Waterfall is the traditional way of developing and managing products. With its distinct and linear model of design, Waterfall was a popular option for working collaboratively for many years. Recently, however, its limitations have given rise to an new way of product management, and that is Agile. In order to formulate an opinion about making the switch from Waterfall to Agile, it is best to first understand the differences between the two.
The Waterfall concept of project management can basically be explained as a logical step-by-step method. Projects have a beginning and end as well as logical steps leading from one to the other. Due to the design of Waterfall, a distinct plan and vision to reach make that plan a reality are required before the development phase can be initiated.
These attributes make it easier to more accurately draw up a budget as well as a time table. In addition, replacing developers in midstream is pretty simple due to the extensive documentation and planning required.
The Drawbacks of Waterfall
In many instances, the very attributes of Waterfall are those that also make it difficult to work with. The method is both inflexible and rigid. Making changes in the design of the product at any stage is nearly impossible yet the next stage can only be reached upon the completion of the previous one. This is why such extensive planning before beginning the developmental stage is important. When using Waterfall, the testing and feedback stages are left until quite late in the process, an aspect that could have dire consequences for the end result.
The concept of Agile can best be explained in one word: flexibility. This method of product development gives everyone involved an incredible amount of flexibility. Small modules are worked on by the developers with feedback from the client as well as testing occurring simultaneously. Teamwork is highly prized as modules are worked on by different developers with an end goal in mind.
This type of structure allows developers to instantly respond to any concerns, adapt design components to address these concerns and implement any changes necessary without putting the entire project on hold. Because Agile is so transparent, it is particularly useful when working with those clients whose vision is not totally solidified. As the project moves forward, the client’s vision will naturally move toward a firmer end goal.
The Drawbacks of Agile
Because of the flexibility that is the hallmark of Agile, predicting when projects will be complete or how much they will cost can be difficult. Projects completed using Agile can also take longer to reach their conclusion. In addition, the teamwork aspect can create some stumbling blocks. Because Agile is leans so heavily on teamwork, the members of the team need to be firmly committed. Losing one of them in the middle of the project could pose some insurmountable obstacles.
While there are no hard and fast rules that dictate that Agile is always preferred or Waterfall is best, the popularity of Agile has increased in recent years for good reason. It fits well in the hands-on design methodology of today.