There are many ways to organize a development process, as well as to write code and carry out a project. However, there are certain methodologies that help to order and give structure to these processes in order to achieve a better quality product and do it in the most efficient way possible. 

a software development methodology is 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.

 

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 avoid 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.

The methodologies can be categorized into 3 types: waterfall, iterative, and continuous model.

Waterfall

It is much more rigid and follows a fixed sequence in its implementation. Its steps to follow and its phases are well defined and it seeks to fulfill them almost to the letter. Its potential is in its good organization and in the certainty of its result, when knowing meticulously its steps to follow it is easier to understand how it is going to end. Its negative side is in the rigidity of the structure which can sometimes lead to the failure of a project. 

Iterative

It is more flexible and relies on constant review. It is 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.

Continuous model

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. 

Agile

The main focus of this methodology, and perhaps why it is so popular, is the user. 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. 

Advantages

  • Minimal defects caused by continuously testing
  • transparency between members
  • Easy and flexible to make changes within the project
  • Great quality of delivers

Disadvantages

  • 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 is 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.

Waterfall 

It is perhaps 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 is a methodology 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. 

Advantages

  • 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.

Disadvantages

  • It doesn’t have constant feedback during the project, so it can be risky to make mistakes.
  • It is tested at the end of the cycle of stages, so if there is a problem it can be quite complex to solve it. 
  • Its rigidity is not recommended for projects where changes or new specifications are required within the development process.

 

When to choose it?

When you have a simple and clear objective where you know the whole picture and there will be no unpredictable aspects. It is also a good option for inexperienced teams.

Lean

It focuses on avoiding any type of waste and increasing productivity. Once the principles to be followed have been stipulated, the idea is to avoid 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. 

Advantages

  • It 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. 

Disadvantages

  • It is necessary to have high-skilled developers to carry out this type of methodology.
  • It may require a lot of necessary documentation.

When to choose it?

If you do not have a large budget to work with and want to empower a small development team.

Spiral

A combination of an iterative model and waterfall model

It is composed of 4 stages: 

  • planning
  • risk analysis
  • engineering 
  • evaluation 

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.

Advantages

  • 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

 

Disadvantages

  • 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?

For large projects with constant changes and customized products, where a lot of user involvement is required.

How to choose the right software development methodologies?

Flexibility needed 

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 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, opt for the more flexible and agile option, such as a spiral.

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