Agile, Waterfall, or Hybrid? Which Door to Choose?

It’s been quite a while since the world of software development has started ardently debating which project management methodology is superior. While it’s safe to say that there’s no absolute winner, this battle has spawned a large set of stereotypes, some true and some false.

While it’s safe to say that Waterfall most certainly comes from another century, given that it’s nearly 65 years old, it remains an indispensable tool for a broad spectrum of products.

Agile, on the other hand, is considered to be less clunky and more modern, compared to its counterpart. While it is considerably more popular of the two, it does, however, have its inherent limitations.

In this article, we’re going to compare Agile vs Waterfall and look into how one should establish the most suitable framework for their project.

Let’s dive right in, shall we?

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Waterfall

When it comes to comparing the two, the Waterfall framework can most definitely be considered the more careful planner. When discussing the pros and cons of the methodology, we need to take into account what it was initially designed for back in the late fifties.

The Waterfall project management methodology stems from the construction and manufacturing industries. Back in the day, they weren’t known as the most adaptive, and moreover, the “customer is always right” paradigm wasn’t yet as widespread back then as it is today.

Andrew Johansson, Tech Writer at Canada Writers:

So when is Waterfall the right way to go?

Taking the methodology’s peculiarities into account, it demands a particular set of team and project structures to work well. Considering what we mentioned above, this framework works best with a client that doesn’t get involved in the project.

Secondly, it’s best to opt for this linear project structure if you’re working in small and very well-defined teams, with little to no variation. Plus, if there are many freelances or remote professionals on your team, Waterfall will work perfectly you.

When should I ditch Waterfall?

As stated previously, Waterfall isn’t exactly adaptable, which makes it unsuitable for long-term projects where the stakes are simply too high, and any unforeseen changes can be pretty costly.

Moreover, you can’t start developing a product using this framework that doesn’t have very precise requirements. If you feel like this is the best methodology for you, inquiring for highly precise specifications from the client is absolutely imperative.

Agile

This framework is obviously everything that Waterfall isn’t. It’s quick, adaptable, easily manageable, in other words — it’s “agile”. These advantages of Agile methodology are clearly tracked.

While its counterpart demands very scrupulous planning, Agile is inherently iterative. This infers that a project is no longer an immutable and linear, but rather is iterative.

This framework allows for many cross-functional teams to work on many features and elements at the same time. As a result, this allows the client to intervene and inquire for changes after a said iteration has been released.

George Hao, Tech Writer at Best Writers Canada explains this further:

So when is Agile the right way to go?

It’s always best to analyze what your client is after and how they see their involvement in the process. In case they’re looking to make regular changes during the development process — it’s most certainly best to opt for Agile.

Agile is also the best way to go in large organizations that have a lot of staff that can be on and off the project while oscillating between other tasks.

Similarly, if your client can’t offer you reasonably precise compliance requirements, you wouldn’t be able to manage a project in a Waterfall framework even if you wanted it.

When should I ditch Agile?

Given that Agile often appeals to organizations that work on a few projects at a time, it does often imply that the costs are higher and the deadlines are often considerably longer.

Respectively, if you’re dealing with a tight deadline, it’s most probably best to have a dedicated team focus on a single project and adopt a more robust framework.

Hybrid: the alternative to Agile and Waterfall

It’s safe to say that a “religious” allegiance to a single framework is by no means a viable approach. Companies need to calibrate frameworks based on the requirements, the project, and the client. Furthermore, seeking to find one single correct methodology is in itself counterproductive.

Peggy Golden, a senior software developer for ResumesExpert share:

A hybrid framework is in itself iterative in the development stage, but it starts out as sequential.

Based on a study published by Cast back in 2014, apps that have been created by following textbook Agile or Waterfall frameworks are prone to a broad spectrum of security vulnerabilities. Similarly, those apps weren’t as reliable and were defined by lower performance, compared to the software produced using a hybrid methodology.

How do I calibrate the right framework?

It’s safe to say that the question “Which framework is universally better?” should probably be replaced by “Which one is more useful in this particular case?”.

There are a few essential factors that will allow you and your team to establish the most suitable methodology for a said project by asking the following questions:

  • How precise are the client’s requirements?
  • Are there strict limitations to costs and deadlines?
  • How is the team distributed geographically?

These three questions should essentially skew your decision towards the best option.

Conclusion

Chances are that the dichotomy between Waterfall and Agile is a faulty one. We should probably avoid trying to find the single best solution.

On the contrary, we should thoroughly analyze the project along with its technical demands and establish the most suitable framework in an impersonal and objective way, without giving preference to a methodology, simply due to our human nature.

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