Agile vs Waterfall: What’s Better for your Digital Transformation Project?

Written by mguerrero@seeed.us

05.18.2022

Overview

People agree on Agile strategies being better than Waterfall ones for digital transformation projects, but why is that? Why is it that Agile development methodologies are often so much more successful than Waterfall development projects? To answer this question, we first need to better understand what each methodology is and what they aim to achieve.

This article will go over everything you need to know when it comes to Agile vs Waterfall, including how each methodology works, most common use-cases of each, pros and cons, and much more.

What is Agile?

Agile is a set of values and principles that help in decision-making. It is about frequent inspection and adaptation when developing Software. You deliver early and often (frequently release). You collaborate with your business colleagues, customers, and users to figure out what they need.

Self-organizing teams should take responsibility for how they work together and make decisions based on data, not opinions. Teams should be cross-functional, meaning that everyone in the team can contribute to all aspects of the project, instead of focusing only on one area (for example, testing). Teams are focused on delivering working Software rather than just writing code. An Agile approach enables iterative launches, which ensures that planning works correctly as it’s rolled out. 

Typically, these projects are launched in phases, meaning that all of the features and functions of the final product might not be available on day one, but new features will be added and patched in over time. This allows the development team to get the product to market much sooner than a Waterfall project. While enabling developers to work in smaller bite-sized modules that are less stressful and demanding than other development projects’ approaches.

The Benefits of Agile

Agile has several benefits over Waterfall. First and foremost, it’s much more flexible. Agile is an iterative approach that encourages constant communication between teams and clients. It prioritizes a “fail fast” mentality, so if something isn’t working to the client’s satisfaction, changes can be made quickly. 

Agile development is also much more client-focused. Working in iterations encourages frequent feedback from the client throughout the whole process, ensuring all parties are aligned in what’s being built and how.

Under Agile, everyone works together on a team rather than separate entities in a handoff process (as it’s common under a Waterfall approach). Teams collaborate with one another to provide clarity on requirements and on potential issues or roadblocks that may arise during the development process. With fewer handoffs comes less risk of miscommunication or lost information, both of which can lead to expensive reprocesses down the line.

Finally, Agile projects have shorter delivery time frames since they’re broken up into smaller chunks of work called sprints. This means that you get results earlier in the project lifecycle at a lower cost than you would with Waterfall. Also, if things aren’t going well, corrections can be made more quickly before too much time or money is spent working down the wrong path.

The Downside of Agile

Despite these advantages, agile also has some disadvantages. So, we should also take a look at the downsides of Agile; though they aren’t many, they’re still worth considering. 

Perhaps the biggest downside to Agile is that there is much less documentation than you would have with a Waterfall project. In Agile, there is an emphasis put on creating working software rather than comprehensive documentation. In larger organizations, this can be hard to digest.

To some extent, there is also a lack of any traditional formal process. The whole point of Agile is to move away from a lot of rules and red tape. While this works well in some situations, it doesn’t always suit big corporations or those with strict policies.

Also, because the team works closely together (and often cross-functionally), they must have strong interpersonal skills as well as a high tolerance for ambiguity. If one person isn’t pulling their weight or isn’t willing to collaborate, the project can end up being delayed or even canceled altogether.

The Benefits of Waterfall

The original project management methodology, Waterfall, is the oldest and most traditional approach to tackling a project. It involves stages that are completed linearly, one after the other, much like a Waterfall. 

In a sequential model, the project’s team only moves to the next phase of development or testing if the previous step is completed successfully. For example, before you can start development in a Waterfall project, you must first have created a detailed design document; this could take weeks or months, depending on your team’s size and resources.

Waterfall projects often involve more time than Agile projects because they involve more documentation and planning at each stage before moving on to the next phase. 

Waterfall projects can be rigorous when it comes to tasks like risk mitigation, documentation, and ensuring compliance with internal processes like security. But this precision can also benefit teams in terms of foresight. Since all requirements are documented upfront with no scope for change later, there’s less room for mistakes or miscommunication as well.

The Downside of Waterfall

Waterfall is not suitable for complex projects and can be expensive. Additionally, the traditional model doesn’t allow teams to change or adapt. Because it involves managing a long list of tasks in sequential order, and there’s no room for customer feedback. 

That may be fine if you’re building something that all your customers need, but very time-consuming if you’re building a product with multiple versions for different audiences or user requirements.

Another downside of Waterfall methodologies is that they are not suitable for large teams working on complex projects. The more people involved, the greater the chance someone will make a mistake or get confused about their role in this inflexible process, and when an error happens in one phase, it can drive up costs and delay timelines exponentially. 

A team may have spent two months developing content before they realize that the user interface needs to change. Since everything else is dependent on the UI being finished first, those two months were essentially wasted.

Why Agile is Better
Than Waterfall
for Digital Transformation Projects

A Digital Transformation project is better suited for Agile than Waterfall. Waterfall is rigid and doesn’t allow for much flexibility. Because at the end of the day, these projects need to be adaptable to an ever-changing industry and require a lot of specialized teams working on different priorities in parallel. 

Basically, Agile development allows Digital Transformation to happen in smaller sprints, while Waterfall requires a more singular, linear approach that doesn’t allow teams to take advantage of feedback loops as they collaborate. Synchrony is a vital component in any digital project, and for this reason, Agile is really the most viable development methodology.

Agile vs Waterfall: Which One is Best for You?

  • When it comes to choosing an approach, Agile is often the better choice. It can be used for almost any type of project and will typically produce better results in less time. 

    One of the major benefits of using an Agile framework is that it makes products more flexible. This allows developers to prioritize what they want to work on at any given time without being constrained by a rigid structure or plan. 

  •  This flexibility is also useful when working with clients who haven’t figured out a clear vision for their desired outcome right away, but know that their project will need to be adaptable over time.
  • Agile’s cost-effectiveness is another advantage, especially compared with Waterfall methodologies where all phases are worked on sequentially. There’s no room for improvement once one stage has been completed, or before moving on to the next (a recurrent issue when facinging bugs during testing).
  • Through Agile projects, companies spend less money up front when developing software and in maintenance costs, and more on repairs due to its iterative nature. All things considered, Agile projects often end up being considerably cheaper overall compared with equivalent Waterfall projects.

    Summary

    Agile and Waterfall are two competing development methodologies -each one having respective pros and cons-. That said, Waterfall, which was once the industry standard, is now thought to be outdated, as it doesn’t offer much flexibility, it’s time-consuming, it costs too much money, and it involves a ton of documentation and red tape that simply isn’t favorable to getting a product to market.

    While on the other hand, Agile allows an iterative development approach that involves more collaboration and less procedure. This enables companies to get their product to market much quicker for less money. For these reasons and many more, Agile is almost always the best choice for Digital Transformation projects. 

    Use the agile methodology in your next project

    Related Articles

    0 Comments

    0 Comments

    Submit a Comment

    Your email address will not be published.