Dive into the Battle of Titans: Agile vs. Waterfall

Published on:
March 18, 2024

It is far easier said than done to wrap up a project on schedule, within budget & scope, as anyone who has ever worked on one can attest, whether as a project manager or a member of the larger project team. 

Numerous systemic or external issues might impede a project's development, and their effects on the project's outcome can be profound. As it goes, "Creating the desired project management model is essential to ensure your project operates well."

There are advantages and disadvantages to both the widely used project management frameworks, waterfall and agile. It is your responsibility as a project manager to decide on the best strategy based on the requirements of your team and the specifics of the project. Whichever model you choose, flexibility is needed for modifying to altering work settings.

Hence, in this MarsDevs article, we will examine the benefits and drawbacks of waterfall and agile project management & what each offers in terms of producing fruitful results. So, let’s get started!

Agile vs. Waterfall: At a Glance

The two software development methodologies that are often utilized to complete projects are Agile and Waterfall. Agile uses a technique that is iterative & adapts as the project moves forward. In contrast, Waterfall requires that requirements be satisfied to advance to the next phase. 

The benefits of each of these project management approaches vary greatly depending on the type of project. While Waterfall forces teams to complete each phase before moving on to the next, Agile allows teams to collaborate across stages at the same time. Let’s know some more about them.

Agile Methodology - Building software quickly and efficiently

Agile Methodology - Building software quickly and efficiently

Agile development is an incremental, iterative software development process that prioritizes client happiness, adaptability, and teamwork. Its foundation is the Agile Manifesto, which was drafted in 2001 by a team of programmers.

Agile development's primary objective is to generate functional software while upholding high-quality standards. As developers put it, “Agile teams design, develop & test new features through brief "sprints" or iterations. Additionally, they remain in continual contact with stakeholders or clients to gain their input & ensure that the finished product satisfies their expectations.”

Agile development is far more flexible and readily adapts to changes than waterfall development. Additionally, it works better on projects with ambiguous criteria or those that can change over time.

Waterfall Methodology - A direct concept to software development

Waterfall Methodology - A direct concept to software development

Software development is traditionally approached in a linear manner using the waterfall methodology. Each project phase in a waterfall project must be finished before going on to the next. If modifications are required in the latter stages of the project, this can frequently result in delays and dissatisfaction since previous stages may need to be reviewed.

A sequential design process frequently used in software development processes, the Waterfall model envisions progress through the phases of conception, initiation, analysis, design, construction, testing, production/implementation, and maintenance as flowing downwards (like a waterfall).

Agile vs. Waterfall: The Differences

Agile vs. Waterfall: The Differences

The primary difference between waterfall and agile development is that waterfall projects don’t have flexibility since all planning and requirement collecting is completed at the outset, leaving little opportunity for revision or adaptation later. In contrast, agile emphasizes flexibility and delivering work in iterations and increments. Let’s look at some critical differences.

Roles: Waterfall allocates team members to projects in an orderly way, giving each member a clear set of tasks and responsibilities. On the other hand, the agile approach fosters a more self-organizing team structure by enabling team members to work together on various project components throughout time.

Planning: Planning in a waterfall process is a sequential process that starts at the start of the project and involves outlining all needs and goals in great detail. Agile planning, on the other hand, is a continuous process that is modified when new needs or information become available during the project's life cycle.

Project time frames: The waterfall approach is intended for lengthy projects with set deadlines. Each project stage depends on the one before it and is performed linearly. On the other hand, Agile employs brief iterations to produce value quickly, enabling teams to make changes to their plans over time and complete tasks in less time.

Speed: Because all needs must be agreed upon before development can start, waterfall projects often take longer. On the other side, agile uses iterative development cycles, and projects are completed faster than waterfall ones. 

Delivery: Agile makes it possible to complete projects more quickly since each iteration produces a usable result. Before any work is published, waterfall demands that all tasks be completed.

Testing: The waterfall and agile processes depend heavily on testing, yet their methods are different. Incremental testing is emphasized by Agile to find and fix problems as they arise during the development process. In a waterfall project, testing is completed at predetermined project milestones, frequently toward the end. 

Agile vs Waterfall: When to use what?

Agile vs Waterfall: When to use what?

Frequently, the project manager isn’t the one who decides when to utilize waterfall vs. agile. The best indicator of how you will manage your projects based on organizational procedures. It isn't always the ideal method to tackle this subject, as every project has distinct requirements. You cannot choose the perfect concept without having extra information about the project and its background. 

Take into account the following while assessing methodologies:

  • Size of the project
  • Duration
  • Complexity
  • Ways of working at your organization
  • Clients or stakeholders, external and internal

So, use waterfall for:

  • Dealing with outside entities in situations when extensive cooperation would not be feasible
  • Projects with set parameters for time, money, and scope
  • Smaller, more manageable, and well-defined projects
  • Projects involving non-engaged clients

However, agile is most preferred for: 

  • Projects in which your company is in charge of the complete procedure
  • Situations where there is room for requirements to change
  • Massive, unclear, more challenging projects
  • Projects involving a client

Agile vs Waterfall: How To Choose the Right Methodology?

When deciding between Waterfall and Agile, there are several things to consider. Here are some things to think about:

Does your project have any stringent rules or specifications? Because each phase's deliverables and tight processes guarantee that get accomplished, waterfall projects are better suited for those with restrictions or requirements. Since safety is a primary concern, several industries—such as the Department of Defense and the aerospace sector—would adopt Waterfall over Agile. 

Dr. Chris Mattmann explains, “Agile methodology is for IT firms that fail & move rapidly, types of destinations where you can operate parallelly in multiple phases.”

In the end, imagine how involved the project owners or stakeholders will be while choosing between Agile and Waterfall. Projects with closely involved stakeholders at every stage are better suited for the agile methodology. There won’t be much freedom with the waterfall project management process since it is more organized.

In Conclusion 

The waterfall and agile project management methodologies have unique benefits that might suit your project team. By combining the best features of both approaches—Waterfall and Agile project management—a blended approach might outperform them in terms of communication and expectations while avoiding some inherent limitations.

Combining the two frameworks allows project managers to use different approaches at different project stages. For example, Waterfall may be a better general framework choice for project managers. 

Individual team members like agile methods because they produce better results at desired project milestones. Allowing team members to choose the framework that best suits their particular roles will allow us to optimize both Waterfall and Agile methodologies concurrently, enhancing our digital transformation process. 

Do you have more questions? MarsDevs can answer! Reach out to us at MarsDevs & we are happy to help you.


  1. Agile vs. Waterfall: What’s the Difference?

There are two common approaches to project management: agile and waterfall. A more conventional method of project management that follows a linear flow is called waterfall. Agile, in contrast, values iterative development. It calls for quick thinking and extreme adaptability.

  1. Which method is more successful - Agile/waterfall?

Statistics unequivocally demonstrate that agile approaches routinely produce more successful projects than the waterfall model, considering the extent to which the constraints are accomplished.

  1. When Agile should not be used?

Agile is not ideal for projects that must meet extremely stringent standards are legal & regulatory. In these situations, the specifications and deadlines for delivery are concise & there are usually consequences for not meeting them.

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