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8 Reasons To Use Scrum Over Waterfall

With the growing competitive software industry, scrum is getting more attention from organizations. Let's discuss some key reasons why to use scrum over waterfall.
April 29 · 8 min read
Learn why Scrum is better than Waterfall

Scrum and waterfall are both well-known project management methodologies, but both are a lot different from each other. Waterfall has dominated the project management world for decades until the agile manifesto started to gather attention. Today, organizations are actively shifting to scrum-based project management owing to the tons of benefits it has to offer. So, what really makes scrum dominate the decades-old waterfall technique? Let's have a comprehensive discussion in this article.

Waterfall – Brief Overview

Also known as the linear-sequential life cycle model, the waterfall is a simple project management model that emphasizes completing each phase fully before proceeding to the next phase. The 6 phases involved in the waterfall model include:

  1. Requirements
  2. Design
  3. Implementation
  4. Testing
  5. Deployment
  6. Maintenance

In an ideal waterfall project, each of the above phases represents a separate software development stage that is completed before proceeding to the next stage. In fact, there is also a gate between stages, which is meant to review the outcome of the stage before heading to the next stage.

Advantages of Waterfall

Some of the key advantages of the waterfall model are as follow:

  • Both the customers and developers know what will be the end product right at the early stage of development. Owing to that, project planning and designing become a lot simple.
  • During the development period, team members of different skills can continue with other works at the same time. For example, testers can work on writing test scripts using the requirements document while the developers are working on the code.
  • It is a lot easier to track and measure the progress, as the whole work scope is well-known beforehand.
  • Customer presence is not that mandatory after the "requirements" phase, except for approvals, reviews, etc.
  • Since all software deliverables are clear, the software development planning can be more precise and efficient.

Disadvantages of Waterfall

Some of the key disadvantages of the waterfall model are as follow:

  • The "Requirements" stage has a lot of complications to deal with. First, it is challenging to document requirements in an easy-to-understandable way for customers. Secondly, asking for all minor to major details from customers in the early stage of the project is also a challenge. Lastly, it is not easy to make customers visualize an application just from the requirements document.
  • Since the product is accessible to the customers at the end after the completion of all the stages, it is more likely to get dissatisfaction from the customers. For example, if it took so long to complete a product, the customer's interest might have changed by then, thereby resulting in more dislike. Similarly, if customers mention some bugs or other crucial feature requests, then again it will be challenging for the development team to redo the whole process.

Scrum – Brief Overview

Scrum is an agile development methodology that emphasizes teamwork and iterative development process on well-defined goals. Scrum focuses on delivering value to the customers throughout the flexible and fast product development process. The key events in a scrum-based development project include:

  • Daily Scrum – A daily short stand-up meeting to discuss accomplishments of the previous day and doing planning on what to do in the next 24 hours.
  • Sprint – A sprint is a time-boxed period in which the development team completes a set amount of work.
  • Sprint Planning Meeting – A comprehensive meeting where goals are set.
  • Sprint Review – A sprint review is meant to analyze the outcome of the sprint and look for future adaptations.
  • Sprint Retrospective – A sprint retrospective is conducted after the sprint session to discuss what went well and what are the elements of improvements for the next sprint.

The main roles played in scrum are by the product owner, scrum master, and development team. The scrum artifacts include product backlog, sprint backlog, product increment, etc.

Advantages of Scrum

Some of the key advantages of scrum are as follow:

  • Scrum-based product development is based on continuous improvement and feedback. Customers can access and use the product during the development cycle, thereby resulting in better and early feedback and more room for changes.
  • Scrum encourages teamwork and a collaborative workforce. Whether it is daily stand-up meetings, sprint planning meetings, sprint reviews, or similar others, team members collaborate and work together to solve problems together.
  • Sprint sessions help team members to focus on one particular feature or upgrade at a time, thereby resulting in a more productive and focused team.
  • Scrum reduces the time-to-market significantly. It empowers teams to release the product and its features in an incremental manner so that product is accessible to customers earlier, while the customer feedback can be responded timely.

Disadvantages of Scrum

Some of the key disadvantages of scrum are as follow:

  • Scrum encourages time-boxed sprint sessions, but there are always chances that some items might not get delivered in that particular sprint.
  • Scrum emphasizes higher customer involvement, which can turn out problematic if customers get annoyed or don't feel interested in this type of engagement.
  • Scrum-based development is based on strong team collaboration. So, the efficiency of scrum is dependent on how much the development team is dedicated to the project.

8 Reasons to Use Scrum over Waterfall

Now that we have cleared our concepts around the waterfall and scrum methodologies, let's now shift our focus to the main topic that why scrum is better than waterfall methodology. Following are 8 reasons that reflect why scrum is a much better choice compared to the waterfall model:

1. Rapid Response to Changing Customer Requirements

In a waterfall development process, customers are required to be crystal clear with their requirements so that those requirements can be documented timely. It means customers should know exactly what they want beforehand, as it will be quite difficult to ask for major changes during the development process. In fact, when customers ask for frequent changes during development, it causes extra delays, project disruption, more cost, and unhealthy customer and developers relations.

