Agile vs Waterfall Methodology: What is the Best Fit for Your Project?

April 24, 2024

Agile vs Waterfall Methodology What is the Best Fit for Your Project

Agile or waterfall?

Whether you are a software developer or an IT project manager, this is one of the most common questions that you might come across when planning a software development project.

Both agile and waterfall methodologies are popular approaches used in software development projects, and each has its own benefits and drawbacks. Understanding the differences between these two methodologies is also a must in determining which one is the best fit for your project.

So, we are here to help you out!

In this article, we will take a closer look at the differences between these two methodologies and help you determine which one is best suited for your project.

The Agile Methodology

Defining agile methodology in one sentence is quite challenging as it encompasses a wide range of project management methods and tools. However, at its core, agile is an iterative and collaborative approach to software development.

This method is all about getting parts of an app up and running fast. Instead of following a to-do list and a calendar, the Agile development team breaks time into “sprints.” These are set in durations (usually weeks), and they focus on knocking out specific tasks agreed on at the start.

Moreover, the deliverables are ranked by their business value, as determined by you or the client. If something is found to be more important than something else, the team can stop working on the less critical task and pivot.

The Agile Model is more than software development practices; it’s a mindset rooted in the Agile Manifesto values, focusing on people, working software, customer collaboration, and adaptability to change.

The core values of agile methodology (as said in the Agile Manifesto) include:

  • Individuals and interactions OVER processes and tools
  • Working product OVER comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration OVER contract negotiation
  • Responding to change OVER following a plan

[Also read: Everything You Need To Know About Agile Software Development]


The benefits of following an Agile development process include:

  • Adjusts quickly to new conditions: Agile gives teams the wiggle room to adjust to new demands and shifts in priorities, making sure the end product really clicks with what stakeholders are looking for.
  • Speedy delivery: Agile breaks the project into smaller bits, speeding up the delivery of working software. This means you get feedback and validation a lot quicker.
  • Collaborative approach: Agile really brings team members together, encouraging open communication and transparency all through the development process.
  • Iterative nature: Agile’s all about making things better bit by bit. Teams keep checking in on how they’re doing and tweak things based on feedback to keep improving. 
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However, like any other methodology, Agile also has its downsides. Some of the challenges that come with using an agile methodology include:

  • Always changing: Agile methodologies can sometimes find it tough to keep project timelines and budgets predictable, especially since requirements tend to change as you go along.
  • Getting stakeholders on board: Agile needs stakeholders to really get involved and commit resources, which isn’t always possible.
  • Managing scope: Agile might not be the best fit for projects with a set scope and tight deadlines since any changes in requirements could shake up the project scope and timelines.
  • Requires experienced team members: Finding team members who are experienced with agile methodology can be challenging, and this could lead to delays in the project.

The Waterfall Methodology

The waterfall model originally came from the worlds of construction, engineering, and manufacturing, which started in the 1950s. Then, in the 1970s, it got a new lease on life when it was adapted for software engineering.

So, in one way or another, you’ve probably come across it.

Today, it stands as one of the simplest software development methods. And, like its name suggests, it’s a linear approach to software development. It is a highly organized model that breaks down the process into clear-cut phases, each with its own set of deliverables and a review stage.

So, while Agile project management is all about being quick and flexible, waterfall project management is more like a building construction. It follows a step-by-step process where you have to finish one phase completely before you can move on to the next.

The waterfall methodology project phases vary somewhat from source to source, but they generally include:

  1. Requirement gathering and documentation

The first step is all about digging deep to figure out what you really need for this project. You can chat with people, send out some surveys, or even get together for a brainstorming session. Once done, you should have a super clear idea of what’s needed, and there’ll be a document to be distributed to your team.

  1. System design

Now that you’ve got a clear idea of what you’re building, it’s time to figure out how to bring it to life. With the requirements you’ve set, your software developers get down to designing the system. You won’t be diving into coding just yet, but you’ll decide on important stuff like which programming language to use or what kind of hardware you’ll need.

  1. Implementation

In the waterfall model, this is where the coding magic happens. Programmers take what they’ve learned from the previous step and start building a functional product. They usually code in small chunks, which get pieced together towards the end of this phase or at the start of the next one.

  1. Testing

After finishing up all the coding, the next phase is testing the product. This is where testers dive in, hunting down and reporting any glitches they find. If they come across any big issues, it might mean taking your project back to square one for another look.

  1. Delivery/deployment

Now that everything’s been tested and given the green light, it’s time to launch your project into the world. This can be a big moment for any software development team, so make sure you’re all well-rested before you hit go.

  1. Maintenance

Even post-delivery, fixes and changes are needed. Maintenance is continuous as new issues pop up, requiring patches and updates from your team. Major issues might even require restarting from phase one.


As an iterative development approach, Agile offers significant benefits, including:

  • Straightforward development lifecycle: Waterfall gives you a clear roadmap for getting your project done, making planning and estimating resources and timelines a breeze right from the start.
  • Thorough documentation: The Waterfall Model emphasizes detailed documentation at each phase to ensure a solid foundation for product development, maintenance, and knowledge transfer among team members.
  • Well-defined roles and responsibilities: The linear process of the waterfall model makes it easy to assign roles and responsibilities at the beginning
  • Easy to manage: With its sequential and rigid structure, the waterfall methodology is easy to track progress and meet deadlines.


