IT Team Management Tips

Top Software Development Methodologies

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

The success of any project depends on several factors including the proficiency of your dev team, sufficient buy in and budget, good QA and ultimately, good process. This makes it critical to select the right approach from the top software development methodologies. Assessing the organization, project goals, current state and team skills will help you pick the best project management methodology to ensure its success.

Whatever works for one project might not work for another. Thus, there are several popular methodologies that allow a team to operate the most efficiently and effectively for them.

So, let’s take a look at these options and see which approach might best suit your project.

1. Waterfall

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

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

  1. Requirements gathering
  2. Design
  3. Implementation
  4. Verification
  5. Maintenance 

All of these stages are performed in sequential order, the next step is started after the previous one is over. It is a relatively comprehensive model, so it is essential to have clear objectives and stable project requirements.

Waterfall 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. 

Waterfall 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.

2. Agile

Agile is an alternative development methodology that offers an entirely different experience from the Waterfall model. The idea is to break the development process down into bite-size pieces, increments, allowing 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. For example, 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. 

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Agile Methodology Advantages

  • The core benefit of the agile methodology is that it allows the developers to make incremental progress in short iterations. Allowing a return to the previous milestones at any time in case any improvements are due. Basically, in case the direction needs correcting, you can always right course the tasks. 
  • 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 projects with ambiguous requirements or projects where you don’t know exactly what the final product would look like. 

Agile Methodology 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 deep 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.

3. Rapid Development

The idea behind Rapid is to repeat the user design and construction phase as often as needed to satisfy the client’s requirements. Rapid Application Development (RAD) aims to produce great results quickly and at a low cost. Being a popular alternative to 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: 

  • 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.

RAD SDLC 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.

RAD SDLC Disadvantages

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

4. Lean

Lean methodology is meant to do precisely what the name says – pare down and cut all the redundancies and inefficiencies to maximize the performance. Maximizing the output of the project and the individual contributors. The idea is to eliminate all the processes that bring no value, deliver quick results and emphasize efficiency over process.

Some of the core ideas of the Lean software development life cycle (SDLC) can be employed in other methodologies. Lean SDLC is also a rather versatile model that leaves allows 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. 

Lean SDLC Advantages

  • With the Lean methodology, you can get more value while spending less money and putting less effort into the entire development process. 
  • People don't want to pay money for unnecessary services and redundant features that give no value. Lean SDLC organizes all the processes and prioritizes them so that you and your development team know exactly what to do and when. 
  • This methodology implements stream maps similar to agile streams and allows you to avoid duplicating tasks which wastes time and resources.

Lean SDLC Disadvantages

The fact is that 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 waste and emphasizing 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 simultaneously. However, this also means that you should be careful when choosing the development team. There is always a risk of getting entangled with a group of rookies, losing on the innovation potential, and failing against the competition. That is why you need a team of developers who can adapt their approach to your needs.

5. Extreme Programming

Extreme Programming, or XP, is one of the branches of Agile methodology that is rather radical and fast-paced. The idea of XP comes from the criticism of the Waterfall model, which is considered too rigid.

XP is aimed at tailoring software to 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 milestones are clearly defined and trackable.

Finally, the developers deliver results and reports upon each milestone so that the client can review and monitor their performance to give feedback and implement necessary changes.

XP Advantages

  • One of the main benefits of extreme programming is that it is relatively lean and only focuses on necessary tasks rather than dispersing the efforts around it. With extreme programming, everything is concise and to the point. 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 determine and fix the issues quickly. 
  • 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.

XP 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.

6. Feature-Driven Development

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

  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 the development process is broken down into sprints, with FDD, your development process is broken down into small parts. 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. 

FDD Advantages

  • The model is a perfect match for remote teams as it requires fewer client and vendor meetings. The developers can work almost completely autonomously, and most 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 often you want. 

FDD 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.

Top Software Development Methodologies - Which is Best?

Of all the alternatives available, you must choose the one that fits your project. At Intersog, we leverage different software development methodologies, including the ones mentioned above. This helps us adapt to account for our clients’ varying needs.

However, we prefer Agile as the most commonly used approach that fits most projects and allows for greater flexibility, especially regarding long-term development cycles. In addition, our 18+ years experience enables us to adapt to the client’s needs and deliver 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. If your requirements are set in stone and would stay the same over time, Waterfall might be the way to go. You can also take advantage of the Lean model, 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 unsure which one to go with, do not hesitate to contact our consulting experts, who will put some good ideas on your table.

A Checklist to Choosing the Right Methodology

You've made it through all the necessary considerations and are now choosing between different agile software development methodologies.

Here is a quick checklist of everything you need to keep in mind:

  • The methodology of your choice should match your team's and client's goals. However, it must also leave some room for adjustments, so you can modify the project quickly as changes occur.
  • As opposed to selecting a development methodology, you should think more about a development environment rather than a particular approach. For example, consider the tools that follow a specific method, but ensure that your engineers have the necessary technical skills to use them.
  • If you are working on a smaller project, consider a throw-away approach. Development is done in the short term and re-evaluations take place over time to add new features.
  • Conversely, if you need a more extensive project with long-term support, consider Feature-Driven Development to improve scalability and usability.
  • Make sure all developers understand the methodology and can apply its principles consistently. Consider providing training and guidelines that improve the team's productivity.
  • Also, if you have a specific tool or framework that needs to be implemented, check whether your development environment is ready to support it.
  • Ensure your technical leader is well-versed in your chosen methodology and knows how to tailor the project for its purposes.
  • Finally, keep in mind that methodology is a living thing. Changes occur in the project's development environment.

Solid SDLC and Development Best Practices

At Intersog, we have worked with most of the development methodology options expressed in this overview. Our most common method is Agile with a splash of test driven and feature driven development drivers. We are adept at building from scratch and producing leading edge technology solutions. Also, we provide just the right skill set at the exact moment you need it! Reach out to us if you need product or people support with technical prowess necessary to get the job done!

IT and talent solutions
Intersog is a leading IT solutions provider in the United States and other countries. The company has provided agile software engineering and staffing services for Fortune 500 corporations, tech startups, and SaaS businesses for over eighteen years. Why Intersog.