In software development there are two methodologies that are widely used to guide a project’s planning and execution; Agile and Waterfall.
The Waterfall method breaks everything up into sections and runs in sequential order, beginning with project requirements, followed by the design phase, then development, and finally testing and debugging. By the end of this process, the project should be completed and the software ready to deploy. These individual sections can often take months or even years to complete before moving on to the next section.
The Agile method, although similar in order, allows for continual deployment of shippable software pieces into the hands of the client. Thus allowing and even encouraging changes by the client that wouldn’t be possible in a Waterfall environment.
These days, Agile is widely accepted as the leading methodology to use when developing software. This article aims to highlight some of the reasons why software development companies like Catalyte use the Agile methodology over the traditional Waterfall methodology.
Weekly sprints are the basic unit of development in Agile. Prior to each sprint a planning meeting takes place where tasks are assigned and commitments made for the sprint goal. After each sprint is completed, a retrospective is done to map progress and identify areas of improvement for the next sprint.
One of the biggest advantages of using Agile is the daily stand-up. Catalyte’s preferred Agile methodology is Scrum, so we call these meetings daily scrums. These meetings include a small team typically comprised of developers, designers, testers, and a project manager/scrum master. There are three main questions covered in each of these meetings: what did I work on yesterday, what am I working on today, and do I have any current or potential roadblocks.
What makes daily scrums so effective for software development is it allows each department to work simultaneously together as a team. Everything tends to run more efficiently as a result. This isn’t to say problems don’t ever arise, however, when they do, they can quickly be resolved as team members collaborate together to find solutions.
Every two weeks a sprint planning meeting is held. Team members review the backlog and make small commitments that they know they can complete within the next two weeks. Taking one big project and breaking it down into sprints is really the secret sauce behind Agile and why it works so effectively. This process of short, measurable commitments keeps the project moving along at a quick pace. At the end of each two week sprint, the software has been fully tested and is 100% functional. In addition, stakeholders are able to view a working demo and provide feedback or request revisions if needs be.
Synergistic in nature
Daily scrums are very structured, efficient, and transparent. Team members are required to “own up” to their daily tasks and report on the previous day’s progress or any roadblocks encountered. If someone is falling behind in their work, others can step in and help out in order to keep the project moving forward.
Since the waterfall methodology requires each phase to be completed before the next begins, there is generally a lack of teamwork and consequently synergy.
Early course correction
As team members discuss their work with one another in the daily scrum, problems or opportunities are identified more frequently. Bugs are found by quality assurance sooner in the process because the amount of code to test is broken up into smaller segments. This also allows the developers to fix the code more quickly and prevents them from wasting more of their time had they written additional code that was impacted by the bug-ridden code. Finding defects early greatly reduces the cost of getting it fixed. The longer a bug is in your system, the more expensive it is to fix.
New ideas can be integrated
Oftentimes, clients or team members come forward with a new idea or addition to incorporate into the project. This can happen especially for larger projects that have a longer timeline. Using the agile approach allows for ideas like these to easily be discussed, and, more often than not, happily accepted and incorporated into future sprints.
Contrast this with the Waterfall process where new ideas are either tabled until after the project is completed, or integrated with extreme difficulty and setbacks. And don’t expect these additions to be free. Which brings us to our next point…
Cheaper and faster
The synergy and efficiency from all of the team members working together, combined with the thorough process of daily scrums (stand-ups), as well as limiting the number and seriousness of bugs, equals faster production for less.
When it comes to methodology, it’s no surprise why so many teams choose Agile over Waterfall. The development process has naturally gravitated toward Agile as teams have found better ways to avoid common pitfalls and inefficiencies inside Waterfall.
At Catalyte, all of our project managers are scrum-certified and passionate advocates of everything Agile.