Why Waterfall Software Development will last the test of time
Written by Alistair Von Glehn
So, you have an idea. Some tech solution that’s innovative, fills a gap in the market, and/or will revolutionise the way companies or people go about their lives. So, how are you going to bring this vision to life? Do you choose Waterfall or Agile Software Development? A question that is asked increasingly. Some have suggested that Waterfall development no longer has a place in the modern world, since the introduction of Agile methodology. We disagree; here’s why.
The Waterfall approach takes its name from its methodology, being simply that once you take a step; there’s no going back. The documentation and scope of a project are defined and approved before moving onto the development phase; and once these are defined, they stay as-is.
If you have ever worked on a long-term project, you can see the appeal of this. Much like a house, each floor is designed, measured, and planned to account for a time frame, budget, and the number of resources needed. Yet, the nature of a project over time is that those involved can change their mind… and do… often. This is where the Agile methodology earned its praise, as it involves a sprint process that is constantly analysing, building, reporting, and adapting in short periods, over and over. Two completely contrasting methodologies.
A hesitancy towards Waterfall development exists for a reason. It is not always the most suited approach, and its greatest strength is in part its greatest criticism. Absolute rigidity in scope allows for no areas of miscalculation or natural evolution. Projects that last for over a year will have what is known as “Scope Creep”. This is the term given to the continuous and inevitable growth of the scope of long-term projects after they have already begun development.
The nature of spending more time on a problem leads to a higher number of solutions. If these solutions are then applied to the project 6 months into development, the original documentation and planning can no longer be accurately accounted for the cost, deadline, or deliverables it promised at the origin.
So, what does Waterfall offer? It has survived the success and praise of its Agile brother this far. According to a report done by the Project Management Institute in 2017, 51% of organisations reviewed still use Waterfall as an active process. This does not surprise us, as Waterfall development provides a structure that Agile cannot reproduce because of its evolving nature.
Reasons for adopting Waterfall over Agile:
- It’s simple and nearly all aspects can be predetermined in great detail.
- Cost can be managed and defined prior to any work without fluctuation.
- Deadlines can be set and reached if the structure does not allow for additional requirements after approval.
- The framework used for one project can often be applied to another creating a set structure for the future and saving time on upcoming projects of a similar nature.
Waterfall and Agile hold two separate sectors that overlap in the middle, but not nearly enough to cancel each other out. Due to a vast number of projects and therefore an equally vast possibility of scopes, having a management choice should always be welcomed.
The Waterfall approach will always benefit those who know what they want and have a set amount of resources to produce it. For those who haven’t decided, or would like to adapt to the world as it changes, they can still get a product into the market early and then improve it with Agile.
In conclusion, we believe that Waterfall software development does, and will continue to hold a place in the modern world. With 51% of companies opting for Waterfall development over Agile, we are sure that this development has proved its place in the market and offers many benefits that Agile cannot.
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