10th August 2019 | Tomasz Rzepecki | Digital Marketing Specialist

Waterfall vs SCRUM – what suits your project better?

Choosing the model of managing a project is an important decision to make at the beginning and may affect many aspects of your work. Is there a method that guarantees success for your project? Which to choose - the traditional, Waterfall model or ever increasing popular SCRUM framework, and what is the difference between them?

What is Waterfall model?

Waterfall is a method of creating software products and was developed in 1970 by Winston W. Royce.  This method focuses on a linear, cascade approach. The projects are divided to the phases, and in which particular actions are taken. The whole process could be described in 6 stages: 

  1. Requirements - this is the first stage that involves understanding what needs to be done, and what is its function, purpose, for whom it will be designed for etc. 
  2. System design – the gathered requirements form the first stage are analysed, and the system design is prepared. The System design specifies hardware and system requirements, and it helps to design the system architecture. 
  3. Implementation – with the input of system design phase, the system is developed in small units that stands for each functionality. 
  4. Integration and testing – all developed units are tested and integrated into system. 
  5. Deployment – after successful closing the integration and testing phase, and when all errors are removed, the system is then deployed for the customer or released into the market.
  6. Maintenance – this phase occurs after the deployment stage and involves making modifications to the system to improve the overall performance of the system, or removing defects uncovered during the live usage of the system. 

Important note is that next phase can only begin when the previous phrase has been finished. What is specific for this approach that it’s based on strict planning and performing the plan step by step. 

In general, this approach is easy to understand.

What is SCRUM framework?

The SCRUM is a modern approach to developing complicated products developed by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber in the early ‘90 and it should be considered more as a framework then method.

The SCRUM framework consists of SCRUM Teams and their associated roles, events, artefacts, and rules. Each component within the framework serves a specific purpose and is essential to SCRUM’s success and usage.

The most important thing is that it focuses on empiricism and short iterations which ends with ready to deploy increment. Experienced based decisions allow to optimize predictability and control risk. 

The are three pillars that uphold the empiricism: 

  • Transparency
  • Inspection
  • Adaptation

The SCRUM artefacts – Product Backlog, Increment, Definition of Done supports the transparency, while SCRUM events – sprint planning, daily SCRUM, sprint review and sprint retrospective are designed to allow frequent inspection and adaptation opportunities on specific time during the sprint (iteration). 

There are also three roles within the SCRUM: 

  • Product owner – responsible for maximizing the value of the product,
  • Developer – who is responsible for changing product backlog items in to increment, 
  • SCRUM Master – who is responsible for supporting the Product Owner and Developer in effective work with the product, and the SCRUM process to be understood and well implemented.  

In general, projects are developed in iterations up to 30 days, which allows time to inspect the job completed, and show its effect to the stakeholders, or even clients. After gathering the feedback from the market, the requirements and vison of the product can be adapted to meet the customers needs. 

The SCRUM Framework assumes continuous improvement of the process and of the work done, which enables it to become more and more effective in each iteration. 

What is unusual, the SCRUM also highlight the values that should be followed by people involved in the project to succeed: 

  • Courage 
  • Openness
  • Commitment
  • Focus
  • Respect

As SCRUM Guide says: 

“People personally commit to achieving the goals of the SCRUM Team. The SCRUM Team members have courage to do the right thing and work on tough problems. Everyone focuses on the work of the Sprint and the goals of the SCRUM Team. The SCRUM Team and its stakeholders agree to be open about all the work and the challenges with performing the work. SCRUM Team members respect each other to be capable, independent people.”

Advantages of Waterfall model

  • Easy to understand and manage – the stages are clearly defined,
  • Extensive documentation – provided during the first phases of the project: gathering requirements, and system design,
  • Clear expectation for a client – at the first stage, client knows what he will receive after the project ends. The size, cost and timeline of the project is well known at the beginning,
  • Easily adaptable – again thanks to documentation, any personal changes within the team should not have a major impact on the project. 

Limitations of Waterfall model

  • It is often resistant for changing of requirements of the project,
  • It takes a huge amount of time to prepare the documentation,
  • The whole product is tested at the end of the development process,
  • The plan does not consider a client’s evolving needs thorough the project cycle,
  • It is not an ideal solution for large projects.

Advantages of SCRUM model

  • Flexibility, and possibility to react to the changing needs of the client,
  • Development starts at the beginning of the project,
  • Small, self-organized teams that are extremely motivated which is likely to provide better quality of the product,
  • Close cooperation with client, customers, quick adjustment,
  • Frequently delivered increment gives an opportunity to see how product grow,
  • It is a good way to develop big, complicated products on shifting environment.

Limitations of SCRUM model 

  • It is easy to understand, lightweight, but hard to master,
  • Not a best solution for small projects,
  • It requires an expert to take important decision in the meetings,
  • As not as popular and well understood as Waterfall model it is often implemented and executed in the wrong way. 

What should you choose for your project? 

The Waterfall and SCRUM approach to project management are different, but both are good for specific products. Neither Waterfall nor SCRUM is a guarantee of a successful project.  This is dependent on the project complicity and the changing environment. In general, Waterfall will be a great solution for simple products with high level of certainty, while SCRUM will show its best advantages while developing the project in a highly changing and demanding environment with big uncertainty. 

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