Similarities and differences between Agile and Waterfall project management

Similarities and differences between Agile and Waterfall project management

Author: Аnaniе Iliyan

I have extended knowledge of Agile and Waterfall methodologies, the ones you are referring to in your email. The methodology originating from Japan is called Agile.

These are the two most popular project management methods. However, the explanation over the Internet can be confusing at times and hence I will try to straighten them up in detail so you get the best understanding and we can decide which one to go with in the future projects of our company.

In general, the description and usage of both can be summarized to the following:

In the world of Agile, the project team manages the project by dividing it into several stages. It involves constant collaboration with the stakeholders and non-stop improvement and iteration at every step.

The requirements can be changed during the iteration by prioritizing new over existing ones, thus the scope is not fixed. What makes Agile stand out is:

  • Adaptive planning
  • Continuous improvement:
  • Brief but detailed feedback
  • Enhanced and purposeful collaboration
  • Openness and visibility at any project cycle

The Waterfall methodology

The Waterfall methodology is a kind of model that breaks down project activities into systematic linear sequences; hence, the subsequent phases rely on the deliverables of the previous one and correspond to the specialization of tasks. What makes Waterfall stand out is:

  • It has a linear sequence in which the next phase depends on the successful completion of the previous one
  • Extensive documentation
  • Minimum client participation

Please see below more details I have captured in my investigation:

    • Similarities and differences between Agile and Waterfall
    • Pros and Cons
    • How to decide which methodology to use on your project

Similarities and differences between Agile and Waterfall





They have similar goals, which are to produce high-quality software applications and make clients happy and content. Analysis of feasibility

  • In Waterfall, this process takes quite a lot of time to prevent reworking in the following phases of the project. It involves analyzing cost and benefit to determine if the plan is financially, technically, and operationally achievable.
  • In Agile, this takes as little time as possible. You can contact clients at any time in the first stages of the project and settle the project requirements and task details.
They perform the same activities, which include collecting requirements, designing, developing, testing, and deploying. Planning

  • In Waterfall project management, planning in detail is very crucial and is done just once. It allows achieving the set goals of the project without making any alterations to the requirements or scope of the project. You can make no change.
  • Planning in Agile is not done in advance but when the team is prepared to take on a particular set of requirements and begin to outline the development. In this case, planning is an ongoing process since the team works on an active sprint. Changing the plan is allowed, but you cannot add new requirements to an active sprint.
The foundation of a project involves planning, bringing the project to life, and monitoring the project’s progress in the two methodologies. Progress tracking

  • In Waterfall, you can monitor the project’s progress. Frequent status reviews are carried out to analyze the development. Afterward, the status reports will be sent to the management team and the project sponsors.
  • In Agile, it is different as the progress gets measured in each sprint. The project team does this, then the sprint reports are handed over to the stakeholders.
Team members

  • In Waterfall methodology, project team members get assigned particular tasks, and one can work on only their delegated role.
  • In Agile project management, on the contrary, the teams are self-organizing and can switch roles among themselves.


Pros and Cons – Agile and Waterfall


Description Pros Cons
The client has visibility of the progress and quality of the project at an early stage and can contribute Agile Waterfall
Frequent and open interaction with customers Agile Waterfall
Changes can be accommodated in the current version of the product whenever clients bring them up. Agile Waterfall
Amount and details of documentation Waterfall Agile
Predicting the result depending on how clear documentation is Waterfall Agile
Estimate the efforts required at the beginning of the software development life cycle Waterfall Agile
Detailed and reliable time and budget estimates Waterfall Agile
A straightforward project management tool that’s precise and commendable for small projects with well-understood needs Waterfall Agile
Flexibility – are changes on requirements and roles allowed Agile Waterfall
Communication, risks and issues management Agile Waterfall


Agile VS Waterfall: Which one should we use?


Considering all of the above, we should look at those recommendations and scenarios when deciding which methodology to use in our company.

Pros/Cons Choose Agile Choose Waterfall
Project requirements and regulations. Is the project scope not fully confirmed at this stage and may require future inputs and changes? Yes No
Final scope confirmed. Is it a fast-developing industry where requirements and direction towards the final product may often change Yes No
Client participation in the project progresses. Do clients require an update of the project process frequently and do they want to be involved in the day-to-day development and communication? Yes No
Nature of the project. Is it an already existing product that requires some upgrading? No Yes
Time scope of the project. Is the project deadline set and cannot be altered in any situation? No Yes
The budget of the project. Is it already drawn up and inflexible? No Yes
Project phases delivered. Can the project be split into phases that can be delivered independently one from another? Yes No

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There is also a way that we can use these two development methodologies to work on a single project. That is the hybrid Agile-Waterfall method. This method delivers a solution in a way that wisely utilizes time, team members, and other resources to meet the demands of the customers. This would be my recommendation for our future projects and I would be happy to lead their implementation to a successful end utilizing the best-known practices and my experience on multiple software projects so far.

Аnaniе Iliyan

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