Waterfall, Agile, Kanban, and Scrum: A Quick Guide [2020]

Qubit Labs
Qubit Labs Team

There are thousands of terms appearing every year in the IT industry, so it might be challenging to be aware of all the programming languages, frameworks, or methodologies. The adoption of this or that method might significantly influence the outcomes of your project. They differ to a great extent, having contrasting structures and implementation processes.

A methodology is applied to form a clear picture, create a structural approach, and integrate the team. It allows you to avoid “chaos” and see where the project is moving, as well as clearly understand what step you should take next. As you can see, the order is significant, so Qubit Labs has decided to shed light on three popular methodologies, compare them, and see the average salaries of developers who specialize in Waterfall, Agile, Kanban, and Scrum. So, let’s start with a project management methodologies comparison.


What is Waterfall Method?

One of the oldest and sought-after IT methodologies for building a multi-level development process is the Waterfall model. There, each level of the development, corresponding to the software lifecycle stage, continues the previous one. That is, in order to move to a new phase, a developer must fully complete the current one. There are five stages related to the development of the Waterfall, which include:



  • Analytics


The team creates the future project requirements, writes a detailed technical task, plans the working schedule, and evaluates the possible risks. As soon as the plan includes all the requirements and instructions, the employees move to the next stage.



  • Projecting


The team creates a prototype and prepares design templates. Professionals choose the programming platform, address the project’s security questions, clarify technical details, and describe the product’s users’ roles. After that, the concerns regarding reliability, performance, and further technical support are being finalized.



  • Development


The code that corresponds to the previously developed documentation is being written.



  • Testing


The final version of the product is being tested by specialists who identify and detect the bugs. This stage is crucial because the team might identify some severe issues in the code and spend a lot of time addressing them.



  • Implementation and technical support


The project is being transferred to the client, who puts it into work while the team checks the performance, eliminates any failures, and plans to extend the functional based on the users’ feedback.


When comparing Waterfall vs Agile, the main distinctions are in their “patterns” of work. The classic Waterfall methodology implies following pre-written and agreed technical tasks. The flexibility doesn’t fit it. Yet Agile allows implementing changes at any moment of the development process. Moreover, another important dissimilarity regarding Agile vs Waterfall is in their values. For example, Agile puts the team and cooperation first, while Waterfall is more oriented at processes and tools.


Benefits of Waterfall

Waterfall methodology is relatively clear and simple, and nowadays, it is mostly used by large companies for big and complicated projects that imply comprehensive risk monitoring. The advantages of this method include:


  • Documentation of each stage
  • Precise time and cost planning
  • Transparency of the processes for the requisitioner
  • The absence of additional expenses for the communication within the team
  • Requirements’ stability
  • The strict control of the project’s management


Thus, the differences regarding Agile vs Waterfall project management come down not only to the ability to implement changes during the development process but also to cost-effectiveness. The Waterfall and Agile methodologies can be combined in a similar project to open new “horizons” and receive a large number of interesting opportunities.


Pitfalls of Waterfall

As with any other method, Waterfall has its drawbacks. One of the most significant ones is that you can’t add changes if some unforeseen issues occur. Once you’ve finished the stage, you can’t get back to it again. Being the most significant disadvantage within the methodology, it’s simultaneously the most distinctive difference between Agile and Waterfall. Other cons include:

  • Waterfall project requires constantly relevant documentation
  • The customer doesn’t’ have an opportunity to check the system in advance, even with the “pilot” version
  • Every single requirement has to be mentioned at the outset of the project’s lifecycle
  • The whole project is being done at once, so there is no possibility to include the adaptation

As you can see, Waterfall is the most suitable for the projects, the requirements and limits of which are transparent and accurately stated beforehand. When turning to the comparison between Agile and Waterfall methodologies, we can mention that the second one is more suitable for large orders and scientific developments, being relatively ineffective for business applications.

Comparison of advantages and disadvantages of Waterfall and Agile

What are Agile Methods? Are they Better than Traditional Methods? Why or Why Not? 

Agile is a method related to flexible approaches in software development. In this case, there is not much difference when comparing framework vs methodology because such adaptable approaches are called both ways. Agile has emerged in the IT-sphere but spread to other areas, from artificial intelligence to industrial engineering. There is the Agile Manifesto that includes twelve principles of Agile development. Most of them come to the idea that people and interaction are more valuable than processes and tools or that the readiness to change is more crucial than the initial plan. Agile has become the base for a range of flexible methodologies, among which there are such Agile types as Scrum, Lean, and XP.

