Cooking shows are all the rage, but imagine the chaos if contestants used ladles to slice tomatoes slicers or garden shovels to stir the sauce? Wait a minute … a show about kitchen hijinks and calamities would probably become the ratings blockbuster we never knew we needed!

Still, the fun would be in watching people struggle as they try to create culinary masterpieces with tools that aren’t designed for the job. A great concept for TV ratings, but not so much for a company making a significant investment in software development.

Not using the right methodology for your software development project could lead to a similar comedy of errors, yet we doubt you’d find it very funny. Who wants to Scrum their way through a project with a constantly changing scope? Or use a Waterfall approach for projects that demand the flexibility of Agile sprints?

The methodology you choose for building your software has a big impact on the process and the final product. It defines roles and responsibilities, provides a roadmap that keeps the project on track, enhances communications, and increases efficiency by providing a structured approach to managing the project.

Understanding Software Development Methodologies

No matter which methodology you choose, the goal’s the same: producing high-quality maintainable software within a reasonable timeframe and at an affordable price.

Software methodologies graphic with the development process
Which of the software development methodologies is right for my project?

We often say there’s no “best” methodology, but there is one that’s ideal for your project. Let’s take a look at the three most popular approaches. Each has its highly vocal supporters, so we hope this post helps you cut through the noise to choose the one that best aligns with your project’s focus, complexity, and allotted budget.

When Should I Use Agile?

Perhaps the greatest advantage of an Agile approach is that it almost guarantees a higher product quality. With its focus on iterative development, the methodology allows for continuous improvement as the project progresses.

Agile’s short development cycles (sprints) individually incorporate and adapt to stakeholder and customer feedback to more quickly produce an expertly honed end project. Its focus on continuous collaboration and evolution provides a flexible way to meet deadlines faster and release products sooner.

For instance, it’s not unheard of for a company to spend upwards of a year on a product or service that’s outdated by the time it hits the market. Windows Vista is one example. When it launched in 2007, it failed to meet expectations, was plagued with compatibility issues, and had a user account control people hated. The release of Windows 7 quickly relegated Vista to the failed iteration dustbin.

When to use Agile? It’s best for new projects where:

  • The project’s scope and timeline are unpredictable.
  • You want to save time and money by getting the software to market quickly.
  • You need to quickly respond to a changing business environment and recalibrate your product before it’s even released.
  • Getting small usable pieces of functionality into the user’s hand quickly is a top priority.

When Should I Use Scrum?

Agile works best for new projects, but that doesn’t mean all new projects should use it. In fact, there are situations where a “pure” Agile methodology isn’t the best option at all.

The simplest way to explain the difference between Agile and Scrum is:

  • Agile is a philosophy about how to successfully deliver software to a customer.
  • Scrum is a specific methodology for software development teams to follow.

That might be as clear as mud to many people, so here’s a broader explanation.

Scrum doesn’t focus on building better software—it’s a schedule management “trick” that aims to make software delivery times more predictable and with less variation. Code quality doesn’t really matter to Scrum; it only cares that you hit that velocity burndown chart.

Agile, on the other hand, follows a 12-principle Manifesto that sets out software development goals like frequent delivery, regular communication, progress measurement, quality assurance, and collaboration.

Arrowed graphic demonstrating why Scrum should be utilized
Which of the software development methodologies is right for my project?

Scrum is often combined with other “shift left” approaches like Agile that can lead to quality improvements. But it isn’t the quality driver—that’s the role of a separate process of your choice. Reasons to choose the Scrum methodology include when:

  • Project requirements aren’t clearly defined.
  • There will likely be changes during development.
  • Early frequent testing is needed.

When Should I Use Waterfall?

You’ve likely heard some engineers say that Waterfall is an outdated method that absolutely no one uses. But many projects that don’t mesh with Agile can be better served with a traditional Waterfall approach, or at least a “wagile” one. First, its fixed phases of planning, execution, verification, and maintenance let you stick to concrete timelines and well-defined deliverables.

It can also be particularly advantageous on projects with compliance and regulatory constraints, where documenting each step or phase is critical. For instance, a bank updating its core banking system would need software that meets multiple financial regulations, data security standards, and auditing requirements. A Waterfall approach meets the industry’s extremely low tolerance for error via:

  • Thorough documentation and validation at each phase.
  • Enabling stakeholders to predictably track milestones and compliance checkpoints.
  • A controlled change management process that ensures each modification’s impact on compliance is assessed.

Yes, you’ll spend a lot of time in the planning, but since compliance is mission-critical, it’s more than worth it.

You’ll find plenty of Waterfall critics who say its lack of flexibility makes it a no-go. But, depending on your project, choosing a methodology that ensures all necessary steps are completed before moving forward can make a lot of sense.

Whether you choose Agile, Scrum, Waterfall, or wagile, the variety of methodologies at your disposal ensures you get the best fit for your project’s unique needs.

I’m Still Not Sure - How Can Zibtek Help?

The more information you have, the easier it is to make an informed decision about which methodology will work for your project. Just like a skilled chef selects the proper tools for the dish they’re preparing, choosing the appropriate methodology for your project hinges on its unique requirements.

While every project has its distinct needs, Zibtek offers invaluable guidance in choosing a methodology by:

  1. Assessing a project’s requirements, goals, and constraints.
  2. Using our methodology expertise to explain the pros and cons of each in the context of your project.
  3. Tailoring recommendations to your needs and preferences, not ours.
  4. Identifying potential risks with each methodology.
  5. Proposing, when appropriate, a hybrid or customized approach. The key is to make it practical.

Our proven track record gives you confidence that your project is in capable hands, regardless of the approach used. As your trusted partner in software development, we’re committed to delivering results that are truly a pièce de résistance—the perfect culmination of expertise, precision, and dedication.To learn more about software development methodologies or how Zibtek’s process can help your business successfully develop custom software, get in touch with us today.