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It is often said that the success of a software development project, to a great extent, depends on the software development methodology used to manage the development lifecycle, from initiation to closure. Over the years, several methodologies have evolved, each with a specific purpose as well as merits and demerits.
More often than not, the development methodology used is determined by the goals and requirements of the software development project. After careful analysis, the project team selects the method that is most suitable to deliver the results. However, a successful outcome is a cumulative result of various factors, including efficient project management and a favorable environment.
In the course of this write-up, we will explore the basic tenets of some of the most commonly used software development methodologies that exist today.
Below are the top 6 Software Development Methodologies
Agile Development Methodology
The agile software development methodology is a preferred method for projects that require the solution to evolve incrementally in meaningful parts. The methodology requires stronger and closer collaboration among self-organizing and cross-functional teams and their customers who may or may not be co-located. Responsiveness to changing requirements is a hallmark of this methodology.
What are the main pros and cons of Agile software development methodology?
Pros: The most obvious advantage is that it allows the software to be released in iterations so that end-users do not have to wait for a long time to see the product. By the time the final product is out, they will see several versions of it. Such an approach improves efficiency by allowing teams to identify and fix defects and align expectations early in the process.
Cons: Agile development methods depend heavily on real-time communication rather than on extensive documentation. So, new team members and users often need to get on board without the required documentation. This methodology requires a significant time commitment from users and is effort-intensive because each feature planned for release must be completed within each iteration for user approval.
The Waterfall method is perhaps the oldest and most traditional of all software development methodologies. It involves a linear development process with sequential phases (Analysis, Design, Development, Testing, Implementation, and Maintenance). Each phase in the process must be completed before the next phase starts. In most cases, there is no standard mechanism to go back to a previous stage to modify the project or direction. Usually, the deliverables and scope agreed upon in the Analysis and Design phases are given concrete shape in the subsequent stages.
What are the main pros and cons of the Waterfall method?
Pros: Because the process is linear and the objectives and requirements are stable and clearly documented, it is easier to execute a project using this framework. Less experienced project teams, as well as teams whose composition changes frequently, may benefit the most from using the Waterfall development methodology. However, this method is not suitable for projects where the objectives are ambiguous and new requirements arise in the course of development.
Cons: The Waterfall development method is often cited as rigid, time-consuming and costly due to its linear or sequential structure and tight controls. These disadvantages often lead project teams to explore other software development methodologies.
Rapid Application Development
Rapid Application Development (RAD) is a compressed development approach that produces high-quality output with limited time and cost investment. This framework allows software developers to adapt to changing requirements in a fast-paced and rapidly changing environment. In most RAD approaches, there is less emphasis on planning and more focus on being adaptive to the evolving needs. Developers and stakeholders operating within a RAD framework rely heavily on working prototypes than on extensive design documents.
The Rapid Application Development method comprises four distinct phases – Requirements Planning, User Design, Construction, and Cutover. The project requirements, scope and constraints are agreed upon in the Requirements Planning stage. The User Design and Construction phases continue in iterations until the stakeholders agree that the product meets all the specifications and requirements. The Cutover phase represents all tasks, including user testing, implementation and end-user training.
What are the main pros and cons of the Rapid Application Development method?
Pros: RAD operates in a much compressed time frame compared to Waterfall methods and hence, the end outputs are delivered much sooner. This approach is most effective when the project has a relatively simple computational or programming requirement, a clear business objective, a well-defined scope and an identified user group. The framework is particularly beneficial for small to midsize projects where the timeline is a significant constraint.
Cons: A stable team composition with highly skilled team members is an uncompromisable pre-requisite for a project to be successful in the RAD framework. Deep technical skills and knowledge of the subject matter are essential in a compressed development lifecycle that requires fast turnarounds. Organizations and teams that do not meet these prerequisites are highly unlikely to benefit from RAD.
Scrum is one of the most widely used and preferred software development methodologies today. In essence, it is a framework to implement the Agile approach. The framework borrows heavily from Agile’s foundational philosophy and belief around team collaboration.
In the Scrum framework, the software is developed in iterative cycles with the team at the front and center. This method requires experienced, self-organized and self-managed team members for a project undertaken to be successful.
What are the main pros and cons of the Scrum development method?
Pros: In a Scrum team, developers divvy up larger outcomes into smaller goals at the initiation stage and work through these smaller goals in fixed-duration iterations—or sprints— that usually lasts for two weeks. The end product after each sprint is often a fully functional version of the software with limited features. Because of short and planned development cycles, this method is more responsive to change as compared to Waterfall methods and hence, more widely used in today’s disruptive business environment. In short, Scrum is a convergence of the structure and discipline of more traditional methodologies, and the flexibility of Agile.
Cons: Because it is a quick and iterative process intended to adapt to changing needs, chances or scope creep and cost overruns are very high in this approach. In the absence of a definite end-date, it is challenging to keep the same project team onboard for a long time. Team member attrition can affect the overall project. Moreover, it is challenging to adopt the Scrum framework in large groups.
Extreme Programming Method
Extreme Programming or XP is another Agile software development framework, which primarily focuses on creating higher quality software by leveraging the best practices in software development. Similar to most Agile frameworks, XP allows for frequent and iterative product releases in short development sprints, which adapt to change when necessary. In this method, the customer plays a crucial role in the process and is an active and integral part of the team.
In principle, XP is a values-based approach rather than a method that follows a specific sequence of steps. Some of the key tenets of XP include – simplicity (which is about developing just what is required, nothing more), communication (which requires teams to collaborate and work together on every aspect of the software), consistent feedback, and mutual respect. XP requires developers to initially plan and have a deep understanding of the customer’s user stories or the informal descriptions of certain features of the software.
What are the main pros and cons of Extreme Programming?
Pros: XP gives the best results in high-velocity work requirements that encourage open communication, and highly cohesive teamwork. Because the feedback loop is reduced, there is a definite reduction in the cost of change. Furthermore, continuous integration and deployment ensure that the wastage of time is limited in this framework.
Cons: The XP method performs optimally when the development team and the customer are co-located. Interactions are most fruitful when team members meet face to face. So, this may not be a preferable approach in distributed teams. The level of stress is high due to tight deadlines, while documentation is limited due to constant changes.
DevOps Deployment Methodology
DevOps is seen as something beyond a software development methodology – it is a set of practices established to support the culture of an organization. DevOps is centered on organizational change that improves collaboration among the various departments involved in the project lifecycle, such as development, quality assurance, and operations.
What are the main pros and cons of the DevOps methodology?
Pros: DevOps has several focus areas, with the important ones being improving the time to market, decreasing the failure rate of new releases, reducing the lead time between fixes, and maximizing reliability while minimizing disruption. To achieve these goals, organizations and teams that adopt DevOps automate continuous deployment to ensure smooth and reliable execution.
Cons: In spite of its benefits, DevOps has a few potential drawbacks. For instance, many customers do not need to update their systems continuously. In such cases, DevOps may not be the best approach. Furthermore, specific industry-specific regulations require extensive testing before a project moves to the operations phase. Moreover, if different departments use different environments, undetected issues can slip into production. In many cases, human interactions required in certain quality attributes slow down the delivery pipeline.
As we know, software development is both an intellectual and economic activity; software development methodologies have been conceptualized and imagined to maximize productivity, business value and end-user experience while limiting the use of resources. In today’s volatile business environment, the identification and selection of an appropriate software development methodology play an essential role in amplifying the return on investment while reducing the wastage of limited and valuable resources and assets.
If you have a project idea in mind but confused about deciding the right software development methodology, consult our software development experts and get started.
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