The one thing that all project managers will always be obsessed with is methodology. When developing a new product, your team has to consider which development methodology is suitable for the initiative.

There are various types of methodologies used in project management. Some are simply new takes on the old methods, while others have simply adapted into a completely new approach.

Nevertheless, there are two key methodologies that each project manager should know about: the traditional waterfall and agile models.

In the world of project management, more so in software development, the two types of project management are widely debated: agile and waterfall.

Many thought leaders have stood their ground, claiming that the waterfall methodology is dead. However, we still have numerous traditional organizational environments and processes that still make good use of it, even in this fast-moving world.

According to a 2017 study conducted by PMI, 51% of organizations still use the waterfall methodology, either regularly or once in a while.

If you have been in the project management field for a while now, you’ll have noticed that each project poses its own challenges and comes with unique requirements. Ultimately, it is not just about the methodology used but rather finding the most suitable one for your product’s development.

The path you decide to take should enable your team members to adopt the appropriate tools and processes while utilizing the right technologies to achieve successful results.

For project managers, it is crucial to understand all the important methodologies that can help you realize your goals. It is important to stay abreast of all the latest trends in the field, and without even enrolling at a physical school, you can easily master them all through some online training platforms.

Most companies or executives will argue that their chosen method is superior to the other, but before we take part in that debate, we should first examine the main differences.

The waterfall methodology

Initially used in the construction and manufacturing industries, the waterfall method of project management found its way to other fields over time. The key identifier with this traditional method is that the projects begin from the first phase and only progress to the next after the previous is marked as complete.

This is a linear approach to development and is based on strict planning and performing a project step by step. This method is ideal for companies with a hierarchical structure.

When used in the software development industry, the waterfall method is highly sequential and can be broken down into six distinct phases. Before moving on to the next phase, the previous one must be completed, and so forth.

The most common phases of the waterfall methodology are:

  1. Conception: this is the idea stage where the developers decide what they want and answer questions such as why they need it.
  2. Analysis: the initiation or analysis stage involves documenting and gathering all that the project will require. This includes everything, including project management software, system to be used, etc.
  3. Design: before the coding begins, the developers determine how they’d want their project to come out and decide which pieces are necessary to code.
  4. Coding: the next stage involves the actual coding. The developers work to construct each piece of the project from scratch.
  5. Testing: this next part involves testing of the system created, which may include aspects such as user testing, bug testing, and taking it back to the construction phase to fix any of the specific issues.
  6. Implementation: soon after everything is in order, the next phase involves the delivery of the product. This means that the product has already been tested and proven to be fit for consumption.

All these events taking place in the traditional development of a project represent each distinct stage that developers have to stick to.

Typically, before you head to the analysis stage, you must have completed the conception phase, which requires you to have answered all the important questions regarding what you want to achieve with the project - and so forth.

So, how useful is this methodology?

Benefits of the waterfall methodology

There are many reasons why product teams continue to use the waterfall development methodology, even though it may be regarded as ‘outdated.’ Some of them include:

  • The process is pretty straightforward, and the expectations are made clear from the beginning.
  • Clear framework: It is easier to set deliverable dates, milestone planning, and making it simpler for the team to track the progress.
  • It is easier to assign specific roles to experts at each stage. This means that developers can focus more on the design and coding (construction) phase as the testers concentrate their energy on the testing and analysis phase.
  • Each phase is documented from the start of the project to the end, making it easier to eliminate any shortcuts or misunderstandings.
  • With all factors considered, this model provides a faster project delivery that is free of the back-and-forth since developers focus on only one section of the project at a time.
  • It is easily adaptable for shifting teams.
  • This methodology is ideal for smaller-sized projects.

Drawbacks of the waterfall methodology

While the waterfall methodology seems to work well, there are still a couple of challenges that it may pose to teams. Some of the most common challenges involving the waterfall methodology of project management are:

  • The method becomes less effective if the requirements aren’t made clear at the very beginning.
  • It is rather difficult to move back to make changes once a phase is marked as complete.
  • The testing process only happens at the testing phase, which means that there’s a high possibility of having bugs later in the development, where it may prove a lot more expensive to fix.
  • It provides no room for more customer involvement. Once the project kicks off, the team takes full charge, and there’s minimal client involvement.
  • Defined requirements leave less room for creativity.
  • The product delivery may not be timely, as all requirements must be completely documented and approved before any development occurs.
  • This methodology is not ideal for large-sized projects.

Introducing the agile methodology

The agile development methodology takes an iterative or collaborative approach that emphasizes the rapid delivery of an application with complete functional components. The agile development method relies on self-organizing and, much of the time is boxed into phases, also known as sprints.

Each sprint has its defined duration with a running list of deliverables, prioritized by business value as determined by the client. This is opposed to the waterfall method, where the entire project is planned for in advance before the development work begins.

In this methodology, the development and testing activities occur concurrently. This allows for more communication and collaboration among team members, management, and consumers. Overall, improved communication methods, like team meetings, organizing presentations with presentation websites, and conducting frequent discussions within the team also positively affects the overall team productivity, leading to even better results.

The entire process looks something like this:

  1. Establishing initial requirements
  2. Design
  3. Development
  4. Testing
  5. Deployment
  6. Evaluation
  7. Collection of feedback
  8. Based on feedback, repeat the microcycles until you achieve the final desired product.

Benefits of the agile methodology

  • This is a client-focused methodology. The client is continuously involved at all stages.
  • Development is user-focused with the direction taken from the customer
  • The quality of the development is guaranteed and clearly maintained
  • The teams are well motivated and self-organized, providing better results
  • The deliverables are flexible, giving more precedence to more important aspects
  • The flexibility that comes with agile methodology creates more room for creativity among team members
  • Time market is accelerated

The drawbacks of the agile methodology

While the agile methodology is a more ‘improved’ version of the traditional waterfall method, it still has a few drawbacks. Some of them include:

  • It is not ideal for small development projects.
  • There’s a risk of having the project going off track if project managers aren’t sure of the outcome they want.
  • Communication issues may arise if there aren’t solid avenues for proper collaboration.
  • The cost of implementing this methodology is a little higher compared to others.

Using a hybrid development methodology

As you now understand the key differences between the two, you may now be asking, “Is there a way to combine the two?” It is not uncommon to see individuals that wish to reap the benefits from both methodologies to create a hybrid one.

According to a PMI report, 20% of the surveyed organizations reportedly used a mix of the waterfall and agile methodologies to get the work done.

If this is the route you wish to undertake, here’s how the process would look like:

  • Gather and document all the requirements upfront
  • Design
  • Development
  • Test
  • Get feedback
  • Implement the feedback and repeat the cycle from the first stage
  • Deploy
Author's Bio: 

Emma Williams is a young mother of 2, having the expertise in writing about various topics of lifestyle, beauty, fashion, yoga and a lot more. She has launched her own blog at She enjoys diving into new aspects of the life, learning as much as possible from the business world, marketing and branding. She likes sharing her thoughts and ideas to the world and helping people to get an easier access to the secrets of the world.