Waterfall and Agile project management methodologies and when to use them

Waterfall and Agile are popular terms in project management. I will try to briefly explain to you what both methods are about.

I hope to be able to present the information in an accessible way so that you can more easily decide which method would be most suitable for your organization and projects. Reference: “Waterfall vs Agile project management methodologies“, https://www.dobrojutro.net/waterfall-vs-agile-project-management-methodologies/

Let’s start with the origins of both methods. “Waterfall” is the “USA method”, and Agile is its “Japanese version”. Nowadays, the way we work is changing at an extremely fast pace.

The methods of organizing the project must also be revolutionized. Project management has become one of the most important pillars in any business, as it is recognized as one of the main factors for its smooth operation. Reference: “Scrum vs Kanban vs Waterfall: Differences and when to use each methodology”, https://managerspost.com/scrum-vs-kanban-vs-waterfall-differences/

Companies are constantly looking for new technologies, systems, and processes to help them adapt and optimize project management. Customers need to grow exponentially, and we need to be able to adapt in one way or another.

For this reason, many organizations and businesses are increasingly resorting to the Agile method, which aims to bring this agility to the world of project management by breaking away from traditional frameworks. Reference: “Waterfall and Agile methodologies such as Scrum“, https://wikipedia-lab.org/waterfall-and-agile-methodologies-scrum/

The Waterfall model – Structured and phased and with high planning security.

The classic among project management models is the so-called “waterfall” model, which is often used, especially in companies with hierarchical structures.

Large projects are divided into several stages or phases, which are built on top of each other and carried out in a predetermined order. Characteristic of the classic model “waterfall” is the consistent implementation of pre-planned phases. Reference: “Agile vs Waterfall Project management and software development with Scrum“, https://www.yahowto.com/agile-vs-waterfall-project-management-and-software-development-with-scrum/

If a phase is completed, it cannot and should not be reworked or supplemented. Or more precisely, based on a clearly defined process, the project is processed step by step. A new stage of it is not started until the previous phase is completed. Reference: “Agile vs Waterfall project management“, https://pgov.org/agile-vs-waterfall-project-management/

Advantages and disadvantages of the “Waterfall” model

The approach of the method is to divide the project activities into linear, consecutive phases, as each phase depends on the results of the previous ones and corresponds to the specialization of the tasks. Reference: “Agile vs Waterfall Project Management”, https://pgov.org/agile-vs-waterfall-project-management/

The biggest advantage of the “waterfall” model is the high level of security in planning. Due to the clear structure, even large projects can be planned accurately and reliably.

This feature makes the procedure particularly interesting for projects that have long-term goals and do not require short-term adjustments. On the other hand, this management model is unsuitable for projects with many unpredictable factors that require flexibility and change. Reference: “Agile vs Waterfall Methodology – What are the differences“, https://www.islandjournal.net/agile-vs-waterfall-methodology-differences/

Precisely because of this lack of flexibility, nowadays the method is avoided and disliked by companies. This strictly planned project implementation process can lead to confusion and inaccuracies in the phases, and mistakes become apparent only at the end of the project. Original Reference: https://www.businesspad.org/agile-vs-waterfall-difference-between-methodologies/

Correcting them at this late stage is correspondingly more expensive than it would have been in an earlier revision.

Even if a project can be carried out correctly and without adjustments, there will always be two drawbacks: In the event of a mistake, the investment for the project cannot be recouped. In addition, the design effort is relatively high, as the individual steps of the project are very detailed and must be planned. Reference: Agile vs Waterfall management methodology, https://www.kosovatimes.net/agile-vs-waterfall-management-methodology/

Waterfall methodology – Advantages against Disadvantages

Let’s first start with the benefits of Waterfall project management practices

Benefits of Waterfall

Clear implementation frameworks

A clear understanding of the project phases and anticipation of the results before the start of the project; Reference: Waterfall or Agile? What methodology to choose for your project?, https://pm.mba/posts/waterfall-vs-agile/

The full scope of the project is agreed upon in advance between the development team and the clients;

The documentation

Each stage of the process is documented in detail to avoid misunderstandings or shortcuts. Reference: Agile, Scrum and Waterfall project management, https://ossalumni.org/agile-scrum-and-waterfall-project-management/ If this document is implemented consistently, it is easy to understand exactly what is expected to happen and how to most accurately implement the stages of the project.

Documentation should be provided at each stage of the process to ensure that all stakeholders are in the same place.

