Top 3 Software Development Methodologies: Pros & Cons

  • By  Arshpreet Kaur    |    87D32530-FD6E-468E-BB24-045278513D21 Created with sketchtool. 5 MIN READ    |    6BCC25D0-42B3-420B-8C28-C5D7EF3F6856 Created with sketchtool. Updated: April 18, 2019

The first step towards software development is to choose the best development methodology that suits your organization’s culture, team size, flexibility status, and business and functional requirements. There are different types of software development methodologies that have evolved over the years to address the shortcomings of its predecessors so the confusion around choosing the right one is understandable.

For example, the waterfall did not allow to-and-fro motion across the development stages, which led to the evolution of Agile. Likewise, DevOps got introduced to bring development and the operations team together while picking along the Agile values and principles.

There are scenarios at play — it might be the right decision to stick to your current development methodology, or you will have to consider the transformation.

Understanding different software development methodologies and pros and cons become essential to call off the confusion and drive informed decision-making.

Here’s a comparison guide that will help you rightly choose from among waterfall, Agile, and DevOps.

Popular Software Development Methodologies: Comparison

Let us discuss the top software development methodologies in the order of their evolution:

1. Waterfall Software Development Methodology

Introduced by Dr. Winston W. Royce in a paper published in 1970, the waterfall Methodology is a sequential, linear software development process of project management.

The waterfall Approach focuses on the logical progression of all the steps involved in the software development life cycle (SDLC). The structure of phases it follows is simple—each stage cascades down to the next level of development.

Once the development team moves on to the next stage of the development, moving backward is restricted, which is also the biggest con of the waterfall approach.

Whenever there is a mention of traditionally existing software development methods, the waterfall is the first that comes to mind. But, that does not mean that this methodology is obsolete and out of practice.

The waterfall model is a breakdown of project activities into linear sequential phases, where each phase depends on the deliverables of the previous one and corresponds to a specialization of tasks.Agile Product Development Report 2020, Net Solutions

Stages of Waterfall Methodology

Pros and Cons of the Waterfall Model

Here is a table that enlists the benefits and downfalls of the waterfall development approach.

Pros Cons
Requirements are constant — everyone on the team has an understanding of what they are building from early on Moving backward across stages is not an option with waterfall. It is only a one way street with no scope to change
Easy management of the project — as there exist a clean structure and defined steps with no to-and-fro movements Waterfall does not include the end-user or client perspective. If their requirements change at any stage of the development process, the waterfall model fails to address them
For small-scale software projects where requirements are precisely defined and constant, the waterfall is the best software development methodology One-time testing efforts delay the lead time. Waterfall conducts testing only after development is complete, which, in turn, complicates and extends the testing, reporting, fixing, retesting, and launching time

2. Agile Software Development Methodology

The agile software development methodology is an incremental and iterative approach to software development. It follows the same set of steps as that of the waterfall model, but unlike waterfall, the Agile methodology allows moving to-and-fro across stages.

The roots of Agile development circle back to the four values and 12 principles of Agile mentioned in the Agile Manifesto. Every organization that follows these values and principles aggressively — practices Agile as its software development methodology.

It is the most commonly used software development methodology as it introduces:

  • Speed
  • Flexibility
  • Cross-functional setups
  • Collaboration
  • Communication

99.3% of the surveyed organizations have adopted the Agile process or are experimenting with it. — Agile Product Development Report, Net Solutions

Here’s how Agile and Waterfall are different from each other:

Differentiating between agile and waterfall development methodology

The agile works in the form of time-boxed sprint cycles where the Agile team (designers, developers, and testers) work collaboratively to complete a task aligned in the feature-driven development process. In case changes need to be introduced to a developed user story, it is added to the product backlog where the team can prioritize and work on it again.

Pros and Cons of Agile Software Development Methodology

Here is a table that highlights the pros and cons of the Agile software development model:

Pros Cons
Faster time-to-market as it introduces minimum viable product (MVP). An MVP includes the basic must-have features and launches it in the market. The improvements and should-have, nice-to-have features are added based on initial customer feedback Scope creep, i.e., the requirements tend to increase invariably throughout the project’s timeline
Agile is a customer-centric development approach as it keeps their perspective, requirements, and feedback in mind. This further helps in ensuring a product-market fit There is a lack of documentation for the process that Agile development for a particular project will follow. This is due to ever-changing software requirements
Agile testing is done at the end of every sprint cycle, thus, reducing the efforts and time to test the software. This, in turn, also ensures a faster time-to-market Agile anti-patterns can lead to breaking points in team productivity. Some of these anti-patterns include:


Unclear requirements

Gold plating

Ignorance of the sustainable pace

Considering Discovery and Delivery as independently existing concepts

Agile kills siloes! Cross-functional teams are an added advantage as everyone from designers, software engineers, and testers work collaboratively towards a common goal Agile is suitable for small teams where collaboration and communication can easily happen, and mostly suit startups and mid-level projects. In the case of large-scale projects such as enterprise-level, SAFe is a better approach

3. DevOps — Development + Operations

DevOps bridges the gap between the development and the operations team and offers continuous integration, continuous delivery, and continuous deployment (CI/CD).

Along with being a development methodology, DevOps is also a cultural shift that needs to be acquired across the organization. It introduces automation into the development, delivery, and deployment cycles to ensure faster launch and improved maintenance cycles.

understanding devops- Role of development and operations

Pros and Cons of DevOps Development

Here is a table that helps understand the pros and cons of the DevOps Approach

Pros Cons
Establishes a workflow between the development and the operations team If the development and the operations teams work in different environments, there is a probability of bugs
Introduces automation into the software development process, which, in turn, helps in improving time to market DevOps is a cultural change. Leading this change can be taxing at an organizational or an enterprise-level
Helps maintain competitive advantage as the newer features are developed and delivered to the customers on time If automation is not set up adequately, it may result in half-baked software system development

What is the Best Software Development Methodology?

The three most popular software development methodologies discussed include — Waterfall, Agile, and DevOps. But, which methodology should be used when?

  • Use Waterfall — when requirements are fixed, time and budget are variable
  • Use Agile — when requirements are variable and not definitive, incremental development is required, and you have a working Agile set up at your workplace
  • Use DevOps — when the faster time to market is a priority, you have a DevOps expert team with experience, communication channels exist between development and operations, and suitable automation algorithms are implemented along the DevOps pipeline
  • In all, choose a methodology for software development that suits your business and the project’s requirements, even if it means switching from an existing methodology. Change is good sometimes if you strategize and take baby steps towards the transformation.

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Arshpreet Kaur

About the Author

Arshpreet is a Lead Business Analyst at Net Solutions. She plays an indispensable role in providing top-notch analytical and resource management advice to businesses. Her well-rounded knowledge in engineering concepts and a certification as a Scrum Product Owner helps her handle multiple projects effectively while defining the product vision and delivering value to customers.

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