Is the Waterfall methodology still useful?

| Should You Use Waterfall methodology?

In the last few years, the global software development scene was taken by storm by a few new development methodologies – Agile, Scrum or design thinking. You can read more about all of them in our other blog posts.

Many people are already starting to forget how software was developed before implementing one of them. In the past, the most popular methodology of software development was the Waterfall. In this article, we decided to show you more about the basic ideas behind it and to find the answer – if we can still use it for modern software development?

| What is Waterfall development?

The waterfall is one of the oldest and traditional methods of software development. Waterfall appeared first in 1970 in the book “Managing the Development of Large Software Systems” written by Winston W. Royce. Why was it with us for such a long time? Because well…it works, at least in some specified cases.

It is one of the simplest methods – the whole project is described upfront with detailed documentation (during the meeting of stakeholders), with a specified budget and date of the end. You know exactly how your product should look like. There is no space for any flexibility or creative approach. You are simply developing the product step by step in the order specified in the documentation.

| The Phases of Waterfall development:

Each project based on the Waterfall methodology consist of five different stages:

- Requirements – at the beginning of the project you gather all the customer requirements and plan every other phase until the product is complete.

- Design – you are planning the way your solution will be developed

- Implementation – it’s the phase when your product is being developed by your team of developers

- Verification – this is a testing phase, you verify if the developed product really meets the requirements described in the documentation

- Maintenance – this is already the post-release phase, where your product is tested by users – they are discovering bugs or inadequate features;

| Advantages of Waterfall development

- Good documentation: the documentation of the project is created upfront and it is usually of higher quality than in other methodologies where the documentation is created together with the product. This is an advantage when you create a product where good documentation is necessary for further development.

- Easy management: it’s one of the easiest ways to manage project development as each stage of the Waterfall development has a clear outcome (described in the documentation) as well as clear and defined KPIs.

- Faster time to market: you are going through each phase of the development only once, you don’t need to spend time on iterative improvements

- Predictability: in Waterfall management, the most important factors for your project (time, budget and scope of the project) are well known during the whole development. You can almost be sure that you will not pay more than what’s in the documentation and the product will be available on the market at the specified time.

- Easy to audit: it’s also one of the best methodologies when you expect some advanced audits of your app development (for example by your investors or some governmental offices) – there is always detailed and clear documentation.

| Disadvantages of Waterfall development

- Lack of flexibility: it is almost impossible to implement changes or new features in your project. Very often it can create chaos in the whole process and postpone the release of the final project even a few months ahead of time.

- It’s staged: You need to finish the previous stage before starting the new one. Sometimes this might cause problems with resources planning and postpone the final release of your app.

- Risk of developing the wrong app: sometimes you might be sure that your ideas were right when…actually they are not. That’s why modern methodologies give you the flexibility to redefine the core features during the development process as well as implementing advanced tests on the target group. In the case of Waterfall, this possibility is reduced to the minimum.

- Hard to implement in large projects: while it might be a good choice for smaller and easier projects, it might be very hard to implement Waterfall in large ones, as when there is more interdependent elements there is also a higher chance of failure or delays

- High costs: each step of the development process is usually expensive and time-consuming as there is a lot of repetitive tasks inside each of them

| Waterfall vs. Agile

The waterfall is very often compared to Agile development as the contrast between those two methodologies is very strong. For example, the rules of Waterfall development are quite rigid, while Agile development is built over flexibility. In the first case, the final result is known before the start of the development while in Agile the end result is influenced by the process of development. Waterfall development is divided into stages, you can’t start the next one until the previous one is finished while in the case of Agile you are working in repetitive sprints.

There is also a difference in the phases of the methodologies like for example design, development or testing. In Waterfall, each stage is happening only once, while in Agile they are a part of each, iterative sprint. Also in the first option, there is no place for asking the final user about their opinion while in Agile the whole process is concentrated around them.

| Summary

Developing a product with Waterfall methodology might be a good solution especially when you are 100% sure how the product should look like. You are able to express and document this knowledge as well as staying confident that there will be no need for any flexibility during the product development. Usually, it is a good choice when you are planning a simple app. If you are not sure how your app should look like, which features you want to implement or simply that you want to develop it based on the consultations with your end-users – Agile sounds like the best way to develop your dream app.

At AppTailors we focus on using Agile methodologies as they tend to deliver better results, are more flexible and allow for more user feedback. This means a better product can be built that solves the problems of your target audience more easily.