How to Choose Between Waterfall, Agile, Scrum And Kanban

In the exciting and fast-paced world of software development there are two dominant project management methodologies Waterfall and Agile. While each one will offer its own advantages and disadvantages, it would not be correct to say that one is a wrong way of doing things. Simply put, as we will see later on, there are best fit for different projects and circumstances. Let’s take a look at each methodology so you can get a better idea for which one you should choose to get your project done right and on time. 

Choosing Waterfall 

Waterfall is a linear software development methodology where everything is outlined from the very beginning. If you have a product in mind and you know what functionality you would like it to have, then you should choose this methodology. You will need to sit down with the service provider and give them as much details about the product as possible and what the requirements are. Keep in mind, that these requirements cannot be changed once the development has started. 

From the developing company’s side, they will provide you with a clear timeline as far as production is concerned. They will also be able to give you a clear estimate of the project cost and when the completion date will be. When you are interviewing prospective service providers, be sure to inquire about the experience of their teams. There are several reasons for this. First of all, they will need to analyze the requirements and foresee any problems that might come up along the way. It is very important because Waterfall does not handle unforeseen issue very well. It is simply not flexible enough to handle unexpected bumps in the road and if you encounter one, this means that you will have to start from the very beginning. 

For example, let’s say that you have reached the development stage and all of the sudden you discovered that it will not be possible to create a certain feature, you will have to go back to the very beginning and start over. Also, if the software team is not experienced, it is a good idea to use Waterfall because  it provides the team with structure. Everything is agreed upon in the very beginning and is rigidly adhered to. So if you and the development team is comfortable working in such an environment then this is a good choice for you. 

Choosing Agile

Agile is considered as the modern new approach towards software development. One of the biggest differences with Waterfall is that it promotes development in iterations, usually 1-2 week intervals. During these intervals, called sprints, the development team will be focused on creating a particular functionality. The requirements for the functionalities will be defined before each individual sprint, as opposed to just in the very beginning like in Waterfall. This is what gives development teams flexibility. There will usually be some element of creativity involved during development and new features that must be included into the product. The Agile methodology accounts for all of this since changes can be introduced at pretty much any stage. While these benefits are some of the things that make Agile a favorite in the development world, it does come with some drawbacks. 

While the Agile principles are easy to understand, they could be hard to implement. If you are transitioning from Waterfall, you first go at Agile will probably be rough, but it is important to stick to it. If you are a customer, be sure to inquire just how much experience using Agile the company has. Collaboration between teams and even individual team members will be critical, so be sure to ask about how communication will be orchestrated. 

A lot of development teams and companies have opted to use different forms of managing the work involved in the agile process. These work management methods are called Scrum and Kanban. Let’s briefly take a look at each of them. 

Using Scrum 

Even though Scrum is one of the most popular software development methods, it can be applied to any areas where you have to handle and organize complex projects. The biggest benefit that Scrum offers is transparency. Individual team members can see how other team members are doing with their part of the project i.e. is every going as planned. If not, they can better adjust to the new conditions. Such transparency is also beneficial for the customer because they will see whether the project is going as planned and whether they will get the product they imagined in the very beginning. It also promotes standup meetings, sprints and reviews for team members to help each other and for the customer to be more involved in the process. 

Using Kanban

Kanban was created by Taiichi Ohno in the 1940s when he was working for Toyota. He was looking for a way to visualize all of the processes and workflows and came up with a genius system. It was a good way of controlling the entire supply chain starting from development all the way to the product delivery by the end user. In today’s software development environment, teams use kanban boards with four basic categories: backlog, to-do, in progress, done. While you may see overly complicated Kanban boards with lots of other categories, they are variations of these four basic ones.

The benefits with such a system is that it limits the amount of work that is in progress. This eliminates a lot of bottlenecks and encourages team members to finish one task before taking on new ones. Also, it allows you to see the workflow and identify where the bottlenecks are. So if you notice that a lot of the tasks are piled up in the “in progress” chart, you will know that this area needs improvement. 

Choosing What is Right for You

Ultimately, a lot will depend on your individual project and circumstances. For example, let’s say that you have a small project that will not drag on for too long, it might be useful to employ the Waterfall methodology. However, if the project is complicated and it is difficult to foresee any problems that will lay ahead, you should go with Agile. 

2 thoughts on “How to Choose Between Waterfall, Agile, Scrum And Kanban”

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  2. Hi,
    Very Basic. Is there any metric you would recommend to capture ROI in Agile and compare it with Waterfall? Remember, you realize your cash only when the whole product gets sold in the market so metrics like $$/Feature are practically not possible to evaluate.


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