Agile Vs Waterfall

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Agile software development undoubtedly offers advantages that a waterfall approach can’t begin to address. Where the waterfall approach is based in predictability and processes, an Agile approach focuses on adaptability and response time to changing requirements. Another important advantage of Agile over the waterfall model is the recursiveness of the work pattern. This means that we can make modifications to the completed stage in Agile while it is not allowed under waterfall model.

Agile Vs Waterfall Model

It is worth mentioning here that the Waterfall model is the primitive model type and has been implemented in the development phase time after time. Hence in the due course if time developers found many drawbacks in this model which were later rectified to form various other development models.Waterfall Vs Agile pictureThe common element to all of them being the basic phases of the waterfall approach. We can hence conclude that Agile is also another of its successors which has all the advantages of the primitive waterfall model and has also rectified the disadvantages in this evolved model.

Difference between Agile and Waterfall Model

  1. The main advantage is the backward scalability in Agile. Under waterfall approach we cannot change the decisions and implementations that we had made under the previous stages. If we want to make changes under waterfall we will have to build the entire project from the scratch once again.
  2. The flexibility to error check under any part of the development stage makes Agile more bug free and less erroneous as compared to Waterfall which can only test bugs at the end of the development module.
  3. Since Agile provides flexibility to make changes as per customer requirements it is more inclined towards better client satisfaction. This is a real set back for the Waterfall model which doesn’t allow any modifications once the module has been completed.
  4. Under Agile development modular partitioning of the software can be effectively carried out as compared to its counterpart. Though both of them allows option for segregation the later lacks the modifications in the implementation stage. The rules are set down before the commencement of the project hence it hinders further break down of the logical module. Whereas Agile can be of great help under such situations and can allow simultaneous development of different modules at the same time as per time bound requirement. If we want the project to be more segregated Agile comes as a pain relief for developers.

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  1. Nice article! As you said Waterfall model will succeed when the requirements are carved on stone and external factors will not most likely influence any change in the project’s constraints. Its application would be mostly in scientific projects or other industries which do not fluctuate based on market conditions or other factors such as law change, economic or political changes etc. Agile is best suited for industries or projects which are subject to factors like mentioned above. Agile comes with the advantage that it allows change of scope or other project constraints based on newly developed situation which requires reevaluation of assumptions and other decisions made earlier. Agile methodologies like SCRUM are very popular across industries and effective for executing project of any size. Maybe you can write a bit on SCRUM next for interested readers.

    • What I like about the agile business pploisohhy is that you don’t need to model every single detail the models don’t need to be perfect, and they certainly don’t need to be complete.

    • I will sure do so sir. Thank you for your wonderful feedback and explanation.

  2. looking at Agile and RAd what main deference can we say they have

  3. Nice one.Thanks a lot.

  4. Yes, a very good comparison between the two. Will surely wait for you to explain more about scrum and how it makes it efficient even for big projects.

  5. This is a good comparison. For agile the design to deployment part is repetitive and never ending.

  6. its useful

  7. hrishikesh mishra says:

    Good one.

  8. The thing is, many of us old-timers were incorporating the flexibility of Agile long before there was an Agile. A project cannot be etched in stone and the SDLC methodology must always be flexible and iterative, but not to the point to where scope creep and other “noise” hinders progress. There is no one best way to do SDLC right. Every organization is different and, all too, often, attempting to hammer the organization into a standard model leads to failure.

  9. Shehzad says:

    Nice one… the language is fantastic as well. Many thanks

  10. sanjaysin says:

    I heard that, Agile is the client satisfaction model and not for delivering employee, Experiance people said employee needs to complete defind time, otherwise Delivering company only bare the extend time cost. could you please clear my doubt, thanks in advance

  11. Rohit Bhandari says:

    The Project based on T&M can use the Agile methodology but for Fixed cost Project i feel Waterfall is the best way to deliver. Another point where total Project revenue are relatively low Agile would not be of much help. Please Let me know yours thought about it?

  12. Tutor, why do you say that waterfall does not allow decisions to be reversed?
    And, what in waterfall disallows changes to completed or partially completed modules?

    • Sir the basic concept about having different models are the approaches and methodologies they have to stick to in order to define their basic way of working. The main ideology behind different sdlc models is the basic set of rules which needs to be followed while following a particular model.

      As explained by Steve Mconnell, the total effort required to make sure a phases is developed perfectly sure will consume a little EXTRA amount of time preliminary but the COST to solve the same problem in the later stages will also be MORE. This is what Waterfall model is all about. If one needs to repair the same at a later stage, he sure can but the definition of the model which is being used for the development will not be tagged “Waterfall Model” any more. It becomes some other sdlc model thereafter.

      It is not about “why/how”, its all about respective “Model Methodologies”.

      Sir, if you still have doubts about it do let me know.

      P.S: Its my pleasure to be of assistance to you.

  13. its good one but sir how many companies and users those shifted their development activity from waterfall model to agile models? there is no data which showing the any number of users or company those working on both models .

    • There is actually no data on the conversion ratio. But yes, most companies are getting more flexible options under agile development and hence they tend to make the switch. As for standard software development basic and medium level projects still prefer Waterfall model owing to cost effective software development solution it offers.

      • I agree. More companies are now going more to Agile and a lot of them that are using more batch processing are finding is hard to adapt to total Agile and hence using a hybrid approach.

        Agile is most definitely a better option where there are too many unknowns.


  14. I greatly appreciate the effort you gave on this article. This is really easy to understand. It only took me a blink of an eye to absorb the content. Now, I’m confident to share the things you wrote on my class. Thank you so much :)

    • There are many sdlc books which try to explain everything all at once and hence the reader gets confused. But here the complete design of the topics are properly divided into sequences and chapters which will help you absorb them quickly. I am glad this helped you. Thank you for your appreciation.

