Waterfall Vs. Agile Vs. DevOps- Which Production Method Should You Take?
The world is never constant. With changing times, we have refined and outdated some of the best-proven methodologies across the globe. Now, more than ever is a requirement to be ahead of the competition as the world has undergone a paradigm shift in its approach to most of everything.
With these evolving times, organizations are compelled to reconsider their existing production methodologies. While every organization has its unique working approach, every single one is based on three of the most robust methodologies: Waterfall, Agile, and DevOps. But, amid these fluctuating times where speed and perfection are pertinent, which approach should one choose?
All three methodologies are tried and tested methods that have yielded positive results to the organizations over time. One should understand that regardless of choice, the company is bound to achieve the results they desire.
However, given that time is money, one should choose carefully as the expenses and resources go up exponentially whenever an illogical choice is made.
Let’s dig into each of the methodologies to help you zero in on one of the approaches that suit you, now and in the future.
Waterfall does sound refreshing, doesn’t it? The mind’s eye envisions water gushing down from a precipice all the way to the ground. The development methodology of the waterfall is also quite similar to it. It is a linear production model which allows the developers to proceed only after the preceding phase is complete.
This methodology suits smaller scale projects which have easily definable deliverables. The project members would have to tick the checkboxes of the methodology. The first milestone is that the team members need to thoroughly document the requirements. Although each phase is equally important, this first phase defines the objectives of the project.
Post-documentation, the members can start the development, followed by the implementation of the developed deliverables. The testing team will step in here and detect the areas for improvement. Once the bug fixing is done, the deliverable will be deployed. The deliverable will be maintained if required.
Advantages of Waterfall
What is to be observed here is that the team members should complete every stage to proceed to the next. As one team completes its contributions to the product, the other team shall pick off from where the former left off. This helps the next team to modify or rectify the project as there is a partially existing framework. This assembly line of the process ensures that the client has a product borne out of team efforts.
What lends waterfall an edge over the other two methodologies is that one doesn’t need any certification to participate in the waterfall production. Planning and creating an outline are enough for the team members to get the ball rolling. And, unlike scrum, the work is not divvied into multiple sprints where each of them has an individual objective. In the waterfall method, the objectives are not deviated from as the team never loses sight of the end goals. In a manner of speaking, waterfall allows the production team to work backward.
However, documentation must be maintained to ensure that everyone is in the loop given the amount of collaboration. This paves the way for seamless transition whenever a new team member takes on the work.
Cons of Waterfall
While all of this sounds great, one should observe that waterfall is an assembly line that produces software. Suppose something messy is detected in the testing phase. It will delay the development and force the development team to explore new ways that would be resource intensive as waterfall doesn’t allow much of any changes once a stage is finished. This mortifying disadvantage also holds the potentiality to render the finished components useless. Should the potentiality ever become definitive, it would only result in higher expenses.
It is pertinent that the end goals must be defined initially as this allows the planning of the stages. However, this makes matters complex; if the client has varying needs, the team members would have to revert to square one. What’s more, is that the testing is considerably delayed in this method as the components can’t be passed on to the following team members until all the preceding steps are complete. This delays the ultimate deployment and affects maintenance.
If you take an objective look, you will understand that waterfall is best suited for projects with little to no modifications when it comes to end-goals. And, yes, it does sound off-putting as the scope to revert to previous stages is quite discouraging.
However, this is the entire reason why the waterfall is favored for small-scale projects, as the occurrences of unexpected variables are less. Due to its pitfalls and new needs, there came forth another methodology: Agile.
Agile was first conceptualized by developers who put forth the methodology more as a guiding philosophy than as a methodology in ‘Agile Manifesto’. They envisioned an approach to produce high-quality software by doling out the software in iterations that can be frequently deployed but with minor improvements and upgrades.
One of the significant differences is that Agile doesn’t embrace the idea of ‘finished product’, which is the cornerstone of waterfall methodology. This idea of a complete product is junked as the development and deployment are incremental. These incremental updates will generally strong-arm the clients to perform new functions, rectify or improvise the existing infrastructure.