When it comes to Agile vs traditional project management, Agile admits that plans tend to change, and it doesn’t matter how experienced you are because some unintended events always occur. Traditional approaches, like the mentioned Waterfall, are prone to total planning. It often happens that additional requirements or opportunities appear in the project. Thus, it’s better to envisage any uncertainties in advance and implement them in the working process. Some ideas indeed come to the mind in the process, so when having opportunities to turn them into reality, your project will have more chances to succeed.

There are no major stages because they all repeat one after another:

  • The project is divided into iterations, so-called cycles. Then, planning, analysis, projecting, development, and testing are implemented during each of them
  • Iterations are split into sprint management stages, which last one or two weeks during which each team member has to follow a specific task set. Each day, the team meets on the briefings, sets daily targets, and tells about the previous day’s achievements.
  • Designers are not detached because they are always in-touch with the developers and testers, updating the interface to provide the best quality and usability for future users.
  • The process is utmost flexible as, after each iteration, the team receives a potentially working product, which it analyzes and improves.

Therefore, it’s crucial to set the priorities correctly when implementing Agile. You have to make sure that the team is focused on the same sprint or the most important task at a certain moment. These components will guarantee the achievement of your goals. Let’s see what benefits Agile has to offer.


Advantages of Agile 

  • Accurate and short iterations, implying that development cycles last from two weeks to two months
  • The opportunity to alter the project from scratch even after completing several iterations
  • The flexibility minimizes all possible risks
  • Agile is perfect for MVP development
  • High level of team members’ involvement
  • A good reputation of all Agile types among the users

Again, when it comes to Agile vs Waterfall project management, the first one is preferable when it’s essential to be oriented at the outcomes rather than documentation. Moreover, Agile allows you to promptly react to the changes and adapt the product according to the “fresh” requirements.


Shortcomings of Agile 

It is clear that, like other IT methodologies, Agile can’t be a “one size fits all” approach because all customers have different expectations, based on which they form their requests. So, let’s go through several Agile’s deficiencies:

  • The budget planning process is complicated by constantly changing demands
  • The methodology calls for constant immersion into the Agile processes, which might be challenging for junior developers
  • When comparing Agile vs traditional project management, the first one’s flexibility might turn into a risk. The thing is that the project’s improvements might take an eternity, which might cause the reduction of the product’s quality

Therefore, if an experienced team is working on the project, and the customer takes part in the development, Agile would be the choice to make. Notably, it’s useful for startups if there is a need to develop a working version of the product within short terms.


What is Kanban Used For?

Kanban methodology is implemented to structure the development process visually. Kanban means “visible board” in Chinese. In fact, this is a huge board on which tasks move between sections. Some IT companies prefer to use regular (physical) whiteboards with paper cards. However, most use virtual boards, like the online tool Trello, which makes it easy to customize your board for every project. The system has all the necessary tools to manage the development process, and some companies prefer to create their own ERP systems.

You can see all your projects and stages of their completion/incompleteness. In this way, it is easy to coordinate developers’ work to decide whether they need to work harder or pause. Kanban software development methodology teaches to focus on the main things that add value to the product. You can bring down a lot of useless bugs and improvements, and this will give results. Distinguishing critical bugs from low-priority ones is not an easy task for a product manager, but this is where Swimlanes come in. These are the horizontal columns on the Kanban board, which usually include blockers, tasks and bugs, and reviews. Thus, the developer can divide the duties between these columns to see what he/she has to concentrate on.

Importantly, in the means of Scrum vs Kanban, the second methodology is based more on “to-do lists” rather than intervals. It allows you to delegate multiple tasks and focus on workload, not to overburden individual team members. So, let’s explore the advantages of Kanban.


Strengths of Kanban

This methodology has nine values, through which Kanban can be introduced. These include transparency, balance, cooperation, customer focus, flow, leadership, understanding, agreement, and respect.

