Software development methodologies are a series of processes that respond to how a software development project should be carried out, where procedures, rules, and structures are established for the development team. It aims to give a formal framework to the dynamics of information and communication within the team while seeking to systematize the development of the project.
After outlining the various ways to organize a development process and execute a project, it is worth noting that there are specific methodologies that can provide structure and order to these processes. By following these methodologies, a better quality product can be achieved, and the development process can be carried out in the most efficient manner possible.
Why choose a software development methodology?
If you choose to start a software development without any kind of structure, you run the risk of suffering a series of mishaps that will result in project failure. When we talk about potential problems, we are referring to changing customer requests, communication failures, constant meaningless revisions, and unplanned reactions, and their consequences range from loss of time, money, and resources to the delivery of applications or products that do not match what the customer needs or expected.
To bypass this, it is necessary to choose the right methodology and carry it out in an applied and disciplined manner throughout the course of the project. Working under the structure of a development methodology brings benefits not only for the team of developers but also for the client and the user. It avoids discussions, and misunderstandings, and promotes the satisfaction of customer needs and the improvement of the final product. At the same time, it allows to keep a defined control, mitigate risks, and know the deadlines and costs of the tasks to be performed.
We’ll illustrate the methodologies that can be categorized into 3 types: waterfall, iterative, and continuous model.
The implementation of this methodology is much more rigid and follows a fixed sequence. Its steps and phases are well-defined, and it aims to fulfill them almost precisely. The potential of this methodology lies in its excellent organization and the certainty of its outcome. Knowing the steps to follow meticulously makes it easier to understand how the project will end. However, the negative side of this methodology is its inflexible structure, which can sometimes lead to project failure.
It is more flexible and relies on constant review. Mainly composed of short sprints which allow it to build and evaluate quickly. It allows to improve or change the product on the fly in order to improve the final product for the user. In the same way, if a problem arises, it can be solved quickly and the project can continue.
Focuses on trying to minimize interruptions and maintain the workflow between the different phases of the project. Aims to avoid any type of waste in order to improve the efficiency of each step.
4 types of software development methodologies
User is the main focus of this methodology, which is likely why it is so widely used. How to give more satisfaction to the user and not pay so much attention to the necessary documentation and processes to follow.
For this, communication is a key factor in this model since the tasks are divided into small sprints (usually between 1 and 4 weeks) and its dynamics is to develop and test, for this developers need constant feedback from the customer or user.
- Minimal defects caused by continuous testing
- transparency between members
- Easy and flexible to make changes within the project
- Great quality of delivers
- High capacity for change there is a tendency for the client to make too many specific requests during the project, which can overwhelm the team.
- A lot of back and forth between developers and clients can lead to wasted time.
- By not having such clear and rigid structures it is necessary to have experienced developers who can work independently.
When to choose it?
It’s advisable to opt for this methodology when you have an experienced team with the ability to work quickly and without structures. That said, this may be the best option for projects with changing requirements, as you get to know the user and the market better you will have better ideas to add.
Probably the oldest methodology, but it is still useful and relevant for some projects. It is a linear method, divided into sequential steps.
As its name describes it, it’s a system that flows in one direction and does not go backward. Each step must be completed to move on to the next. It can be seen as having a rigid structure but is easy to carry out.
- Easy to understand and ideal for inexperienced teams.
- Each stage is well-defined and its specifications are known in advance, so there is no room for misunderstanding.
- Doesn’t have constant feedback during the project, so it can be risky to make mistakes.
- It’s normally tested at the end of the cycle of stages, so if there is a problem it can be quite complex to solve it.
- Waterfall’s rigidity is not recommended for projects where changes or new specifications are required within the development process.
Under what circumstances should you opt for it?
If you have a simple and clear objective with a complete understanding of the situation and no unpredictable factors, then it can be an ideal choice for inexperienced teams.
The goal of this methodology is to avoid any type of waste and increase productivity. Once the principles to be followed have been stipulated, the idea is to prevent all non-productive activities and at the same time add quality to deliveries.
It focuses on continuous learning while encouraging teams to keep an open mind in the course of development and to take into account all relevant factors when making a final decision. In this methodology, communication is also a key factor to enhance team collaboration, avoid processes that slow down development, and build efficient workflows.
- Avoids all kinds of waste: documentation, tasks, code, etc., which usually means lower final costs.
- Giving more decision authority to the team members encourages motivation and better performance from them.
- It’s necessary to have high-skilled developers to carry out this type of methodology.
- It may require a lot of necessary documentation.
When would it perfectly fit?
If you do not have a large budget to work with and want to empower a small development team.
A combination of an iterative model and waterfall model. It is composed of 4 stages:
- risk analysis
These 4 stages are repeated over and over again until the desired product is achieved. The project evolves when this 4-step cycle starts again.
- Continuous development helps with risk management, before an iteration or stage begins, all possible risks and ways to avoid or mitigate them are visualized.
- Continuous space for customer feedback and requirements
- Demands risk management expertise
- Can be very costly for small projects
- Although flexible, there are protocols that must be strictly followed.
When to choose it?
It’s definitely for large projects with constant changes and customized products, where a lot of user involvement is required.
How to choose the right software development methodology?
The ability of your team to change or adapt to new requests or changes within the project. If the project is simpler, a waterfall methodology may be beneficial, whereas if you need to go back and forth with the client with constant change, an iterative model may be a better option.
Project size and duration
Depending on the duration of the project and the timeframe you will build a larger or smaller team, and use different methodologies. For smaller projects, with not so many resources and members, you may opt for a more linear model such as waterfall, while for more complex projects with more complex deadlines, agile may be the best option.
Understand users needs
You definitely need to know your audience to choose the right methodology. If you have a fixed target, not so changing and more homogeneous, the waterfall option may be the right one. On the other hand, if your users are diverse and have different needs and during the project you will have to make constant changes, then opt for the more flexible and agile option such as a spiral.