Scrum addresses this concern effectively, as it prioritizes customer engagement and encourages an environment of frequent releases and continuous feedback. Customers can test out the product after a sprint session and give their responses, which are then addressed in the next sprint sessions.

2. All-in-One Scrum Team

Usually, organizations have separate departments for project management, software development, testing, analysis, etc. Different departments mean different managers and a different set of resources. When employees are distributed in multiple teams, collaboration can be disrupting or inefficient.

Scrum makes the team self-managing and equipped with all the technical skills it needs to complete the project effectively. In fact, scrum teams are capable to work autonomously, ensuring a more collaborative and productive workforce.

3. Reduces Technical Debt

One of the concerns in software development is timely delivery. When things don't go as scheduled, it results in more pressure on the development team. In this scenario, developers start to skip things that are not directly associated with coding, like commenting, etc. This missed work is called technical debt. Doing so might help the team in timely delivery, but it impacts the overall quality and makes software maintenance a lot harder.

Scrum reduces the technical debt owing to its iterative development nature. It requires that the scrum team state the quality standards beforehand and then meet those standards in every product iteration. In short, scrum emphasizes quality throughout the development cycle, thereby reducing technical debt greatly.

4. Better Customer Relationship

In a waterfall model, customers interact in only three main stages, i.e., gathering requirements, product testing, and signoff. There is no to minimal involvement of customers during the development phase in order to avoid frequent change requests asked by customers.

Scrum makes development customer-centric and gives the attention and priority to customers that they deserve. For example, "product owner" is the first representative of the customer that remains part of the project throughout the project development period. Next, customers are asked to join sprint review meetings where the scrum team briefs them about the work that is completed and asks for feedback. All the customers' feedback is then addressed in the next sprint session and then evaluated in the next sprint review meeting. In short, scrum considers customers part of the development team and highly values their responses.

5. Reduces Time to Market

One of the concerns with the waterfall model is that it requires all the product features to be developed before releasing the product in the market. However, not all features of the product are important. The focus should be on developing "Minimum Viable Product (MVP)" first and then gradually proceeding with advanced features.

Scrum emphasizes the minimum viable product from the very first day of the project. The goal is to complete and release those features first that are deemed important for customers, while the less important ones are completed gradually. Moreover, scrum also emphasizes building a releasable product version every 2-4 weeks of development. This way, the time-to-market reduces significantly, while customers get access to a useable version of the product much earlier.

6. More High-Quality Product

In a waterfall model, the product quality is a concern at the end and mostly gets impacted while fulfilling the deadline. Other than writing quality code, orienting the product based on customer expectations is deemed important for the quality of the product. However, traditional project management models fail to address the high-quality product needs of present times.

Scrum considers quality a top-priority right from the very first day of the development. It makes team members set what quality they want to accomplish and then makes them continuously check their quality parameters in the shape of sprint review sessions and other meetings. In short, scrum ensures a higher quality product with a faster market release, more satisfactory customers, and fewer maintenance needs.

7. Delivers What Customers Actually Wants

As time passes, customer requirements around the product also evolve. In the case of the waterfall model, a change request is a nightmare for the development team because they have to redo the whole development, testing, and release process. Therefore, it is not always possible to address all the requests of the customers.

As narrated above, Scrum focuses on customer-centric development. At the beginning of the project, it conducts the estimation session of the product backlog items (using techniques like Planning Poker, Async Poker, T-Shirt Sizing, and similar others) to have a clear view of the efforts required to complete those items. Moreover, it asks for regular feedback from customers during its sprint-based development cycles and addresses the change requests timely. This way, customers get what they actually want without worrying about asking any number of revisions they want.

8. Increases Productivity with Lower Cost

Traditional project management models like a waterfall are considered outdated in terms of productivity and lower cost. Due to minimal customer and developers interaction, the team is usually blind about how customers would react to the product. Similarly, the team members are scattered in different departments, thereby resulting in a big communication gap. Moreover, the waterfall model is more costly, as it takes more time to market, while the change requests further add up to the overall expenses.

Scrum not just ensures productivity with a self-managed and technically skilled team, it also lowers the cost significantly by reducing the time spent on unnecessary features and meetings. With lower technical debt and iterative-based customer-centric development, the team remains focused and motivated, thereby ensuring faster time to market.

Conclusion

Software development has seen a major shift owing to the growing competitive software industry, the world's digitalization, ever-increasing customer demands, etc. Today, software firms need such development strategies that result in faster time to market with products that customers need. Similarly, addressing customer requests timely is also a crucial success parameter today.

Scrum and waterfall are both project management methodologies, but the latter is not ticking the checkboxes of today's software development needs. The above 8 comparison points between scrum and waterfall have reflected how the waterfall model is considered outdated in present times and how scrum addresses the core project management responsibilities with its up-to-date strategies. In a nutshell, if you are looking for productivity, lower cost, high-quality products, customer-centric development, and responsive feedback, then scrum is the project management methodology you should adopt.

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