Agile vs. Waterfall: Which one to choose

When it comes to enterprise product development, the first question that comes to the management’s mind is whether to go for Agile or Waterfall delivery model. Both models have been successful in their own way to ensure success. The choice depends on a lot of factors. Let’s understand which model is suited for which scenario with the help of these influencers/factors and do an Agile vs. Waterfall comparison.

Agile vs. Waterfall Comparison

1) Volatile requirements

Volatility in requirements in agile and waterfall
Volatility in requirements in agile and waterfall

In modern times, there is so much competition in the market that organizations building new products have to ensure that the products they build perfectly cater to customer needs. And to do that, the product needs to continuously evolve. Most products are driven by customer needs and feedback plays a very important role in building a successful product offering.

In such cases, changes cannot be averted. The requirements keep changing, enhancements are requested and a short time to market is very important. In such a situation, it is best to go for Agile development. By following the Agile model, you can get the product to the market early and get the feedback sooner than later. Customer feedback helps in making key decisions related to the product.

If the requirements and the business objective is known completely and there is a small number of users or the users are internal, it is best to go with the Waterfall model. Waterfall model in such situation ensures a shorter product development cycle thereby reducing cost. Let’s talk about cost in detail

2) Cost

Cost in Agile vs Waterfall
Cost in Agile vs Waterfall

If cost is a factor, then it is advisable to go for Waterfall model as it ensures value for money. You get what you paid for. In Agile, since your product is changing frequently, the cost of development and marketing is high. Fixed cost agreements are not so fruitful in Agile. Most agile projects are Time and Material.

The cost of an agile project is high at the beginning but gets lower as time passes because as the product goes out in the market, revenue can start coming in if there is a demand which can offset the project cost.

Cost in a Waterfall project is mostly known and hence the risk is less.

3) Stakeholder Availability

Stakeholder Availability in Agile
Stakeholder Availability in Agile

In an Agile project, key stakeholders’ availability is sought all the time. They are the decision-makers and need to be involved in every key discussion. They drive the product and sometimes the teams too.

If key stakeholder availability is a challenge, but requirements are known to him at the outset, it’s best to go with the Waterfall model. In a waterfall model, you go step by step in achieving the desired objective

The benefit with Agile is that the stakeholder is in the know all the time. He knows what is going on, the challenges, the risks. So there are no surprises at the end.

4) Time to Market

If the product needs to be launched soon and there are monetary or other impacts associated with the time of launch, it is best to go with the Agile model. Agile ensures early releases and for businesses that rely on the timing of the launch, it can start generating revenues sooner than later

If there is no urgency, Waterfall is best suited

5) Team Size

Team size in agile

For smaller teams, Agile is best suited, as it makes it easier to monitor coordinate and control the project. Smaller teams mean fewer communication channels thereby ensuring precise and efficient communication. Also, the cost over time is less in Agile as the product can go to market early compensating the time and material cost of the team

For larger teams, Waterfall is best suited as there are risks associated with larger teams with regards to communication and in agile given the dynamic nature of requirements, control can get out of hands

6) Operational Complexity

If the team is not mature or less experienced it is best to go with Waterfall as it is easier to learn and implement. Agile methodologies have their own learning curve. Sometimes they are very steep. And even though the team might learn Agile methods, the implementation of it requires greater level of discipline than Waterfall.


So we have seen that the choice ultimately depends upon a lot of factors some being the above. There is no set thumb rule that can be followed. This article though might help in making the right decision.

If you would like to discuss how more about Agile vs. Waterfall or how your organization can implement, Agile and Waterfall….


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