5 Differences Between Agile vs Waterfall Methodology

Are you confused between Agile vs Waterfall methodology?
Why Agile is better than Waterfall for software development?
Do you want to choose the best method for your software development?

If yes, reading this blog post will be worth it for you.

According to a report by Statista, 37% of respondents use Agile methodology, while 26% use Waterfall methodology.


Source: Statista

As you see, Agile methodology is the most preferable when it comes to developing software. But, it is not true because every software requirement is different.

So, how do you choose the right software method for your software development?

Being a leading software company in Toronto, Canada, we have used most common methodologies in software development. We have curated this guide that includes the major differences between both software methodologies, and when to use Agile and when to use Waterfall model. Let’s get started.

Differences Between Agile vs Waterfall Methodology

If you are in a dilemma about whether you should choose Agile or Waterfall, check the following table. Here are the core differences between Agile and Waterfall’s methodology based on 5 factors.

FactorsAgile MethodologyWaterfall Methodology
Delivery TimelineEstimating the timeline in Agile is difficult because as the project development progresses, it adapts schedules for new changes, which sometimes pushes the delivery period.With this methodology, project managers will be able to estimate a fixed delivery timeline as the project will be mapped out from the beginning.
Development CostAs Agile is a very flexible methodology and welcomes ongoing experiments, it becomes difficult to predict the exact software development cost.If you have a fixed budget, this methodology works best for you, as the project manager or technical consultants easily be able to define the estimated cost in the beginning because of its linear development process.
Client InvolvementIf you want to be a part of the process and continuously monitor the progress of the project to implement your vision, then Agile is the methodology you must choose to get the best results.If you do not have time to monitor the development phase, you should choose the Waterfall methodology, as the process is already defined at the beginning.
TestingThe testing is done in Agile concurrently with software development.The testing is only done once the build phase is completed.
ExperimentationIf your business concept is unclear, you are open to experimenting with your ideas. In that case, Agile methodology is for you as it offers flexibility and agility in the software development process.Waterfall doesn’t allow testing ideas as it has a defined process, and adding new functionalities to the later stages will only lead to disruption.

After seeing the comparison between Agile and Waterfall methodologies, let’s discuss both methodologies in detail.

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What is Agile Methodology?

Agile methodology is breaking a project into several stages and performing a continuous iteration of software development and testing.

As this methodology focuses on rapid product deployment, development and testing can be done simultaneously.

The purpose of using the Agile methodology is to involve constant collaboration with the teams and stakeholders and include continuous improvements at each stage. The Agile methodology process goes through planning, execution, and evaluation.

Get a better understanding of the Agile model through the following image.


In addition, now let’s discuss the core principles of Agile methodology so that you get to know it better. As a result, you will be able to make better decisions on choosing between both methodologies.

Which are the Core Principles of Agile Methodology?

In this section, we will discuss the core principles that the Agile methodology follows. We have shared the 7 core principles along with the description. Have a look.

AdaptabilityThe Agile methodology justifies and showcases the importance of changing the design, requirements, architecture, and deliverables.
Customer InvolvementAs the Agile methodology involves constant changes in the designs and deliverables, you need to be in continuous touch with your software development team.
Lean DevelopmentWith the Agile methodology, you are able to develop the product through the simplest steps without adding extra steps.
TeamworkThe Agile methodology powers teamwork that helps you continuously assess the process to make it more effective.
TimeYou are able to divide the project into small units of time to make better decisions while completing each time-boxed sprint.
SustainabilityWith this methodology, you are able to set a sustainable pace so that the software development process becomes much faster.
TestingThe Agile methodology lets you test each and every phase of the software project so that you can save time later on.

Overall, Agile works on its manifesto which is a combination of the above written principles and four values. As you have checked the principles if you are interested to learn about these principles and values in detail, here is our guide on what is Agile manifesto.

So far, you checked the basic differences between both methodologies, the definition of Agile, and its core principles. Now, let’s check the pros and cons of using Agile methodology to speed up the decision process and improve the understanding of the situation.

Advantages and Limitations of Agile Methodology

Just like every other methodology or software development process, Agile also has its own share of benefits and limitations. Let’s discuss each one by one.

Advantages of Agile MethodologyDisadvantages of Agile Methodology
Agile is a client-driven approach that involves you in the process at every stage so that it becomes easy to make changes whenever needed.The Agile methodology has a critical path and inter-project dependencies. Therefore, projects can easily go off track if not appropriately monitored.
The Agile methodology lets you set deliverables, i.e., if you want to release the basic or MVP version of the software before full-fledged software, you can.This methodology requires a high level of collaboration. Otherwise, there are high chances of results that require frequent changes.
As feedback is taken after each sprint, it guarantees the software’s quality and ability to identify problems early.The cost of adopting the Agile methodology is slightly higher than other top software methodologies.
You get to know exactly which phase of development is completed and which is not to avoid the challenges in the process.A high level of client interaction may cause trouble for some customers as they might not have time or interest in participation.
As the Agile software development team is self-organized and active, you tend to expect better productivity over time.

Moving forward, you will learn the conditions when it is feasible to use the Agile methodology and the conditions when it is not ideal to use this methodology.

When to Use and When Not to Use Agile Method?

Let’s discuss the conditions when the Agile method is highly inclusive in software development and when you shouldn’t use it at all.

