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waterfall agile
The key difference between agile and waterfall is that while waterfall follows a linear approach with well-defined steps, agile, on the other hand, relies on constant iteration and changes while encompassing the end-user. The structured approach of waterfall requires a stringent set of rules and systems and is prone to derailment if anything goes wrong. It can also lead to customer dissatisfaction when the end product is released. On the other hand, agile, as the word suggests, relies on the ability of the team to adapt to changing situations, whether they are product changes or changes in the customer requirements.

The question regarding transitioning from waterfall to agile is an important one that needs deep thinking. First, we must think about agile and why companies would want to implement the agile development process in the first place.

1.      What is Waterfall methodology


Waterfall methodology predates agile by almost 30 years as it was one of the prominent methodologies used for project management in the 70’s. Winston W. Royce developed it, and it followed a linear structure that required working in phases with lots of preplanning and well-defined steps. Just like a waterfall, the methodology followed a cascaded approach that required each stage to be completed before the next one could start (for example, design – develop-test-deploy). The other constraints associated with that approach were that many things had to be pre-decided and signed-off upon, such as having a fixed time, budget, or scope. But as we all know, projects rarely fall under a fixated budget or time set. All those can lead to a lack of customer satisfaction and stifled innovation.

1.1.1     Key difference between agile and waterfall

On the other end, Agile uses short bursts of design – development-test-deploy that is adaptable to changing situations. The principle is to incrementally and iteratively create products. The flexibility stemming from this approach allows teams to develop projects faster and more in line with customers’ changing expectations.

There are, therefore, many good reasons that push businesses to transition to agile, but let’s explore the three main reasons:

2.      3 Main reasons to transition to Agile


2.1  They want quicker iteration with more feedback.

One of the key differences between agile and waterfall is that with waterfall, there are very long iterations and minimal feedback, and in the end, the product delivered might not meet the customer’s requirements, most likely because the users’ needs would have changed. On the other end, agile allows for lots of iterations and constant feedback, eliminating noises that accumulate over time and lead to poor customer satisfaction.

2.2  Developing what the end users want while acknowledging that what they want can change.

Because agile relies on small but incremental cycles of design – develop-test-deploy, it allows customer review while minimizing time spent. Furthermore, customers’ demands and feedback are integrated into every loop of the agile process, which enables the creation of tailor-made solutions the customers are after on the spot. That in turn help customers better answer the ever-changing need of their end-users.

We also want lightweight processes that don’t have as much documentation as with very formal specifications found in waterfall to implement the iteration.

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We need to think deeply about what documentation is necessary, going all the way from requirement to test plans, test cases defects…

2.3  Examining and reducing unnecessary overhead

Once the thought process of moving to agile is clear, the next question is, “how do I move to agile and agile testing?”

3.      There are 5 key points to consider when transitioning to agile.

3.1  A change of mindset needed

It is essential to commit to trying agile, failing, and trying again. Remember, constant iteration is the name of the game in agile. Therefore, the key difference between agile and waterfall is that in agile, failure is welcome as long as it’s part of an improvement process. Consequently, it would be best to iterate the software, your own processes, and the persons implementing the procedures.

3.2  Understanding the value and how to implement quick feedback cycles

Quick feedback cycles not only on requirements but also all the things that go wrong during the development process. Code can go wrong, and we can have defects. Misunderstanding can also happen in requirements resulting in an output that is not clear.

Also, feedback can happen at the end of the cycle when customers call the tech support line. So all this feedback needs to be taken into account to change how things are done.

3.3  Developing a framework and changing pieces iteratively

A framework could be as simple as who is doing what and how often they are doing it. Maybe the who is doing what might change. Another component of the framework is how often we are doing things. For example, usually, there is a two-week cycle in scrum, but it can be anything one wants it to be. It could be for two months. If your previous cycle was a year, you might want to bring that timing down so that you can iterate faster. It does not need to follow any formula seen in any book.

3.4  Implementing retrospectives with rigor

To answer the common question “what could be improved?” people need to express themselves and give feedback openly on how the team did. From this retrospective session, there will be a list of things to do. That is where prioritization will be needed to focus on that task that brings the most value and will be easier to implement during the next iteration.

3.5  Adapting and learning new skills

It is essential to learn new skills to implement these quicker cycles. Therefore, for a tester that might be learning automation or unit testing. It might also mean learning to work with business analysts and analyzing requirements and their testability.

4.      Conclusion – Key difference between agile and waterfall

So as we have just seen, the key difference between agile and waterfall is that while waterfall requires rigor, agile requires the ability to change at a faster pace while working on short bursts of micro-projects inside the main project. Agile is like a looping process that incrementally self-correct and adjusts to the environment until we obtain the desired outcome.

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