  • Planning flexibility
  • High team involvement in the development process
  • Shorter cycle times
  • Fewer bottlenecks
  • Visibility
  • The workload is transparent and can be easily changed
  • Simple organizational process


Limitations of Kanban

Kanban’s main principle is to limit unnecessary work to the extent that it does not go beyond the team’s bandwidth. However, it drags on some pitfalls:

  • Due to the lack of time constraints, it might be complicated to predict the completion of a particular module
  • Outdated data on a Kanban board can hinder productivity
  • The amount of uncompleted tasks is limited

Therefore, Kanban is a practice that helps you succeed, but using flexible methods alone is optional. Essential changes are achieved by eliminating wasted time, managing bottlenecks, and reducing variability.

Comparison of advantages and disadvantages of Kanban and Scrum

What is Scrum?

Scrum is a flexible development methodology with a non-standard distribution of team roles and a unique iterations organization. Like other flexible methods and project management techniques, Scrum implements a team approach, short iterations, and continuous improvement along the way. These principles are adopted with a set of specific roles, rules, processes, and tools that make teams deliver products in half the time.

When it comes to determining the difference between Agile and Scrum, one has to mention that Scrum is one of Agile’s frameworks. They imply having contrasting values, methodologies, and roles. Scrum is based on a team, a well-coordinated entity of professionals. Scrum teams are autonomous because the participants themselves decide how to complete the tasks.

The Scrum Master is the Scrum Team’s formal leader, an assistant who makes sure the methodology is applied correctly and maintains the team spirit. A product owner is a person responsible for the functionality of the final product. He/she makes a list of project backlog and adheres to it as the project progresses. One’s area of responsibility are the actions within the project and communication with the customers. As we already know about “what is Agile and Scrum,” let’s move on to Scrum’s benefits.

What are the Advantages of Utilizing Scrum?

Scrum is a prominent methodology, which is highly effective, transparent, and motivating. This is a “win-win” approach, from which both the team and the customer can benefit.

  • It involves sprint management, each stage of which ends with a completed module that can be shown to the client
  • The main performance indicator is the average time of tasks’ completion on the board
  • It is based on iterations that combine planning, process optimization, and launch
  • Scrum involves four types of meetings
  • In terms of Agile vs Scrum, the second one is about developing team members’ soft skills

Disadvantages of Scrum

Nevertheless, Scrum is a formalized methodology, and it is not so easy to apply it for some projects.

  • When comparing Kanban vs Scrum, the second one is less flexible
  • Scrum requires additional roles/team members
  • Scrum requires scheduled meetings and daily reports

All in all, when comparing Scrum vs Agile, one has to note that Scrum is a combination of Agile’s philosophy regarding project management and unique roles and processes. It can be made more complicated or simple, combined with other approaches, and scaled to meet the businesses’ needs.


Average Annual Scrum Manager Salary by Country 

USA $113,041
Canada $71,357
Brazil $15,692
UK $75,212
Germany $76,372
Norway $99,818
Denmark $130,062
Poland $35,436
France $66,019
Spain $51,998
Ukraine $12,688
Singapore $79,059
India $17,004
Australia $80,631


As shown in the table, the scrum manager’s place of residence significantly affects the wage one will receive for his/her work. In some regions, where the economic situation is more stable, the managers  have higher salary demands. In other countries, you can hire experienced professionals but for much less money. You might think it’s about the quality of services specialists from France and Ukraine deliver. However, their knowledge and skills are equal, but their expectations are contrasting due to their countries’ specificities. As one can see, the highest salaries are in Denmark and the USA, while specialists from Brazil and India receive lower wages.


To Wrap Up

In this article, we have compared several methodologies as well as researched the differences between framework vs methodology. When it comes to implementing a particular method into the project, one should base on the requirements, deadlines, goals, financial opportunities, and readiness to be involved in the development process. Speaking of Waterfall and Agile methodologies, they have contrasting approaches, so it’s quite challenging to say that this or that one is the best. The choice comes down to the customer who has to set the goals, create a technical task, and determine which methodology would most efficiently meet his/her expectations.

As for Agile vs Waterfall vs Scrum, if you have carefully read the article and understood the differences between the mentioned methodologies, at this point, you should already have a grasp of which approach is the most relevant. In case you prefer classics, then Waterfall is for you, but when flexibility is what you are striving for, then you might want to focus on Agile. Scrum combines features of the mentioned methodologies, so if you want the best of both worlds, pay attention to this structured yet fluid framework. Kanban would become your genuine aide in case you want to have balance and avoid putting “roles” on the employees. If you have any questions left, Qubit Labs would eagerly help you out, so feel free to contact us.


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