Waterfall over Agile for Software Development?

Waterfall over Agile for Software Development?
Bing/Dall-E took the title of this post seriously for this image.

Sometimes using a waterfall methodology over agile for software development makes sense.

Agile project management has been gaining popularity in the tech industry as the best approach to managing software development projects. However, while compelling reasons exist to support agile, the traditional waterfall methodology can still be the better choice for specific tech projects. This article explores the advantages of the waterfall methodology and why it may still be a viable choice.


The waterfall methodology is a project management approach emphasizing a sequential, linear process. The five main phases of the waterfall model are requirements gathering, design, implementation, testing, and maintenance. Each process phase is completed before the next one begins, making it an ideal approach for software development and construction projects, where a linear system makes sense.


In contrast, the agile methodology is an iterative and flexible approach to project management. Instead of a linear process, agile focuses on delivering a working product incrementally through a series of iterations. These iterations are typically short, and the team can adapt to feedback and changes in requirements throughout the process. Agile also prioritizes collaboration, with an emphasis on continuous communication and teamwork.

The two methodologies’ significant differences lie in their project management approach. Waterfall is a linear process, while agile is iterative and flexible. Where waterfall emphasizes completing each project phase before moving on to the next, agile emphasizes delivering a working product incrementally. In addition, waterfall tends to be more structured and predictable, while agile is more adaptable and responsive to change.

Waterfall over Agile

Although the agile methodology is often favored for software development due to its flexibility and adaptability, there are situations where the waterfall methodology may be a better choice. For example, a large project with clearly defined requirements may benefit from the structured, sequential approach offered via a waterfall model. With the project’s needs already laid out, a clear path can be established for each phase of the development process, ensuring that the project stays on track and progresses efficiently without the need for frequent adjustments.

Similarly, projects with significant regulatory compliance requirements, such as aviation or medical software, may benefit from the rigidity and predictability of the waterfall methodology. The waterfall model can provide a clear framework for ensuring the necessary compliance measures are taken throughout the development process, reducing the risk of non-compliance and associated legal or financial penalties. Software projects with well-defined schedules and milestones are also a good fit for the waterfall methodology, as the linear nature of the approach can make it easier to establish and meet specific deadlines.

The waterfall methodology has a formal structure and procedure that can provide a more consistent and predictable approach to software development. The linear, sequential nature of the waterfall model allows for clear guidelines and processes to be established, making it easier to plan and manage the project. Explicit expectations and requirements must be set upfront before development work begins, preventing scope creep and ensuring the project stays on track. The waterfall methodology also makes it much easier to manage deadlines and deliverables, as the project plan is established upfront, and work is done sequentially.

However, the rigidity of waterfall can pose some limitations. The linear, sequential nature of the model means that each phase of the project must be completed before the next can begin, making it difficult to make changes or adjustments to the project once work has started. This can be particularly problematic if the requirements or scope of the project change over time, which can result in delays or even project failure. Waterfall methodology has less adaptability and flexibility, making responding to new information or unexpected developments more challenging. Delays or scope creep can occur, making it essential to avoid delays.

Despite these potential drawbacks, it still has its place in the tech industry. For specific high-tech projects, such as those with well-defined requirements, compliance requirements, or tight schedules and milestones, the structured, predictable approach offered by waterfall may be the better choice. In addition, some companies have found success in blending elements of both methodologies, creating a hybrid approach that takes advantage of the strengths of each (this is where I personally thrive, a little bit of both).

In conclusion, while the agile methodology continues to gain popularity in the tech industry, it is crucial to recognize that there are better choices for some software development projects. The traditional waterfall methodology may still offer distinct advantages for specific high-tech projects, particularly those with well-defined requirements, significant regulatory compliance requirements, or tight schedules and milestones. As with any project management approach, the key is to carefully consider your project’s unique needs and constraints before selecting a methodology.

TL;DR: This article discusses the differences between the waterfall and agile methodologies for software development. We cover the advantages and limitations of each approach, as well as when each may be appropriate. Ultimately, choosing the correct methodology for a project is crucial for success and requires careful consideration of the project’s requirements and stakeholders.