IT Team Management Tips

6 Alternative Software Development Methodologies

Learn about the pros and cons of different software methodologies and choose the one that suits your project.

The success of a project depends on a wide variety of factors such as the proficiency of your software developers, the relevance of your equipment, proper planning, sufficient budget, proper quality assurance, and more. All of that, however, falls apart if not managed well, and you must choose an appropriate software development methodology that would complement your project and help you ensure its success. Over the years, project management practitioners came up with a number of approaches and alternative software development strategies that make it easier for the teams to achieve great results depending on the circumstances they are put into. 

Whatever works for one project might not work for another. That is why there are several approaches to software development that allow the developers to operate more effectively and more from one stage of the software development life cycle (SDLC) to another seamlessly. So, let’s take a look at the insight we’ve gathered and see which approach might suit your project better.

Waterfall

Waterfall methodology is considered by many to be the most straightforward approach to software development and it actually is rather straightforward and rigid as it consists of sequential phases that follow one another in a strict order. 

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In most cases, the waterfall model goes through the following phases: 

requirements gathering

  1. Design
  2. Implementation
  3. Verification
  4. Maintenance 

All of these stages are performed in sequential order and the next stage can be started after the previous one is over. It is a rather comprehensive model that leaves no room for ambiguity, which is why it is essential to have clear objectives and stable requirements.

Advantages

  • First and foremost, this method makes it much easier to manage the team and its resources when working on the custom software development project. 
  • The SDLC is defined precisely while gathering the client’s requirements, and after that, the team has clear deadlines, requirements, and tasks for each development stage. 
  • This approach suits projects within stable markets that are resilient to changes and can operate within the same frameworks for years. 

Disadvantages

  • The main disadvantage of this method is that it is rather rigid and does not allow for any flexibility. Once the development stage is over, it is hard to come back to it and implement any changes. That is why many project managers seek alternative development methods not satisfied with the waterfall method and its rigidity. 
  • Another issue with this method is that it is rather slow. As said, you cannot start working on a new stage of development while still working on the previous one, even if you have enough people and resources to do so.

Agile

Agile is an alternative development methodology that offers a completely different experience from the Waterfall model. The very idea is to break the development process down into bite-size pieces, increments, that allow the developers to make fast gradual changes to create a perfect end product. Here at Intersog, we leverage the benefits of Agile to deliver progress on flexible projects and ensure visible progress. The project managers can map out a set of small milestones throughout the SDLC called sprints, and each developer would work on their respective tasks that lead to the final project delivery. Agile development also implies constant cooperation and communication within the team as well as frequent reviews and feedback gathering. Such close cooperation strengthens the team and creates trust between the vendor and the client. 

Advantages

  • The core benefit of the agile methodology is that it allows the developers to make incremental progress and return to the previous milestones at any time in case any improvements are due. Simply put, you see progress every day, and in case anything goes wrong, it is never too late to go back to the problem area and fix the issues. 
  • Another great benefit of agile methodology is that it suits dynamic projects perfectly. If you work in a volatile market and fast-growing technologies, it is best to stick to the methodology that allows for changes and improvements on the go. 
  • This approach suits the projects with ambiguous requirements or the projects where you don’t know exactly what the final product would look like. 

Disadvantages

  • Agile methodology is too dependent on real-time communication within the team, which might be challenging to establish while working with a remote team. 
  • It also requires some serious experience from the project manager running the whole process. The development process might be too complex and too chaotic for the project manager who does not have the right experience, which is why you would rely heavily on the skills of your PM and a scrum master throughout the SDLC.

Rapid

The idea behind Rapid is to repeat the user design and construction phase as many times as needed to satisfy the client’s requirements. Rapid application development (RAD) is aimed at producing great results fast and at a low cost. Being a popular alternative of agile in software development, it allows the developers to adjust to the changing requirements to meet the needs of a changing market. 

There are four main stages in the Rapid SDLC: 

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  • Requirement gathering
  • User design
  • Construction
  • Cutover 

So, as much as agile, this approach suits dynamic projects in volatile markets and allows for rapid changes at a low cost.

Advantages

  • This methodology is best suited for projects where the end goal is clearly defined and the business objectives are clear and precise. 
  • The main difference between agile and rapid is that rapid is better suited for small-scale projects that can be finished within weeks or a couple of months.

Disadvantages

The rapid methodology relies on the skills of the developers who can implement changes and develop new solutions fast. If you are not sure of your developers’ expertise, the RAD approach might not be the best fit for you. Intersog, however, can offer you a selection of the industry’s best dedicated developers to compose a truly professional development team. 

Lean

Lean methodology is meant to do exactly what the name says – lean down and cut all the redundancies and inefficiencies to maximize the performance of the enterprise or a particular project. The idea here is to eliminate all the processes that bring no value to the project, deliver results fast, emphasize continuous growth, and empower the team. Some of the core ideas of the Lean software development life cycle can be employed in other methodologies, so it is also a rather versatile model that leaves you much space for experimentation. At the same time, it also has certain unique features and requirements such as the focus on reducing effort while maximizing the efficiency of the processes. 

