Agile vs Waterfall: The Difference Between Methodologies

Agile vs Waterfall: The Difference Between Methodologies

There are two main methodologies in project management – the so-called. “Waterfall” and “Agile”.

What is the difference between Waterfall and Agile Project Management?

Waterfall historically originated at the beginning of the last century and in the middle of it is already quite strictly systematized and, accordingly, is very actively used in Western society and especially in the United States.

Agile is a newer system coming from Japan and has become quite popular in recent years. To date, according to, only 19% of projects use Waterfall, while 81% are for Agile. Reference: Agile vs Waterfall: The Difference Between Methodologies,
Each of the methodologies has its peculiarities, and respectively advantages and disadvantages. Here is a summary of each:

What is Waterfall

In this approach, the product development process is strictly consistent. It occurs in several distinct phases, each of which has its time range, and these phases necessarily occur one after the other. Reference: Agile vs Waterfall management methodology,

The phases are:

  • Initiation: shaping the idea of ​​the product, defining the requirements for it with the help of the client/end-user.
  • Design: it is decided what the product will look like and what resources will be needed.
  • Execution: product realization
  • Testing: product quality check
  • Closing: putting the product into operation

The advantages of Waterfall project management

He has a clear idea of ​​how the project will go in time, and at the very beginning, it is specified with the client what is expected from the product in question. Reference: Waterfall and Incremental model in project management,

The client is engaged only in the initial phase, which reduces the load from the client significantly.

The workloads can be relatively well distributed – the different teams can be involved in certain stages, and the rest of the time to work on other projects. Reference: Agile vs Waterfall Project Management,

Documentation for each phase to avoid ambiguities and misunderstandings.

Some exceptional human resources can also be used, in the sense that even less qualified people can perform certain tasks, as they are clearly defined and fragmented into smaller tasks. Reference: Agile, Scrum and Waterfall project management,

During the implementation, the individual tasks could easily be parallelized

The customer participates relatively little (if the first phase is excluded, where he participates very actively in determining the requirements for the product). Reference: Agile Versus Waterfall Project Management,

Disadvantages of Waterfall

The customer often sees the product at a relatively late stage and it often turns out that his understanding of the product is different.
poor flexibility – because everything is planned at the beginning, changes in the project are difficult and disrupt the planned schedules. In many areas (such as software development) it is difficult to plan the entire functionality of the product from the beginning – especially if the area of ​​application of the product is changing very dynamically. Reference: Comparison of Agile, Scrum and Waterfall project management,

The phenomenon of “last-second testing” is often reached – as the previous phases have often dragged out beyond the schedule, testing is cut to meet the deadline.

The creative initiative is suppressed and the bright personal qualities of individual performers may remain inefficiently used. Reference: Waterfall or Agile? What methodology to choose for your project?,

The changing environment and corresponding requirements easily lead to endless projects.

What is Agile?

This methodology has two main elements – teamwork and time. Instead of getting the finished product at the end, as in Waterfall, where the project is broken down into many smaller pieces (sprints), each taking about a few weeks, each piece is delivered to the customer and the feedback can serve in the next phases. Reference:

Features of the Agile methodology

  • Adaptability – something extremely important in today’s dynamic world – the requirements and functionality of the product can be changed relatively easily
  • Customer engagement – all the time the customer has a connection with the project and it is difficult to get a product that does not meet customer requirements
  • The simplicity of the product, which leads to less development effort
  • Teamwork is valued – the team is raised on a pedestal and ways are sought to improve its effectiveness
  • Time is divided into separate blocks (sprints)
  • Testing is not a final phase, but part of each block (sprint)
  • Sustainability – endless projects without any end product are less common.

Advantages of Agile

The advantages of Agile are easily distinguishable from the characteristics of the methodology:

The client is engaged throughout the process. As a result, the product is often satisfactory to the customer Reference:

Flexibility over time – as there are many customer deliveries with different functionalities, they can be prioritized in order of importance and the most important ones can be made first, which will form a basic version of the product that can be implemented and have a reverse connection.

Adaptability – it is much easier to react to changing conditions and requirements. Reference:

Greater creative freedom and motivation for expression.

Disadvantages of Agile

  • high workload of the client – the client is not always willing to devote so many resources and it often happens that he avoids this responsibility
  • higher cost and longer development times – overdue development is a common problem in many areas, and since we have many sprints here, the delay in each of them accumulates a large overall delay, respectively development costs
  • As the team is an essential part of the methodology, good communication, and organization within the team are very important – something that is sometimes a problem.
  • Kanban methodology is difficult to understand by modern project managers. Reference:

Naturally, there are also attempts to combine the two methodologies, deriving their advantages. In general, many companies adopt these methodologies to their needs.

As you can see, both main methodologies have their pros and cons, so some in different situations and companies, one methodology may be better than the other (for example, if you know very well what kind of product you want and want to get it at some point and you do not want to experiment – Waterfall is your method), so you can not easily reject one or the other.

By Michael Young

Michael Young is the chief publisher of and is passionate about all project management and business management disciplines from the modern education programs presented by the popular universities in the United States (USA) and the United Kingdom (UK)

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