waterfall Model is finished.


Disadvantages of Waterfall Model:

  • Gathering all the requirements initially delays the project, and if all the requirements are not evident in the beginning, the overall process is less effective.
  • Making changes in the previous phases is extremely difficult.
  • It is not well suited for large size projects.
  • The testing process starts only after the development phase is completed. This increases the chances of bugs found later in the development, and it becomes expensive to fix them.
  • It isn’t easy to estimate the progress of the project within each phase.
  • The model is an internal process, so customers have no space to become familiar with the process. 


To curb all these cons of the Waterfall Model, the Agile Model came into consideration. Let’s have a look at the basics of the Agile Model.


What is the Agile Model?


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The Agile Model is a customer-centric approach to software development and project management. It emphasises collaboration and interaction between stakeholders throughout the entire project life cycle, with the primary focus being on delivering business value incrementally in shorter periods of time.


Unlike the Waterfall Model, which follows a linear sequence of steps, the Agile Model encourages adaptability and iteration, allowing project teams to make changes as needed and pivot quickly in response to feedback. As a result, Agile projects are highly flexible and better suited for rapidly changing business environments.


How Does an Agile Model Work?


Let’s consider an example of a website development project using the Agile Model. The project team will begin by performing requirements gathering and analysis, much like the Waterfall Model. However, instead of creating a detailed list of features upfront and committing to them, they will focus on prioritising the core needs of the customer and building an initial prototype as quickly as possible.


Once the prototype is complete, it can be tested and iterated upon based on feedback from stakeholders. As time progresses and more functionality is added, the team can continue to review and refine the product until all requirements have been met.


Advantages of Agile Model:


  • It is a customer-centric approach. As customers are involved in the development process, they get what they want and changes can be made on demand.
  • The model encourages focus on deliverables instead of tasks and processes.
  • It is an iterative process, which allows for frequent feedback and makes it easier to adjust scope when needed.
  • It is well suited for large projects and dynamic environments.
  • It facilitates better communication and collaboration between the project team and stakeholders.
  • The model is highly efficient as it reduces risk by delivering working software on a regular basis.


Disadvantages of Agile Model:


  • It is difficult to manage the scope as the focus shifts from tasks to deliverables.
  • Due to its iterative nature, there may be more time spent on planning and coordination compared to development.
  • Agile relies heavily on team communication, making it challenging for distributed teams or remote working environments.
  • The model requires a high degree of customer involvement, which may not always be feasible.
  • It is difficult to accurately estimate the cost and timeline of a project when using Agile.


Agile vs Waterfall: How To Choose the Right Methodology for Your Project


Choosing the right project management methodology for a particular project can be difficult, as each has its own pros and cons. In general, the Waterfall Model works best when requirements are well-defined and there is little room for change, while the Agile Model is more suitable for dynamic projects that require frequent feedback and iteration.


For large complex projects where it is difficult to define the scope upfront, an Agile approach may be more appropriate. On the other hand, Waterfall can work for smaller projects with clear-cut requirements and minimal changes needed throughout the development process. Ultimately, the decision should come down to which methodology best meets your project goals and objectives.


Why Does Agile Reject Waterfall?


Agile does not reject the Waterfall Model entirely. Instead, it seeks to provide a more streamlined approach that is better suited for rapidly changing business environments and customer needs. Agile emphasises flexibility and iteration over rigid linear processes, with an emphasis on delivering working software in shorter periods of time.


While Waterfall can work for certain projects, Agile provides an alternative that allows teams to quickly adapt and adjust as needed, making it a better choice for most modern project scenarios.


When is Waterfall Better Than Agile?


The Waterfall Model can still be suitable for certain types of projects, such as those with well-defined requirements and minimal scope for change. It is a good fit for smaller projects where the scope is clear from the beginning and there is little need for iteration or feedback.


Waterfall can also be beneficial when working with a limited budget and fixed timeline, as it is easier to estimate the cost and timeline of a project when using this model. For these types of projects, Waterfall can provide more certainty and control than Agile.


How Do Waterfall and Agile Compare?


The Waterfall Model is a linear approach to software development, which follows a set of steps in sequence. Each step must be completed before the next one can begin, making it difficult to adjust scope or change course if needed. The Agile Model is an iterative approach that encourages frequent feedback and iteration, allowing teams to quickly adapt and pivot in response to changing customer needs.


Waterfall is better suited for projects with well-defined requirements and minimal scope for change, while Agile is a better choice for dynamic projects that require frequent feedback and iteration.

Ultimately, the most effective model should be chosen based on the specific project goals and objectives.


The Agile Model can provide teams with an alternative to the Waterfall Model that is better suited for rapidly changing business environments. By delivering working software in shorter periods of time and providing room for iteration and feedback, Agile can help teams quickly adapt to customer needs while also reducing risk. Ultimately, the best project management methodology should be chosen based on the specific goals and objectives of each individual project.


Can You Combine Agile and Waterfall?


Yes, you can combine Agile and Waterfall SDLC methodology by using one model for a particular set of phases and the other for the rest of the development phases. This approach is sometimes referred to as the hybrid model.


The advantage of this approach is that it allows teams to take advantage of the benefits of both models while minimising their respective weaknesses. For example, an Agile team can use a Waterfall-like process for planning and design phases, while still using an iterative approach for development and testing.


The hybrid model can be a useful approach, but it should only be used when the different models are compatible and would work well together. Ultimately, the decision should come down to which methodology best meets your project goals and objectives.




The Waterfall Model and the Agile Model are two of the most popular project management methodologies. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it is important to consider which approach best meets the needs of your particular project. In general, Waterfall works well for projects with well-defined requirements and minimal scope for change, while Agile is better suited for dynamic projects that require frequent feedback and iteration. A hybrid approach combining both models can also be used when their respective strengths are complementary and would work well together. Ultimately, the best model should be chosen based on the specific goals and objectives of each project.


Ultimately, it is important to choose a methodology that best meets the needs of your project. The Waterfall Model and the Agile Model are both popular choices, but it is up to you to decide which approach is best suited for your particular project goals and objectives.


If you found the information valuable and insightful, we kindly encourage you to share it with your friends and colleagues. Don’t forget to explore our other blogs, where you’ll find a plethora of Scrum tips and tricks to further enhance your project management expertise. Stay connected with us on Facebook and LinkedIn to stay up-to-date with the latest news and updates in the Agile world. Together, let’s embrace continuous improvement and achieve remarkable success in our project endeavours!

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