Waterfall vs Agile: Difference Between Waterfall and Agile Methodologies

One of the most challenging tasks faced in project management is deciding what software to choose and how to organize the work. Both of these challenges are overcome if the main concern is reduced to the development methodology. You must learn about agile methodology steps and phases which can help to understand further in detail.

The two most essential and popular methods of managing projects in today’s modern software development industry are:

  • Waterfall- Can be termed as a traditional method of software development 
  • Agile- This belongs to a specific category of Rapid Application Development. It is more recent than Waterfall (2000s), and it operated along with Kanban or Scrum. 

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Even though both the methodologies of software development are dependable and serve the same function of ruling out the best possible approach to get a project done in the least amount of time, they do their jobs very differently. 

Key Differences Between Waterfall and Agile 

While both seem to be two sides of the same coin, they do have their share of differences. 

Key Differences Between Waterfall and Agile Methodologies

Waterfall methodology is a model in which each stage of the product’s lifecycle occurs sequentially. The progress of the project flows progressively downwards through phases mimicking a waterfall. This kind of model considers a one-time massive whole delivery. Product/s are delivered at the end of the SDLC.

Agile methodology is a model which follows a proper sequential, linear, and an iterative approach. It is termed agile because it is swifter and has a more flexible approach to project management.   This model allows delivery in multiple and small chunks at definite time intervals. A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is delivered at the end of each sprint.

Waterfall methodology divides the software development lifecycle into different phases. Therefore, it comprises of a single cycle and single release.

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Agile methodology divides the software development lifecycle into sprints. Therefore, it comprises of a repetitive number of iterations and several releases.

Waterfall methodology can be said to be very structured and rigid in terms of its model.

Agile methodology model is extremely flexible.

In Waterfall methodology, the distance between the customer and the developer is long. Long-term planning scale, along with a longer time between specification and implementation.

In Agile methodology, the distance between the customer and the developer is short. Short term planning scale, along with a shorter time between specification and implementation.

In Waterfall methodology, detecting problems within takes a lot of time. High project schedule risk

In Agile methodology, problems are discovered very efficiently and quickly. Low project schedule risk.

Waterfall methodology’s ability to quickly respond to changes is less. 

Agile methodology: high ability to respond quickly to changes.

In Waterfall methodology, the testing phase occurs after the development phase is completed.

In Agile methodology, testing is usually carried out in parallel with the development phase so as to ensure consistent quality.

Waterfall methodology is quite fitting for projects which have definite requirements and those where the constant modification or changes are not needed.

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Agile methodology is suitable for projects which continually evolve and those involving altering requirements. Learn more about agile methodology steps.

even though both Agile and Waterfall are the popular software development methodologies used in ERP projects, their methodologies are strikingly different. The image below captures the difference between the two very effectively.


Both Agile and Waterfall follow different ways of serving a common goal- to deliver the necessary result or product, free from bugs and errors, in the least time possible.  

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Key Differences Between Waterfall and Agile Testing

Both Waterfall and Agile follow different approaches to their testing. The waterfall is not divided into many parts- but treated as one single, consolidated project which is, in turn, further divided into different phases.

Agile, on the other hand, is not a single entity but divided into multiple smaller projects, where each of the small projects has an iteration of different stages. Everyone must be curious about what is agile testing or what is waterfall testing lets know furthermore about it by going through the difference between them.

Key Differences Between Waterfall and Agile Testing

In Waterfall Testing, the testing begins after the development and builds phases of the process are completed. 

In Agile Testing,  The testing starts in concert with the development phase.

In Waterfall Testing, the process of planning is finalized and done before the testing phase.

In Agile Testing, the process of planning is not just done before the project starts, but also continues until its completion. 

In Waterfall Testing, the test plans are not revised during the project.

In Agile Testing, the test plans are reviewed after each sprint.

Waterfall Testing is very challenging to propose or implement any changes in the requirements once the process has started.

Agile Testing actively accommodates all required changes throughout the process.

In Waterfall Testing, test cases are created just once for all functionalities.

In Agile Testing, test cases are created after each sprint for the functionalities. 

In Waterfall Testing, the acceptance testing is performed only once by the client after the release.

In Agile Testing, acceptance testing can be conducted after each iteration. 

In Waterfall Testing, there is a clear distinction between the Test teams and the Development teams. 

In Agile Testing, the Test teams and the Development teams work as an integrated unit which allows them to have a free flow of communication. 

In Waterfall Testing, regression testing is hardly ever done, and it entails the execution of all the test cases.

In Agile Testing, regression testing is religiously done after each iteration and it entails only those test cases that are relevant.

Also read: Agile Methodology Interview Questions & Answers

The key to deciding which development methodology one should go for depends on five key considerations. They are as follows: Choosing between Agile And Waterfall 

  1. The ease of use
  2. Ability to integrate with other software
  3. Project reporting
  4. The flexibility allowed by the software
  5. High-level view of project statuses

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In conclusion, if we look at Agile and Waterfall as whole software, they do highlight key differences. A smart project manager understands the differences and decides which one to implement as per project-specific requirements. If your project is short, simple and does not require changes and updates, Waterfall can be a first choice. But, if it is large, complex, and has to be changed and checked at intervals, Agile is the best working option.

If you’re interested to learn more about agile methodology, waterfall , full stack development , check out upGrad & IIIT-B’s PG Diploma in Full-stack Software Development which is designed for working professionals and offers 500+ hours of rigorous training, 9+ projects, and assignments, IIIT-B Alumni status, practical hands-on capstone projects & job assistance with top firms.

What is Project management?

The discipline of utilizing information, skills, tools, and strategies to execute a project according to precise specifications is known as project management. It all simply refers to recognizing the issue, devising a plan to address it, and then carrying out that strategy until the issue is resolved. That may appear to be a simple task; however, a tremendous amount of effort goes into it at each level. Being a highly competitive industry, the requirement for project management is to deliver changes quickly. As emerging technologies (Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, etc.) join the industry, the area of project management continues to shift. The five groups of project management approaches are initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, and closing.

What is Waterfall project management?

Waterfall project management divides a project into separate, sequential stages, with each new phase commencing only after the prior one is completed. The Waterfall method is the most standard method for project management, with team members working linearly toward a common end objective. None of the stages or goals are expected to change, and each participant has a well-defined role. Waterfall project management is suitable for projects that require a single timeframe and have extensive, comprehensive blueprints. Change is typically resisted and expensive. The waterfall paradigm was inspired by the rigid procedures used in building and manufacturing. It's a method that focuses on producing the most remarkable result possible, with limited flexibility for changes or improvements once the project is completed.

What is Agile project management?

Agile project management is an iterative project management strategy that focuses on breaking down massive projects into smaller, more manageable tasks that are accomplished in short iterations over the course of the project life cycle. Agile teams are pleasingly equipped to complete work quickly, adjust to changing project needs, and simplify their processes. Agile helps teams to be better suited to alter direction and emphasis more quickly. The tendency for project stakeholders to shift from week to week is something that software businesses and marketing agencies are well aware of. The Agile technique allows teams to re-evaluate their work and alter it in small increments so that the team's emphasis shifts as the work and customer environment does.

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