Top 6 software development methodologies

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Actually, this article should have a name of “Top 7 software development methodologies”, but we will not write about Kanban again. Last time we already covered all the important information about this famous methodology.

This time our article will be devoted to the rest of the most popular approaches in software development. So here you will find the top 6 software development methodologies.

Every business should decide on organizing the work process inside the company, according to its priorities and projects in development. Our aim is to tell you about existing types of approaches and the results you can obtain with them. We collected the most famous software development methodologies that used in different cases and also for how to build an on-demand app. All of them have their pros and cons. But Kanban is not included in this list because we already wrote quite a lot about it in our previous article.

And here is the list of the top 6 methodologies:

  1. Agile
  2. Waterfall
  3. Scrum
  4. Extreme Programming
  5. Rapid Application Development Methodology
  6. Spiral

You, probably, have heard of them before. But this time you will find the details.


Agile software development is a conceptual framework for undertaking software engineering projects. There are a number of agile software development methodologies like Scrum (we’ll tell of it more in this material), Crystal Methods, and Dynamic Systems Development Model.

The main goal of agile methods is minimizing the risk by developing software in short timeboxes, called iterations, which typically last one to four weeks. Each timebox is like a mini software project that includes all the tasks necessary to release the mini-increment of new functionality:

  • planning,
  • requirements analysis,
  • design,
  • coding,
  • testing, and
  • documentation.

The iteration may not add enough functionality to warrant releasing the product, but an agile software project intends to be capable of releasing new software at the end of every iteration. After this iteration, the team reevaluates project priorities. Agile methods emphasize working product as the primary measure of the progress. Relative to the other methods Agile produce very little written documentation – the “real-time” is the preferable type of communication. Most of the development team members (and business owners too) are located nearby and can communicate face-to-face.

Main principles of Agile software development methodology: face-to-face meetings, constant cooperation, early and continuous delivery of the working software, transparency. Whenever there are unexpected or frequent changes either from the client’s side or internal, this model becomes the perfect choice for managers and team leaders.

Pros Cons
Adaptive approach that responds to changes favorably Focuses on working with software and lacks documentation efficiency
Allows for direct communication to maintain transparency Chances of getting off-track as outcome are not clear
Improved quality by finding and fixing defects quickly and identifying expectation mismatches early  


The Waterfall model is a sequential development approach, in which development is seen as flowing steadily downwards (like a waterfall) through several phases, typically:

  • analysis
  • software requirements specificationSoftware design
  • software design
  • testing
  • integration (if there are multiple subsystems)
  • deployment (or Installation)
  • maintenance

The linear and rigid nature of this method makes it easy to understand and manage. So its ideal for less experienced managers and teams. In this method, distinct goals are accomplished. Each phase must be 100% complete before moving onto the next phase, no turning back to modify the project or direction. In theory, this process leads to the project being delivered on time because each phase has been planned in detail. It can be used for projects with clear objectives and stable requirements.

But in practice, waterfall development often falls short of expectations as it does not embrace the inevitable changes and revisions that become necessary with most projects. When an application is in the testing stage, it is very difficult to go back and change something that was not thought of in the concept stage.

Emphasis is on planning, time schedules, target dates, budgets and implementation of an entire system at one time. Tight control is maintained over the life of the project via extensive written documentation, formal reviews, and approval/signoff by the user and information technology management occurring at the end of most phases before beginning the next phase. Written documentation is an explicit deliverable of each phase.

Despite its inflexibility and thoughts of being out of date, this methodology intended to get rid of unnecessary paperwork, time-consuming regular meetings, and backlogs. So, this is a great choice for the small projects where all the aspects of development are known beforehand and a bad solution for complicated projects since it is quite inflexible.

You require no defined process to develop an end product where you have clear requirements and solution. You only have to set a deadline on when the project should be finished and complete the project in your own way.

Pros Cons
Easy to understand and functional Only matches precise needs
Simple enough to handle as model is rigid Not applicable for maintenance projects
Saves significant amount of time Does not allow editing in the testing phase
Allows for easy testing and analysis No option to know possible outcome of a project
 It allows for departmentalization and managerial control Not excellent for long and ongoing projects


Scrum is an iterative and incremental agile software development framework for managing product development. It defines a flexible, holistic product development strategy where a development team works as a unit to reach a common goal. This method enables teams to self-organize by encouraging physical co-location or close online collaboration of all team members, as well as daily face-to-face communication among all team members and disciplines involved.