Advantages

  • With the Lean methodology, you can get more value while spending less money and putting less effort into the entire development process. 
  • Nobody wants to pay money for unnecessary services and redundant features and nobody wants to waste time working on useless solutions that give no actual value. Lean organizes all the processes and prioritizes them so that you and your development team know exactly what to do at what time. 
  • This methodology implements stream maps that are somewhat similar to agile streams and allows you to avoid duplicating tasks and wasting time and resources.

Disadvantages

The fact of the matter is that the professional software development teams already use a Lean approach to some extent throughout the development process. This approach works best when it complements another methodology as basically any project can be made Lean by reducing wastes and putting an emphasis on top-priority tasks. This is not a disadvantage per se, but it means that you can get the benefits of the Lean model while using almost any other model at the same time. This also means that you should be careful when choosing the development team, as there is always a risk of getting entangled with a team of rookies, losing on the innovative potential, and losing to the competition. That is why you need a team of developers who can adapt their approach specifically to your needs.

Extreme Programming

Extreme Programming or XP is one of the branches of Agile methodology that is rather radical and fast-paced. The idea of the XP comes from the criticism of the Waterfall model that is considered too rigid. The XP is aimed at tailoring software towards the client’s needs every step of the way and delivering results fast. Similar to the Agile methodology, it follows the iterative processes model that involves breaking the development life cycle into many small milestones or sprints. The main difference between classic Agile and XP is that the latter follows a strict priority order. You set the priorities for the project delivery, and the developers follow your list to the tee. Additionally, the XP offers a clear and precise framework for meeting the client’s requirements, so all the processes and all the milestones are clearly defined and trackable. The developers deliver results and reports upon each milestone so that the client can review and monitor their performance to give feedback and implement any necessary changes.

Advantages

  • One of the main benefits of extreme programming is that it is rather lean and only focuses on necessary tasks rather than dispersing the efforts around. There’s no unnecessary programming, everything is concise and on point, and the developers follow precise workflows established throughout the planning stage. 
  • The development process is backed up by constant testing and quality checks that allow the team to quickly determine and fix the issues. 
  • The other benefit is that XP allows for quick changes and fixes. You can return to the problem areas at any time or make necessary changes to the project whenever changes are needed.

Disadvantages

  • As well as the agile model, XP requires constant cooperation between the client and the vendor, which might be challenging for outsourced teams, especially offshore developers working on the opposite side of the globe. 
  • The model might also be quite challenging to implement as it requires sufficient control from the project manager and a good amount of self-discipline from the developers.

Feature Driven Development

When software developers work on large projects that require months and months of backend coding, implementing the feature-driven development (FDD) model might just be the right idea. The methodology is based on five steps that ensure a simple and comprehensive development cycle: 

model development

  1. Building the list of features
  2. Plan for each feature
  3. Design for each feature
  4. Build for each feature

As you see, the whole approach is centered around individual features. Unlike Agile or XP where you have the development process broken down into sprints, with FDD, you have your development process broken down into small features. Usually, each feature takes a couple of weeks to finish following the five steps above, and by the end of the development cycle, you get yourself a fully functional end-product. 

Advantages

  • The model is a perfect match for the remote teams as it requires fewer meetings between the client and the vendor. The developers can work almost completely autonomously and most of the communication happens via documentation. 
  • The model also allows for a mode user-centric experience. It also works well with large and long-term projects and allows for great scalability as you can add new features however many times you want. 

Disadvantages

  • The model requires a strong understanding of the project’s scope from every individual developer – all of them need to know what they are working towards. 
  • The emphasis on the individual coding abilities of each developer also leaves some room for human error, which requires lots of quality checking and subsequent fixing.

Which Model to Choose?

Of all the alternatives available, you must choose the one that fits your project. Here at Intersog, we leverage a number of alternative software development methodologies, including the ones mentioned above, to account for our clients’ varying needs. At the same time, we prefer Agile as the most commonly used approach that fits most projects and allows for greater flexibility, especially when it comes to the long-term development cycles. The experience we’ve gained over 15 years in the industry allows us to leverage different methodologies to adapt to the client’s needs and deliver tangible success regardless of the project’s complexity. 

If you are working on a large and dynamic project, Agile and XP might be better choices for you; in case your requirements are set in stone and would not change over time, Waterfall might be the way to go. You can take advantage of the Lean model too, implementing some of its ideas in your base model. The Feature Driven Development would fit large projects too, so you have plenty of choices here. There are, however, more methodologies out there to go with and we’ve only touched on the most popular ones. If you are not sure which one to go with, do not hesitate to contact our consulting experts and they’ll put some good ideas on your table.

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Intersog has been recognized as a leading IT solutions provider in the United States and beyond. The company has been providing tech consulting, staffing and software development services for Fortune-500 companies, tech startups, and SaaS enterprises for more than fourteen years.