This methodology entails that the production department breaks down the work into components and roll them out in iterations. Although this iterative work means that the end goals are not amply focused on, it brings a lot of flexibility. Once the development team creates a component, the operations team immediately sets out to test it and deploy it once it is fit to be done so.
This approach is better suited for large-scale projects where there is no end in sight. As the flexibility is immense, companies across the globe have wound up favoring this approach for their product development. Let’s have a better look at the steps it entails.
To proceed with Agile, the production team should list the must-have features that need to be incorporated into the software. This can be done by bringing together the stakeholders and project development managers. The list of features can be shortlisted using the MoSCoW rule.
The rule is an acronym that denotes features into:
- Must have
- Should have
- Could have
- Would have them later
Once demarcated, the production team would have to estimate how long each of those features in MoSCoW would take. The timeline should also take cognizance of the feedback incorporation, one of Agile’s key features. For instance, once the operational team hits a massive bug, the development team should be ready to take on the unexpected job and rectify it.
This back and forth should be taken into consideration. Once the time estimates are firmed up, the team should pursue the compartmentalized work or ‘sprints’. These sprints are nothing but iterative works which come with a deadline. A sprint completion implies that an iteration’s development, implementation, testing, and deployment are done.
There are different types of Agile approaches. The first one, which we shall explore in this blog, is scrum. The scrum meetings, which a certified scrum master conducts, are heavily dependent on constant feedback. It is better suited for small teams as management of the sprint would be easy.
Starting with a planning meeting, the scrum master generally conducts the meetings daily and takes stock of the situation. These meetings are also followed by a discussion that would focus on the retrospective completions, which can be improvised.
The other approach to Agile is Kanban methodology which was first implemented in Japan to communicate manufacturing methods better. The Kanban method involves one overseeing the work progress visually. Using what is called a Kanban board, the team can place the sprint objectives as rows while the columns could be what all have been completed, what are the works in progress, what has been requested.
Given Agile’s popularity, there are many more approaches such as Feature Driven Development Method, Dynamic Software Development Method, and others. The onus falls upon the client and the production team to determine which Agile method they ought to choose.
Advantages of Agile
As you may have already surmised, flexibility is one of the most significant advantages of Agile. Not to throw shade at the waterfall, but Agile allows the teams to collaborate better. While waterfall offers robust results, Agile takes the pressure off the production team by allowing them to mitigate errors and failures with increased collaboration.
The development to deployment time is significantly stunted with better collaboration as the development team only needs to push out the completed components. The testing team no longer has to wait to test the entire package for bugs.
The clients will be better satisfied with the iterative rollout of the software as time savings are enhanced. And yes, the footloose approach of Agile does sound significantly better than waterfall, but like every other thing, this too has its flaws.
Cons of Agile
There is no definitive ending for software built using Agile. Once there is demand, the company would be compelled to roll out updates for as long as there is demand. A famous example would be iOS. Apple has been releasing new versions of iOS ever since iPhone was first released in 2007. In the same manner, if there is demand, there is likely no end in sight for the software built using Agile. The company should be prepared for this factor.
There is also the never-ending deployment of components. While waterfall delivers one whole package, Agile provides fragmented output. While this is one of the most significant advantages of Agile, it is also its disadvantage as each team with its own sprint will develop its own deliverables. Bringing them all together under one umbrella, as an update, takes its toll on the production team.
As perceived, the work is chopped into parts for all. This also results in documentation headaches as each team would have to coordinate their multiple additions, deletions, and whatever else they do to the project.
Bogging it further down is that the flexibility often results in the bungling up of resource management. As there is no such thing as an end goal, the production team may not know who to rope in and where they should concentrate their efforts. Ultimately, this results in unwanted headaches for the production team. To wick away such possibilities, there should be a clear vision of how to lend the product its shape rather than piecing the details as one goes along.