Despite its benefits, the waterfall methodology also has challenges, including:

  • Lack of flexibility: Once a phase is completed, it’s difficult to go back and make changes. This can lead to delays or potential project failure if unexpected requirements arise.
  • Poor adaptability to changing technology: The waterfall model may not be suitable for projects that require new or rapidly changing technology due to its linear approach.
  • High risk: The waterfall methodology assumes that all requirements are known and documented at the start, which can be risky as changes are inevitable in a project lifecycle.
  • Limited feedback: Waterfall’s sequential approach can reduce early feedback opportunities, risking a final product that may not meet the client’s expectations.

Breaking Down the Differences Between Agile vs Waterfall

Agile's iterative nature quote

When it comes to Agile vs Waterfall, the main differences lie in the approach to project management and development.

While Agile is a more modern and flexible methodology that prioritizes collaboration and adaptability, Waterfall is a more traditional approach geared towards predictability and structure.

Let’s break down some of the key differences between these two methodologies:

Project Management Approach

Agile’s iterative nature allows for a collaborative project management approach, with frequent communication and feedback between team members.

On the other hand, Waterfall takes a more sequential and phased approach to project management, with little room for flexibility or changes.

Team Structure

In the traditional waterfall model, the teams work in silos based on the phase of the project they’re working on. This can lead to communication gaps and delays in decision-making.

Agile teams, on the other hand, value cross-functional teams where developers, testers, and project managers work together throughout the entire development process. This promotes collaboration and a faster decision-making process.


Agile is highly adaptable and allows for changes in requirements and priorities throughout the project’s lifespan.

Waterfall, however, is less flexible, with changes and revisions being difficult to incorporate once the project has moved on to the next phase.

Client Involvement

Clients are involved in every step of the process in Agile, providing frequent feedback and making changes as needed.

In Waterfall, client involvement is limited to the initial phase, with minimal interaction throughout the rest of the project.

Project Planning

Waterfall projects need a lot of planning upfront, and once things get rolling, making changes is a no-go to avoid messing up the timeline.

On the other hand, agile projects are more go-with-the-flow, starting with just enough planning and then adapting as they go, where changes and tweaks are totally part of the process.

Testing and Quality Assurance

In waterfall software development methodology, teams conduct tests after the completion of the development phase, and any bugs or issues that arise must be fixed before moving on to the next phase.

Agile integrates testing as your project progress, allowing for continuous testing and troubleshooting to ensure quality throughout development. This ensures a higher level of functionality and user satisfaction.

Security and Risk Management

In the waterfall model, risks are identified and addressed during the initial stages of planning. This can lead to delays or unexpected issues down the line if new risks arise.

Risks are managed throughout the project using agile methodologies, with a focus on continuous risk assessment and mitigation. This allows for a more proactive approach to managing any potential risks.

Cost Control

In Waterfall, cost control is stricter due to extensive planning and less flexibility for changes. Agile allows for more flexible budgeting, with costs being reevaluated as the project progresses.

You can also use project management tools in both methodologies, such as Gantt charts and Kanban boards. However, the way these tools are utilized may differ due to the differing approaches of Agile vs Waterfall.

developing software quote

What is an Agile-Waterfall Hybrid Model?

Despite some contrasting differences, a hybrid approach is possible with Agile and Waterfall. This is known as the Agile-Waterfall Hybrid Model.

In this approach, Waterfall gives you the big-picture structure for the parts of your project that are pretty much set in stone, while Agile is perfect for the bits that are more of a work in progress and need some flexibility.

So, you get to have the best of both worlds: developing software with the flexibility of Agile but sticking to Waterfall when it comes to rolling everything out. Imagine a financial company working on a big product. The major features need to go through audits and get the green light before launch. But the smaller details? The development team can keep tweaking and improving those through quick sprints, along with other user interface elements.

Tips for Moving from Waterfall to Agile

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to transitioning from Waterfall to Agile, here are some tips that can help make the switch smoother:

Start with small, low-risk projects

Instead of trying to transition your entire organization at once, start with a smaller project or team to test the waters and gain experience with using the Agile framework.

Communicate with stakeholders

Before starting the development process, be transparent and communicate with all stakeholders about the shift in methodology, its benefits, and potential challenges.

Embrace change and flexibility

Agile and waterfall have different mindsets, so be prepared to adjust your and your team’s mindset and processes to embrace the agile principles of adaptability and continuous improvement.

Train, train, train

Investing time and resources in training always pays off. So, make sure your team is well-versed in the Agile manifesto to ensure a successful transition and implementation.

[Also read: Agile Development Team: What it is and How to Build One]

Listen to customer feedback and make improvements

No transition is perfect. But, as long as you continuously listen to customer feedback and make improvements, your Agile journey will keep getting smoother.

Agile team in a meeting

Need an Agile Software Development Team? We Can Help!

Both agile and waterfall methodologies have their own strengths and weaknesses, depending on the project’s goals and requirements. At the end of the day, choosing between Agile vs Waterfall will depend on your specific needs and preferences.

At Startechup, we have a team of experienced software developers who are well-versed in both Agile and Waterfall methodologies. Whether you want to build a web app or a mobile app, we can help you choose the right development approach and deliver a high-quality product that meets your business goals.

Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help bring your project to life!

About the author: Andrea Jacinto - Content Writer

A content writer with a strong SEO background, Andrea has been working with digital marketers from different fields to create optimized articles which are informative, digestible, and fun to read. Now, she's writing for StarTechUP to deliver the latest developments in tech to readers around the world. View on Linkedin