Hands-off – Approach

This approach keeps clients on the side of the project so that they cannot make changes to the project. Reference: Comparison of Agile, Scrum and Waterfall project management, https://eduwiki.me/comparison-of-agile-scrum-and-waterall-project-management/

Once the initial project plan is in place, there is no need for customer presence until the final phase is completed.

Disadvantages of Waterfall

Changes can be difficult

The whole point of the waterfall method is that it follows clear steps and a set time frame;

Once these elements have been introduced, it can be difficult to make changes;

Adaptability is a crucial part of the development of 99% of projects, so “waterfall” is no longer a preferred method.

Lack of effective requirements

Clients are sometimes intimidated by details, and this method requires specific details and details provided at the beginning of the project.

Limited customer participation

The Hands-off approach is not suitable for every type of project.
Some clients will want more participation in the project.
The Waterfall method could lead to customer dissatisfaction.

Agile – less structure, but high flexibility

To counteract the problems of the “waterfall” model, many agile approaches to project management have been developed, which are characterized primarily by their high flexibility.

For example, the Agile model is successful. Unlike the model of the waterfall, the project is not implemented on a long-term basis, but with the help of so-called sprints, ie. short cycles of processing in which one or more topics are worked on, testing, and simultaneous completion of several phases of the project.

Ideally, a sprint takes between one and four weeks. At the beginning of a sprint, the team chooses a realistic number of tasks and takes care of their implementation.

The Agile approach also dominates within the sprint. Short meetings are held daily, the so-called Scrums.

The successes achieved so far are being discussed and the next steps are planned.

This ensures maximum flexibility and fast project execution. Also, the “Agile” method breaks down the design into individual quick-to-check or changeable parts. After each sprint is completed, the feedback from the previous phase is used to plan the next phase.

Disadvantages of the “Agile” model

Although the agile approach solves the main problems of the Waterfall model, Agile has its drawbacks.

Due to the independent working methods of the executive team, there are certain limitations to security planning for the client. It is relatively difficult to assess what results can be expected at the end of some sprints. Accordingly, measuring success is generally problematic. Reference: “Agile and Waterfall project management practices“, https://mstsnl.net/agile-and-waterfall-project-management-practices/

Advantages of Agile

What are the advantages of Agile project management practices?

Customer participation

Customer participation in this method is mandatory and constant, not only at the beginning and end;

By allowing the customer to prioritize features, the team understands what is most important to the customer’s business and can deliver the features that bring the most business value.

The client acquires a strong sense of ownership when working fully and directly with the team throughout the project.

Early and predictable delivery of information

With the help of sprints of 1-4 weeks with a fixed schedule, tasks are delivered quickly and often with a high degree of predictability.

Agile development is often more user-oriented, which is probably because the client gives instructions more often.

Agile is a method of getting the job that matters. The team starts with a small part of the work, evaluates the progress, and then moves on the road after enough feedback has been gathered to show that it is on the right track.

Agile Allows change

While the team needs to focus on providing the agreed results, during each meeting with the client there is an opportunity to make changes to the project and set new priorities.

New or changed items can be scheduled for the next iteration, allowing the changes to be processed within a few weeks.

Disadvantages of Agile

Now it’s time to discuss the shortcomings of Agile project management practices

Customer engagement

A very high level of client engagement, while great for the project, can cause problems for some clients who simply do not have the time or interest to attend regular meetings.

Continuous participation required

The Agile method works best when the development team members are fully committed to the project. As Agile focuses on timely delivery and frequent re-prioritization, some of the targets may not be completed within the allotted time.

Additional sprints (beyond those originally planned) may be required, which will increase project costs.

In addition, client involvement often aggravates the whole project with new tasks and this can increase the overall time and cost of implementation.

Frequent change

Frequent changes in the design can lead to inaccuracies and reduce the overall quality.


In conclusion, let us summarize that we must always strive for the golden mean that leads to success.

In principle, for each project and in each company, it must be decided individually which process model best meets the requirements. Experience has shown that the combination of the two methods “waterfall” and “Agile” often leads most effectively to the goal.

For this purpose, a long-term plan is prepared, which is based on the attitude of the waterfall model. The individual phases, on the other hand, are not so clearly separated from each other – changes and reviews are allowed.

In addition, it is possible to integrate some sprints during the individual phases that complete certain subtasks. In this way, a successful mix of security and planning agility can be achieved so that the project can be implemented successfully.

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