Mobile App Development, Agile Software Development, Waterfall Software Development, Software Development, Business Software Development, Android and iOS Apps, SDLC

Agile vs Waterfall

Oct 27, 2020

Prakunj Chaudhary
Software Developer

The first thing that comes to our mind when we talk about software development is coding. While it is central to the project, we cannot undermine the other stages. Software development does not happen overnight. You do not wake up with an idea and start coding the next day. It involves intense analysis, feasibility checks and planning, even before you could begin with your coding. After all, who would not want to waste their time & resources on an idea that lands up into trash? For instance, you are organizing an event and have invited the audience; if you have not planned it out well in time, despite having all the resources & ideas, it’s going to fall apart. It works the same way with software development. Planning helps you assess your ability and the way to approach your software idea to achieve the desired results. Today, we are going to talk about two of the most commonly used approaches to software development—Agile and Waterfall.

While the two approaches can be used for any management project, they are generally used for software development. Before we dive in deep to understand these two approaches, let’s take you through a brief difference. Agile and Waterfall methods are the two types of Software Development Life Cycles (SDLC) that help you establish the process of a new project for design, development, and testing of the software. The approach you choose in the beginning determines the sequences of these stages. The key difference between Agile and Waterfall methodologies is that the former allows an iterative development and the latter follows a strict sequence. To know it better, let’s first check some basic terms.

What is the Software Development Life Cycle?

Software development has different stages. These stages are Requirement Analysis, Planning, Software Designing, Software Development, Software Testing and Software Deployment. Depending on the project and desired results, we have different approaches to this lifecycle.

While Waterfall and Agile are the most common approaches, there are other approaches too that include V and V model, Spiral model and Prototype model. Depending on the requirements and other specifications (like industry, type of software, the technology used), we determine the approach to be used.

Waterfall Method

Also known as Linear Sequential Life Cycle Model, Waterfall is a highly-sequential methodology. It is the earliest introduced lifecycle for software development. Since this method follows a strict sequence, this means that the software development process can only move to the next stage when the first one is successfully completed. It’s suitable for projects that are simple with no future development. The Waterfall method constitutes of seven phases:

  • - Conception: The first stage where you decide the design.
  • - Initiation & Analysis: Here you gather & document the things required for your software development project including system, software requirements, etc.
  • - Design: At this stage, you will determine how your software is going to work and the elements necessary for coding.
  • - Construction: It is the execution time when you code every element of your software & test it alongside; you also integrate each element with other units to bring the software architecture in the design phase to life.
  • - Testing: This phase calls for extensive testing for users, finding bugs, etc. You need to go back & forth at this stage to fix every problem that you identify in the tests.
  • - Implementation: It is the last stage where the software goes live to be used by the clients.


  • Clarity: The timelines and deliverables of the project are determined well in advance. This facilitates a clear understanding and coordination between the development team and clients.
  • Documentation: This methodology requires extensive documentation of each phase eliminating the chances of errors or misunderstandings.
  • Efficient Work: You do not need to employ the complete development team for one single task. This method provides clarity of tasks to be performed which allows each individual to focus on their tasks while the others can engage themselves in other aspects of work.
  • - Construction: It is the execution time when you code every element of your software & test it alongside; you also integrate each element with other units to bring the software architecture in the design phase to life.
  • Hands-Off Approach: It is based on a hands-off customer approach as after the initial design & plan is put to place, there is little or no customer presence until you reach the review phase.


  • Lack of Customer Involvement: Some projects require intense involvement of customers depending upon the product. Also, sometimes clients do not appreciate a hands-off approach. In either case, this approach can lead to frustration.
  • Difficulty in Making Changes: This method follows clear steps and it is often difficult to go back to the previous one to make changes. This poses a problem when a developer encounters a roadblock. Software development requires adaptability, especially because you cannot expect customers to understand the software completely from the beginning.
  • Last-Minute Testing: It’s a time-bound method. We know how development projects have a reputation for running behind the schedule as coding tends to take up most of the time. As a result, to fit into the time frame, software developer teams tend to compromise on the testing phase and rush it through.

Agile Method

Unlike the Waterfall approach that values planning in advance, the Agile method is more about involvement and adaptability. It has 2 main elements, namely, time and teamwork. Under this method, instead of constructing a timeline for the complete software development project, you break it down into individual deliverable pieces. These deliverables are called sprints, each of which lasts a few weeks only. Once a deliverable is complete, it’s presented to the clients for feedback. This feedback helps us determine the plan for the next one.


  • Client Involvement: It encourages a healthy and continuous engagement between customer and development team.
  • Flexibility in Deliverables: It allows flexibility in deliverable based on the order of importance of tasks. For instance, it gives you the flexibility to release the basic software even before the development of the full suite.
  • Adaptability: It is the main benefit of the Agile method. It gives customers a better idea of what is complete and what not; the developer can easily adapt to the planned sprints without troubles.
  • User-friendly: It is focused on clients since they are involved in every stage of development.


  • High Commitment: It requires the entire development team to be committed to one single project. This stands as a challenge for development companies that have many projects going on at the same time.
  • High Cost & Difficulty in Meeting Deadlines: Time-boxed sprints allow planning, but there are high chances of you pushing the deliverable deadlines. Also, if a project requires creating additional sprints, it will result in high cost.
  • Communication: Since this method calls for a high level of communication, the developer will have to be in constant contact with the client throughout the project.


Which approach to use depends on different factors. For instance, Waterfall is suitable when there is no or less requirement for client interference while Agile is the best method for a project that requires constant feedback and involvement of clients at each stage. Agile is suitable for complex & large projects that do not have a limited scope or budget. You need to consider all these factors before you come to the final conclusion.

Prakunj Chaudhary
Software Developer