Are you looking to plan, organize, and track your projects effectively using the best project management methodology? There are many project management methodologies to choose from when managing a software development project. For this article, I will focus on two favored methodologies: agile vs. waterfall.

As a company or project manager, it can be difficult to know which methodology is best for your project or team. Here at WebDevStudios, we have used a blended project methodology and really leaned into the client, project, and team to determine the best route to go when managing the project lifecycle.

Agile vs. Waterfall

This is a photograph of a set of scales.

Does your project need to complete one phase, such as design, before moving into any development? If so, then you will probably run the project using the waterfall methodology. Essentially, each phase of the project needs to be completed before the team can start working on the next phase of work.

Can the development team start building out the homepage while the designer continues on mockups for the events page? If so, agile is the way to go. The team can continuously be working on various phases of the project at the same time.

It is key that the team determine how they will run the project at initiation so that the overall project roadmap aligns with how the project will be carried out. There are benefits and risks to using either methodology, but comparing agile vs. waterfall should help to determine what is best for your website project.

Waterfall Methodology

Waterfall is historically one of the most well-known project management methodologies and, quite frankly, where my project management skills initiated straight out of college. I worked for a digital marketing and print production company and the project processes truly followed waterfall.

When using waterfall, your team will typically work with the client to define the requirements at project initiation that will ultimately align with the project completion expectations. The easiest way to think about it is that the project is broken down into phases. Each phase will be completed before the next phase starts.

Here is an example of our project lifecycle when using waterfall:

Strategy -> Design -> Development -> QA/UAT -> Launch -> Support

Benefits of Waterfall

This is an outdoor photo of a waterfall taken from behind the waterfall.Although many think of waterfall as an archaic way to develop software, there are many benefits. If you have a client who has a fixed budget, waterfall allows you to align the scope of work with that budget, while also setting a hard timeline.

It is also helpful to use waterfall when you have a busy external stakeholder who may not have the time to be involved in the project or give consistent feedback. Because the requirements are set up front, it allows the team to just get to work and bring the client back in the end for quality assurance (QA).

There are, of course, risks to this approach. In software development, not having consistent feedback can lead to change requests at the end when the client sees the product for the first time during QA.

Your client may feel all requirements were defined up front, but the reality is not all requirements can be fully defined up front. So, there are typically more change requests when working waterfall as the scope and budget are fixed. That means there isn’t room for ongoing refinement.

Agile Methodology

Because of these risks and challenges, many companies have moved to agile methodologies. We have been implementing the agile framework more and more here at WebDevStudios.

Do you need to work quickly, but are okay with continuous implementation and improvement? The key factor when using agile is being okay with not having the full project plan, budget, or timeline outlined at the beginning.

For example, the budget may be a range. There may also only be a general direction for the team on the end goal. Instead of strategizing the entire project, we start building the foundational product backlog based on high-level goals.

During the first week, the team can start sprint planning and refinement. They can dig into the requirements of the first milestone, build out user stories, and set the sprint goal. The team will only commit to what they can accomplish in the two week sprint.

During the sprint, the team meets daily for a quick standup to discuss what they completed and what they will work on next. Agile adds a level of team collaboration that you do not see with waterfall.

Here is an example of our project lifecycle when using agile.

Sprint Refinement -> Sprint Planning -> Daily Standup -> Sprint Review -> Sprint Retrospective… (Repeat)

Benefits of Agile

This is a photo of a rope bridge.The biggest benefits to running software development projects using the agile methodology is that you are able to have more control of the project. Additionally, you can produce a better product that aligns more with client expectations every step of the way.

The other key benefit of agile is consistent communication with your team and your client throughout the project lifecycle. Through each agile ceremony, you are able to communicate status, risks, and challenges.

You can also easily collaborate with your team and your client. This helps avoid scope creep, miscommunication, and assumptions.

The risk with running your project agile is that you may not have the exact timeline and budget outlined up front. Although this can be difficult to explain to clients, the benefits of agile far outweigh the risks.

Which is best for you?

In the end, my vote will always be to run a project using the agile methodology when possible. I am a big proponent of consistent communication, team success, and client satisfaction. The agile methodology really promotes these key factors when implemented properly.

What do you think? Will you try implementing agile for your next big website project?

Or, do you lean toward waterfall? Whichever methodology you choose, agile vs. waterfall, contact us to help you implement the best methodology for your project.

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