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Jessica Damato - 06.02.2017

Waterfall vs Agile: Creating a Hybrid That Works

The software development life cycle (SDLC) is the process for planning, creating, testing and deploying software. Several methodologies are used to shepherd software development to completion, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. The two most common and popular models to choose from are known as Waterfall and Agile. As a Project Manager, I need a methodology to keep the project moving forward and on track. But which process is best for managing software development life cycles?

Waterfall Methodology: Moving Processes Sequentially Downstream
The Waterfall methodology is a sequential process that moves the project forward incrementally upon completion of a phase before moving on to the next phase. The flow of the phases trend downward like a Waterfall, which is how this approach got its name. Waterfall was one of the first methods engineers applied to keep track of the SDLC process. The upside is that Waterfall is easy to manage and requires a sign-off on each deliverable before progressing to the next phase. The downside is that a single delay can throw the entire plan off. As a result, the Waterfall model is one that doesn’t allow easy adjustments for changes or deviations from the plan.

Agile Methodology: Evaluating and Revising Processes on the Fly
Unlike the sequential approach in Waterfall, the phases in the Agile approach overlap. The Agile model’s name itself reflects the methodology’s ability to move forward quickly and easily. Agile methodology offers the ability to provide small releases of the larger project until completion, instead of all at once at the end of the development cycle. This model works well with developers, testers and customers because it enables a lot of collaboration, communication and revision throughout the entire development phase. It’s easy to make changes during the process and allows the flexibility to get the product to market more quickly while continuously enhancing and adding functionality until all of the customer’s requirements are met.

Blending the Best of Waterfall and Agile
At Sagepath, we work with a wide variety of clients with an even wider assortment of project types. To keep work moving and meeting delivery dates, we’ve developed a hybrid of the Waterfall and Agile models. While we collaborate throughout the entire project as in Agile, we follow Waterfall during the define phase and move into iterations in the design and development phase. This allows the customers and Sagepath to understand the full scope of the project and prioritize functionality to ensure we are aligned. We then move into a more Agile method by handling design and development in iterations. This approach allows us to provide tangible deliverables to our customers for review while we are continuing to move forward, creating and building other areas of the project.

At Sagepath, we recognize that it is important that our customers we are a valued part of their own team. Our hybrid approach helps make this possible, so that we may avoid being a “one and done” agency. Instead, our approach has helped generate long-lived partnerships driven by collaboration, enabling ongoing enhancement and ultimately, growth in our customer base.