A key principle of Scrum is the dual recognition that customers will change their minds about what they want or need (requirements volatility) and that there will. Scrum adopts an evidence-based empirical approach—accepting that the problem cannot be fully understood or defined upfront, and instead focusing on how to maximize the team’s ability to deliver quickly, to respond to emerging requirements, and to adapt to evolving technologies and changes in market conditions.

Main features of Scrum:

  • a living backlog of prioritized work to be done
  • completion of a fixed set of backlog items in a series of short iterations or sprints
  • a brief daily meeting (“a scrum”) for explaining the progress, describing an upcoming work and possible obstacles
  • a brief planning session in which the backlog items for the sprint will be defined
  • a brief heartbeat retrospective when all team members reflect about the past sprint

Scrum is facilitated by a scrum master, whose primary job is to remove impediments to the ability of the team to deliver the sprint goal. The scrum master is not the leader of the team (as they are self-organizing) but acts as a productivity buffer between the team and any destabilizing influences.

This method encourages verbal communication across all team members and across all disciplines that are involved in the project.

Unlike Kanban, Scrum is more timeboxed and planned. The entire project is split up into timeboxes called Sprints, and all the team sit together and plan for each Sprint the list of tasks or user stories that need to be completed. Once the team agrees and commits to completing certain tasks in a given time frame, the development team is expected to stick to the commitment and complete all tasks within the Sprint. Scrum is best suited when

Scrum is best suited when the cost of delay is high and deadlines should meet a minimal delay. Scrum is often used when the end product is unclear or the requirements have no proper feedback from the clients. Here the client is involved in the whole process and determine and focus on certain sprint product backlog items that need to be completed (along with the team). Scrum takes its place among flexible methodologies that are appropriate for long-run development with frequent changes to requirements. In other words, it is suitable for projects that demand over 300 hours of development.

Unlike Waterfall, the Scrum model adopts more flexible disciplines which are open to last-minute changes. Teamwork, inspection, and transparency are key factors in the Scrum method.

The structure:

  • product backlog (a set of top-priority tasks allowing to build MVP as soon as possible)
  • sprint backlog (contains high priority features that developers are going to deal with following 2-4 weeks)
  • sprint itself

This growth methodology is used for prompt development of software that happens to include a series of iterations to generate required software. It brings the deliberate progressing projects on track.

Pros Cons
Decision making lies in the hands of the team The processing method suffers because of wavering costs
Business requirement document is considered insignificant Not suitable for big sized projects
Lightly controlled method empathizing with constant updating Requires highly expert team, which has no place for novices

Extreme Programming

Extreme Programming approach (XP) refers to an agile software engineering methodology. It was created to avoid the development of functions that are not currently needed. It aimed at the creation of a top-notch final product with no regard for frequent changes in requirements. Another aim of this method is reducing the costs of software essentials. To achieve that, continuous testing and planning are applied.

In comparison with the other approaches, XP takes more time and human resources. As far as XP is chiefly used for crafting software within a very unbalanced atmosphere and enables greater tractability within the modeling procedure, it is perfect for complicated projects. It is the best choice if your client has a deadline to deliver the product with no clear understanding of how it must work, and the risk is higher. XP techniques are setup to address and mitigate the risks and increase the likelihood of success.

Unlike Waterfall methodology, where the requirements for the system are determined and often “frozen”, XP means that the cost of changing the requirements at a later stage in the project can be very high.

Extreme programming core Practices:

Fine-scale feedback

  • TDD (test driven development)
  • planning game
  • whole team
  • pair programming

Continuous process rather than batch

  • continuous Integration
  • design Improvement
  • small releases

Shared understanding

  • simple design
  • system metaphor
  • collective code ownership
  • coding standards or coding conventions

Programmer welfare

  • sustainable pace (i.e. forty hour week)

XP team is supposed to have a customer on site, who specifies and prioritizes work for the team, and who can answer questions as soon as they arise.
Simple code is more likely to work. Therefore, extreme programmers only write code to meet actual needs at the present time in a project. For reviewing the code XP programmers work in pairs, sharing one screen and keyboard (which also improves communication) so that all code is reviewed as it is written.
In Extreme Programming, tests are written before the code is written. The code is considered complete when it passes the tests (but then it needs refactoring to remove complexity). Despite it’s thought that XP could only work in small teams of fewer than 12 persons, it has been used successfully on teams of over a hundred developers.

