Software Development Methodologies: Comparing Waterfall, Agile, and Scrum

Guest Blogger

Jonathan Baker

Establishing A Streamlined Development Process

When it comes to software development, there are a number of different methodologies and approaches your team can take. Some methodologies focus on improving process efficiency, while others focus on minimizing risk, offering immense scalability, or continuous iteration. In this blog, we will break down three popular software development project management methodologies - waterfall, agile, and scrum - so your team can choose what will work best for your business needs.




  • Each individual phase is processed and completed one at a time, with zero overlap between phases. 
  • Excels in environments where phases and project requirements are clearly outlined and well understood. 
  • The linear nature of the waterfall approach makes it exceptionally easy to understand and manage.
  • Projects with very clear goals and stable requirements can make the best use of the waterfall approach.
  • Inexperienced development teams and project managers, or teams whose composition frequently changes may benefit the most from the waterfall methodology.


  • Agile development reduces waste by focusing your team’s efforts on the most high-value features in order to reduce the time it takes to get your product release-ready. 
  • Improves customer satisfaction by continuously and rapidly shipping functional software.
  • Agile emphasizes people and interactions over processes and tools; as consumers, developers, and testers constantly interact with each other to share feedback. 
  • As the name suggests, the agile approach empowers development teams to quickly shift gears, allowing the introduction and implementation of last-minute features on the fly.


  • The sprint process within the scrum methodology results in a functional, sellable product even while the project is still in development. 
  • Each completed phase represents a new version of the product, resulting in a shorter time to market and more opportunities to increase revenue. 
  • Every time a sprint is completed, it is reviewed extensively before moving on to the next sprint. This means that development teams can change the direction or scope of the project at any time. 
  • Changing direction or adding new features can be done with very little cost due to the frequency of new updates that are released. 
  • Unlike the waterfall methodology, very little planning is required to get the project started.



  • Each phase must be fully developed and stable before moving on to the next phase. Traditionally, there is no standard process for going back and making changes to already completed phases or modifying the scope and direction of the project.
  • Once a phase has entered the testing stage, it is extremely difficult to go back and change something that was poorly planned out during the conception phase. 
  • With the waterfall methodology, a fully functional software product is not produced until the very end of the development process. This makes it hard to gauge how much actual progress has been made. The last 20% of a project might end up taking 80% of the time, and your team will never know until they reach that point. 
  • Not an ideal model to use for complex projects.
  • Slower and more costly than other approaches due to its rigid structure and tight controls. 
  • Unsuitable for projects that are at risk of changing during the development process.


  • The agile methodology lacks an emphasis on extensive design and documentation procedures. 
  • This approach is best used by seasoned and experienced programmers and project managers who have the necessary knowledge to make the correct decisions throughout the development process. Inexperienced programmers who have never led a project will find it extremely difficult to navigate the pitfalls of the agile methodology.
  • The agile approach is flexible by nature. This introduces the potential for scope creep which can lead to projects that never end. 
  • Testers are needed throughout virtually every step of the agile process. This can lead to increased resource costs in the long run.
  • Developers need to create 100% of each feature within each iteration of the project. This relentless pace can lead to mental fatigue and burnout.
  • Making assessments on the resources and effort required to complete the project can be difficult.


  • Utilizing the scrum methodology with a large development team can be challenging.
  • If your team isn’t fully committed or has challenges cooperating with each other, the chances of a project failure increases exponentially. 
  • Team members leaving a project midway or shifting to a new role causes greater issues than with other methodologies.

Choosing the Right Methodology for Your Project

When it comes to shipping a functional and fully-featured software product, choosing the proper methodology for your project is crucial. If the scope of your project is clearly defined and the chances of any changes are very low, the waterfall method and its rigid sequence of steps is likely to be ideal. But if your project is large in scope and you plan on making changes along the way based on feedback, the agile approach will work best. If you have a highly experienced team with the expertise required to handle a dynamic project within a tight timeframe, we would suggest the scrum methodology. Because each approach has its own strengths and weaknesses, your team should carefully analyze them to figure out which approach will best fit your needs.

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