As with everything else, there are always those who perceive things differently, and Agile is no exception. Once it was implemented and used widely, people came up with a new method that is widely accepted to be faster than Agile. That method is DevOps.
DevOps is the rage now. Unlike its other two peers, DevOps is all about integrating together the best ideas of the Agile process with the IT production teams. Prior to DevOps, the developers would work independently of the other teams. The independence created an environment full of miscommunications and delayed rollouts as one had to coordinate with multiple team members. With these gaps, rivalry sprouted between the two teams, namely, development and operations teams.
DevOps is a radical solution which combines both teams. This methodology bridged the gap between the developers and operation members by increasing collaboration with better communication. This unification allowed the companies to deploy solutions faster and better.
However, to err is human but in this world, erring is not an option that many can afford. While Agile was all about flexibility which allowed the team members to rectify mistakes, DevOps is about automation as it saves time and effort. As DevOps is an offshoot of Agile, there lies the maxim to complete the work in iterations.
These incremental updates take the pressure off the DevOps members as they develop and deploy, after testing, the components in a much more coordinated manner. This brings us to the unmissable aspect of DevOps, which is enhanced collaboration. With the removal of barriers, there is undoubtedly higher collaboration which in turn leads to robust products.
Pros of DevOps
It is pretty obvious that DevOps encourages and perpetuates a swift rollout of products. As there is no sibling rivalry between the two teams, there is little to no chance of faux pas induced by miscommunications. Also, one can realize higher ROI as products are much better than those produced when development and operations teams were segregated. These great products lead to better customer satisfaction as bug fixing and improvements are made promptly.
What favors DevOps even better is that it allows the product to be continuously improved. This aligns with the Agile practices, which are continuous integration and deployment or CI/CD. In addition, the perpetual improvements bring the DevOps to value engineering principles, which should be an approach to be adopted by most.
At the end of the day, when one takes a step back and looks at DevOps, it is hard to ignore the methodolgy as it offers better benefits than Agile and waterfall. If anything, waterfall pales compared to DevOps as the former is all about working in a stipulated, compartmentalized manner. While Agile has the edge over the waterfall with its flexibility, DevOps has cohesiveness which propels productivity. Yet, despite all its advantages, some favor the other two methods. Let’s understand why.
Cons of DevOps
The unification of the two groups is not something that happens overnight. One must train and establish a chain of command and work culture that binds the team members together. This requires training them as the DevOps fusion is a gradual process. Also, if anyone from the parent organization or the outsourcing partner had the traditional setup, there would be a clash of cultures. The one with the traditional approach would have to remap their organization to suit DevOps.
And regardless of however rosy DevOps may appear, ultimately, it is all about bringing innovative people under one umbrella. This may lead to a clash of ideas and views, which would impede the progress. This has to be avoided by imbuing team spirit among all, and the time should be given for them to grow.
Lastly, the aspects of CI/CD are pretty innovative. However, the company would have to rope in software professionals who pack a punch when it comes to coding. This is essential as the company would essentially better the software and having mediocre coders or testers around won’t cut it. And we all know how tough it is to find the right people for the right job. So, where does this leave us?
There is no such thing as a compulsion or rule that dictates a company to restrict itself to one model. However, it is pertinent that the production manager has a strong grip on the knowledge and implementation processes. What’s more, is that the three methodologies are not some fluke successes that yielded results to their practitioners.
They have been followed for ages, and the reason that they are continued to be discussed to this day shows that they are relevant. Their existence is a good reason to develop a work culture that is compatible with these core methodologies. However, that is a task that is easier said than done, and this is the primary motivator for most IT companies to outsource their requirements to Veritis.
Veritis, a leading software solution provider to various Fortune 500 companies, offers reliable solutions that stand the test of time. These solutions are provided after studying the clients’ needs, and we go the extra mile to provide a solution that is not robust but also cost-effective. Be it Kanban or DevOps, we have in-house experts who don’t shy away from taking on a challenge as every challenge is an opportunity to serve you better.