When to Use Agile MethodologyWhen Not to Use Agile Methodology
The Agile methodology works really well when the features are not well defined, and there is no clarity with the product vision.If you have a fixed budget, then the Agile methodology is not for you. Because Agile requires continuous iteration that increases the software development timeline and cost ultimately.
With Agile, it becomes easy when you constantly want to make changes or adjust requirements along the way and, ultimately, try to develop a quality solution.If there is no flexibility in the project or not enough team planning, then you must avoid using Agile methodology.
You want to accelerate the time-to-market and focus on what needs to be done instead of focusing more on planning.

We have discussed almost every crucial piece of information about Agile methodology. Now, you will learn about the Waterfall methodology that will help you compare both methods in detail for building software.

What is Waterfall Methodology?

Waterfall methodology is carrying out software development in a sequential manner that flows like a waterfall.

In the Waterfall method, every stage needs to be completed before moving to another or the next stage. Hence, there is no overlapping in the stages.

Have a look at the below image to understand the Waterfall model.

waterfall software development

Let’s understand the basic pros and cons of using the Waterfall model. This will give you a better idea of whether you want to use it for your software development projects or not.

Advantages and Limitations of Waterfall Methodology

In the following table, check the significant pros and cons of using the Waterfall methodology. Have a look.

Advantages of Waterfall MethodologyDisadvantages of Waterfall Methodology
This project management methodology lets you identify challenges in the initial stage of the software development project.If you are unaware of the project requirements or not clear, then the Waterfall methodology is not the right choice for you.
Waterfall project management needs to be considered when you want to measure the project’s progress at an early stage.If one stage is delayed for any reason, then it automatically affects the next stage and increases the delivery timeline.
Each Waterfall stage’s entry and exit are well-defined and easy to build a software solution.If you have flexible requirements, then using this methodology will create high risks for your project.
With Waterfall methodology, your requirements are known from the beginning, so it takes lesser time.The Waterfall methodology is unsuitable for long-term projects because it has a chronological process which is a must to follow.
The Waterfall methodology helps you build software faster and be quick on the market with the deployment process.

After discussing the pros and cons of the Waterfall methodology, let’s check some of the best scenarios when it is apt and when it is not apt to use the Waterfall methodology.

When to Use and When Not to Use Waterfall Methodology?

So let’s know when it is beneficial to use the Waterfall methodology and when not to use it for software development. So let’s have a look at those scenarios.

When to Use Waterfall MethodologyWhen Not to Use Waterfall Methodology
If you have a fixed budget and your software requirements are clear, then Waterfall is the right method to follow for development.When the risk is high for any project, then using the Waterfall method is not a great choice.
If the project is short and straightforward, then choosing the water model is the best option to complete the project on time.If your project concept is complex and involves multiple phases, then you should avoid using the Waterfall method.
If you have defined the tech stack before starting the project, then the Waterfall model is the best choice for you.If you have dynamic requirements and you want to create and modify your software accordingly, then you should go with this method.

Overall, there is another popular method which is Lean compared with Agile. If you also want to learn about the core differences between Lean and Agile, here is our comparison guide on Agile vs Lean methodology.

Do you have questions regarding Waterfall vs Agile? Check the next section of FAQs. We have covered questions that are most asked on Google.

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FAQ About Waterfall vs Agile

  1. Why is Agile preferred over Waterfall?

    Both methodologies are popular for organizing software projects. However, the Waterfall method is a more traditional approach involving a linear flow where one stage is dependent on another. On the other hand, the Agile methodology is an iterative process where you have the scope to improve the software quality at each release significantly. Hence, you can easily make changes to the process with lots of agility and flexibility, which is a little difficult with the Waterfall model. Hence, Agile is preferred over Waterfall.

  2. Why do you need Agile methodology?

    Agile development benefits include building accountability, encouraging diversification of ideas, and allowing early releases of the products with constant improvements. Additionally, it will enable you to make better decisions and test the software build at every stage with appropriate feedback.

  3. What is the difference between Waterfall and Agile testing?

    The Agile testing is done along with the software development. Whereas, in the Waterfall method, the testing phase comes after completing development. Agile methods allow flexibility to perform testing with development concurrently. But, the Waterfall method is linear so testing comes after overall development.

  4. Can you use both Agile and Waterfall together for software projects?

    Yes, it is possible and called a hybrid approach. To use both methods together, there is one way that is to use the Waterfall model for planning and design of your software and then carrying out development and testing with the use of Agile methodology. So, the benefit you get is structured planning for your project and flexibility for executing the development phase.

What to Choose Between Agile and Waterfall?

Choosing one of the methodologies would entirely depend on your software development requirements. Through this guide, you have now understood when it is ideal to select the Agile method and when you can opt for the Waterfall model. Based on your requirements, you can sort one of the methods which suit best for your project.

If you need technical consultation, get in touch with our experienced software consultant, who will understand your requirements and help you select the best methodology and strategize the development roadmap.

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Rakesh Patel

Written by

Rakesh Patel is the Founder and CEO of Space-O Technologies (Canada). He has 28 years of IT experience in business strategies, operations & information technology. He has expertise in various aspects of business like project planning, sales, and marketing, and has successfully defined flawless business models for the clients. A techie by mind and a writer at heart, he has authored two books – Enterprise Mobility: Strategy & Solutions and A Guide To Open311

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