Pros Cons
It lays focus on customer involvement Effectiveness depends on the people involved
Establishes rational plans and schedules Requires frequent meeting for development raising total costs
Developers are exceptionally committed to the project Necessitates for excessive development changes
Equipped with modernistic methods for quality software Exact possibilities and future outcomes are really unknown

Rapid Application Development Methodology

Rapid Application Development (RAD) Methodology is created to take the maximum advantage of the development software. It aimed to reduce the amount of construction needed to build a product. RAD is a condensed development process that produces a high-quality system with low investment costs. It’s possible due to the ability to quickly adjust needed things. It aimed at providing quick results.

The Rapid Application Development method is divided into four phases:

  • requirements planning
  • user design
  • construction
  • cutover

The user design and construction phases are repeated until the user approves that all of the requirements are met.

RAD is most effective for projects with a well-defined business objective and a clearly defined user group, but which are not computationally complex. It is especially useful if the project is of small to medium size and time-sensitive. However, it requires a stable team composition with highly skilled developers. Deep knowledge is essential when working on a condensed development timeline that requires approval after each construction phase.

RAD (rapid application development) proposes that products can be developed faster and of higher quality by:

  • using workshops or focus groups to gather requirements
  • prototyping and user testing of designs
  • re-using software components
  • following a schedule that defers design improvements to the next product version
  • keeping review meetings and other team communication informal

RAD usually embraces object-oriented programming methodology, which inherently fosters software re-use.

Pros Cons
Makes the entire development process effortless Dependant on the team for performance
Assists client in taking quick reviews Works on modularized system confined on this methodology
Encourages feedback from customers for improvement Requires extremely skilled personnel to handle complexities
  Not applicable for the small budgeted projects


The Spiral methodology extends the Waterfall model by adding rapid prototyping in an effort to combine advantages of top-down and bottom-up concepts. It provided emphasis in a key area with deliberating iterative risk analysis. It suits to large-scale complex systems. Spiral is generally chosen over the waterfall approach for large, expensive, and complicated projects.

The Spiral Lifecycle Model is a sophisticated lifecycle model that focuses on early identification and reduction of project risks. A spiral project starts on a small scale, explores risks, makes a plan to handle the risks, and then decides whether to take the next step of the project (to do the next iteration of the spiral). It derives its rapid development benefit from continuously reducing the projects risk level. Success at using the Spiral Lifecycle Model depends on conscientious, attentive, and knowledgeable management.

You can find the steps in the Spiral model as follows:

  1. The new system requirements are defined in details
  2. A preliminary design is created
  3. A first prototype of the new system is constructed from the preliminary design
  4. A second prototype is evolved using four steps:
    evaluation of the first prototype;
    defining the requirements for the second prototype;
    planning and designing the second prototype;
    constructing and testing the second prototype
  5. If the risk is great the project could be aborted. Risk factors might involve development cost overruns
  6. The existing prototype is evaluated in the same manner as was the previous prototype, and, if necessary, another prototype is developed from it
  7. The preceding steps are iterated until the customer is satisfied
  8. The final system is constructed (based on the refined prototype)
  9. The final system is thoroughly evaluated and tested
  10. Routine maintenance is carried out on a continuing basis to prevent large-scale failures and to minimize downtime

The focus is on risk assessment and on minimizing project risk by breaking a project into smaller segments and providing more ease-of-change during the development process. The developers are intended towards crafting a plan for iterating of the spiral. Each cycle involves a progression through the same sequence of steps for each part of the product and for each of its levels of elaboration. The accomplishment of any Spiral Lifecycle model is based on consistent, observant, and conversant management of the project.

Pros Cons
Risk factors are considerably reduced Costly model in software development
Excellent for large and complex projects Failure in risk analysis phase may damage the whole project
Allows for additional functionality later Not appropriate for low-risk projects
Suitable for highly risky projects with varied business needs Might get continued and never finish

We hope, this article was useful for your future project development. 

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