Which Software Project Methodology is Best For You?

Which Software Project Methodology is Best for You?

Software project methodology is a broad term referring to the process of dividing software development into stages to manage the overall project. By dividing the development component into stages, you create an efficient structure of procedures and processes to improve how to get to the end product. Think of software development as a cake recipe and the stages as the baking instructions.

Before you run out and grab metaphorical eggs, we did the research for you. The goal of this blog is to give you an idea of which methodology will work best for your software development needs.

Waterfall Methodology

The Waterfall methodology is a linear model dividing software development into six stages that are laid out to look like a waterfall (makes sense). It is a more traditional software project methodology and was first outlined in 1970 by Winston Royce. Customer requirements are first gathered then the plan is laid out to fit those requirements.

Six Stages of Waterfall

Requirements – The gathering of the requirements for the finished product.

Analysis – An in-depth look at the system in order to develop the models and business logic of the project.

Design – The technical design requirements including programming languages. This is the creation stage outlining how the previous stages will fit into the design.

Coding – Writing the actual source code and elements from previous stages.

Testing – Ensuring the project meets the client’s requirement. In this stage, quality assurance (QA) beta testers are brought in.

Operations – The final stage of deploying the product, which also includes future maintenance.

Pros and Cons of Waterfall Methodology

The biggest advantage of this software project methodology is its ease of use. It is straightforward and easy to follow. However, the issue with Waterfall is it doesn’t allow the possibility of changing initial requirements because the software development methodology is so linear and structured. If you make any changes to the requirements, you may have to start from the beginning all over again, and that can be frustrating.

Though it can take longer to deliver because of the many steps, the Waterfall methodology is a strong choice for projects that require in-depth technical documentation. This methodology has a big focus on diving deep down so if you plan on having many or new developers join the project, they can easily find where the project was left off because of the thorough documentation. A downside to this documentation-heavy process is how time consuming it can be, which is why Waterfall method is best-suited towards a small project.

It is best to use the Waterfall methodology for shorter projects that require detailed technical documentation. If your project will be longer and is likely to change, a different software project methodology may be the better choice.

Agile Methodology

Agile Methodology The Agile methodology is a team-focused version of software project management. This software project methodology was built in response to the shortcomings of the Waterfall methodology, which tends to be long and tedious. The Agile methodology focuses on collaboration and speedy delivery.

The Agile Manifesto

Back in 2001, 17 people put the Agile methodology into words. The Agile manifesto has 12 principles and 4 foundational values. The values include:

“Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”

As opposed to the rigidly structured Waterfall, Agile focuses on collaboration and teamwork. Each person can work on a smaller segment of the project rather than a step-by-step process.

“Working software over comprehensive documentation”

The Agile methodology is less concerned with detailed documentation and more concerned with developing high-quality software.

“Customer collaboration over contract negotiation”

The customer is more involved in the software development process rather than left waiting on the deliverables.

“Responding to change over following a plan”

One of the biggest drawbacks of the Waterfall methodology is change can rupture the structure. With Agile, changes can be made along the way without needing to scrap the entire project and start over.

Pros and Cons of Agile Methodology

Agile methodology is flexible with room for change. It allows development teams to focus on what matters. This methodology doesn’t force the developers into a box but fortifies collaboration and working on the deliverables that matter at that specific time. With this flexibility, some developers may lose focus with poor planning.

Rather than a strict step-by-step process, the Agile methodology allows developers to test the project at any time. This results in a higher-quality end product with plenty of quality checking. Ongoing bug fixes are frequently enacted rather than waiting until the end of the project to tie up loose ends. This, along with client collaboration, brings a higher customer satisfaction rate.

With more flexibility and collaboration, the Agile methodology works perfectly for projects large and small. You will not be left out of the loop if going with Agile.

Scrum Methodology

Scrum Methodology Scrum is an Agile framework that was created to develop sustainable products. Two of the 17 people who created the Agile Manifesto, Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, developed the Scrum methodology. Since the early 1990s, Scrum has focused on creating higher quality complex products.

Scrum Theory & Values

Scrum was founded on the theory of empiricism, the theory that all knowledge is derived from sense experience. The three pillars of this theory are:

Transparency – Team members have different primary roles so the process must be clear to all members for the correct, desired outcome. The team must be on the same page.

Inspection – Team members should inspect Scrum artifacts, such as the Product Backlog and Sprint Backlog, to find any inconsistencies. Think of this pillar as quality control.

Adaptation – If an issue is detected, an adjustment must be made as soon as possible to prevent further unacceptable materials or processes.

Pros and Cons of Scrum Methodology

Because Scrum was built for complex projects, it can seem complex itself to beginners. That being said, there are only three parts to the Scrum team: a Product Owner, the Development Team, and a Scrum Master. A drawback is this structure can be difficult to translate to larger teams; however, in smaller groups, experienced members allow increased flexibility, creativity, and productivity resulting in a high-quality product as the team is designed to be cross-functional and adaptive.

Designated Scrum Events can make the methodology seem strict; however, these events are designed to minimize meetings. Less meetings means more work can be done, and time-sensitive meetings mean the discussion is more productive. Who wants more meetings anyway?

The Scrum methodology is best suited for a team with well-defined roles that can adapt and be dedicated to the project. It is great for quick deliverable projects with its divide and conquer strategy.

Lean Methodology

Lean Methodology The Lean methodology can be used for a variety of industries, and with some adjustments, this Agile-based methodology works for software development as well. The main goals are to eliminate waste and maximize customer satisfaction.

Seven Principles of Lean

Eliminate Waste – This principle is focused on eliminating any excess from the project, such as unnecessary functions or additional coding.

Empower the Team – Build up your team for success starting with the onboarding process onward. Strategize effective communication strategies and outline how to tackle conflict.

Deliver Fast – Delivering fast doesn’t mean delivering a low-quality product. Focus on what makes the team run slower then eliminate or improve it. Start simple, bring the project to customers, and work with the feedback that is received.

Optimize the Whole – The organization of the team as a whole is key rather than focusing on individual members alone. Optimize the team’s workflow for better results.

Build Quality In – High-quality software is the goal, but sometimes this creates waste. Incorporate ways to stay efficient while keeping quality intact, such as pair programming, test-driven development, and minimizing time waste.

Defer Decisions – Wait to make decisions until necessary because sometimes early decisions are permanent and irreparable.

Create Knowledge – Implement code reviews, sharing sessions, and documentation to refine learning and ensure your team is knowledgeable and up to date on the project.

Pros and Cons of Lean Software Development Methodology

Lean is a never-ending journey of eliminating waste and running more efficiently. Though this is a huge advantage to reach the project goals in a timely fashion, this means the Lean methodology requires a lot of documentation as it is a very involved process. It helps to have an excellent team with highly skilled members who are dedicated to teamwork. It requires discipline.

The Lean method is motivating. Team members ideally work cohesively together and are empowered. This results in a high-quality project with a quick turnaround time. However, because the decision-making is deferred, it can be difficult for clients. This deferred decision-making can also make it difficult for team members to make this decision once it gets to this stage.

Lean is best suited for highly skilled teams who need a quick project turnaround. If all team members are on board and disciplined, your project will be successful.


Waterfall, Agile, Scrum, and Lean are four software development methodologies that work well when correctly implemented. They all have their own strengths and downsides. What is important is defining project requirements and knowing your team. Once you have the facts in order, you can choose one that best fits your project goals.

Improving offers a variety of both on-site and online training courses, such as the Professional Scrum Master Certification course. They offer virtual, team, and private training sessions. Sign up today!