  15. Indeed a very well written article….easy to follow and understand.

    Thank you

    • “Agile is most definitely a better option where there are too many unknowns.” – I like the quote. Melodramatic yet so practically true. Glad this article helped.

  16. Each methodologies has it’s own pros & cons when we compare, agile is more suitable when we using the SAP various module implementation, same in the EAI / cloud network / ecommerce implementations waterfall module would be more flexible to execute where this model approach pass accurate information / execution dates to other dependents team to setup their plan less coordination and less impact analysis as the end to end phases requirement is locked.

    Now most of the companies are approaching the combination of methodologies to get benefit both end (service providers and customers).

    • aoa im the student of MSCS and im totally confused to select my research topic kindly help me…. i have studied many topics nd software re-engineering is bit understood by me so now wht to do can u hlp?????

      • You need to clear your basics before you get on with understanding the advanced part of this subject. You can refer to your college books which I think must have good content and easy explanation about the topic. If you still need anything, do let me know.

  17. vinod joseph says:

    A really good article to understand ,even for the one having no knowledge about it. Helped me a lot in preparing my notes.Kindly do write about scrum. thank you.

  18. Mahesh Raju says:

    Really Helpful and Thanks.
    Why should we use Waterfall against Agile Methodology.

  19. Nageswararao says:

    Iam intrested in projec management

  20. i not really understand. if i want to develop a mobile apps, which methodology should i use?

  21. Can anyone explain v model with example?

  22. Rajesh Ramachandraraju says:

    Tutor –> Is there any difference between the term(s) Software Development Life cycle(SDLC), Software Life cycle. Pls explain.

  23. Harpreet Singh says:

    Good job!! The more I study about the difference between both model, the more i get lost!! Well done!!

  24. really very good and lucid articles.

  25. Sérgio Magno says:

    “… Under waterfall approach we cannot change the decisions and implementations that we had made under the previous stages. If we want to make changes under waterfall we will have to build the entire project from the scratch once again.”
    Here is a point i totally disagree. The real problem that makes people think this way is when we see projects where solution architecturing is made in a “fire and forget” mode by remote unreachable far away architects (not speaking on the requirements but on the vison of the soluiton), when the solution architect is part of the development team, being also a developer or a tester or even the team leader, the all vision and is subsets become part of an evolutive plan, constructed in a way that can be rearranged to meat mid project requirements. But, as i stated before, if the solution is made in a rigid unflexible way projects in this methodoly may fail.
    Agile Methodology being fantastic it assumes that the team is made of very experienced players and that the stackholders of the client participate activelly, i have seen some Agile projects went down because the team didnt had the experience to own the parts they should and stackholders didnt participate as they should. Agile delivery solution are fantastic when we a senior team and care costumer.
    Both methodoligies have problems, draw backs, but we can achieve a better, IMHO, way, using the best of the “two worlds”.
    Agile Architecture, were we have an analisys and a design/architecturing period before the developing “hands-on” start and the team responsible for the design of the solution joins the effective project team, mentoring the young developers and adapting the vision as the solution grows up.
    Check it out and let us know what you think. Thanks for reading.

    • All,
      I worked in Waterfall for 13 years with financial applications. Under our Project Management they used Change Control if the BRD (Business Requirements) changed.
      While it did allow for a change later in the project stages. It took many more steps to formally receive approval for a change control because it at times required additional funding, development and test time.
      I have really enjoyed reading thru all of this information and I definitely agree it sounds like Agile is more flexible.

      • Agile was devised to be more flexible and hence provide better efficiency to the project. This is the main reason why most software developers follow Agile these days.

  26. Kent Milholland says:


    Having a key client stakeholder that works with the development team and understands the business needs is important for sure, and many projects fail because that client role is not filled properly. However, that has nothing to do with Waterfall or Agile; a bad client can wreck a project regardless of whether it is Agile or Waterfall.

    That said, client’s work better with Agile because of the fact that most clients are NOT developers. Software development is abstract, and it is hard to envision workflow of a new software system as an end user, so allowing the client to see, touch, and use software versions during the Agile development cycle gets good feedback from the client. You can sit down for six months prior to starting a project using Waterfall, and talk and draw and mock up software, but the feedback from the client using that Waterfall planning strategy without the client able to see, touch, and use software is of limited value. THAT is, in my opinion, the most important reason that Agile beats Waterfall.

  27. In some ways Agile evangelists appear to be promoting something waterfall project managers have long taken for granted; Change happens. To my perspective, Waterfall simply indicates fundamental tenants of general project management, while Agile indicates project management in the service of product development.

  28. annabella says:

    how can i related XP extreme programming and scrum with the agile method?

  29. Srinivas Pavan says:

    I think a hybrid approach to both software models is the best approach to Software Development these days. The agile model is very very overrated these days. It may look as flexible and agile on paper, but practically, if not implemented well can well be a project managers’s nightmare as the project shifts into endless cycles of Sprints and retrospectives and ultimately cause burnout and fatigue. For any project to succeed, at a grassroot level, the client must have some clear idea about how he wants his/her software. Too much speculation will lead to ambiguous requirements which do not help the cause at all. Too rigid requirements will leave little scope for crucial changes and the product might end up causing customer dissatisfaction as it might not end up having some useful features which were not envisioned from the start.

    The hybrid effort seems to be the best way to go about it.

    • I completely agree with your point. Flexibility is the necessary evil for a software project to successfully survive in the real world.

  30. My question is yes or no and low or high for Agile and Water fall model:

    Here are the categories:
    1.User involvement
    2. Expertise
    3.Risk involvement
    4.Flexibility to change.

    I need answers that is Yes or No and low or high for above categories.
    Please help me.
    Thank you.

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