Scrum vs Waterfall: How Changes Can Impact Your Business

Just right before Scrum and some other Agile methodologies came to rise, there was a traditional approach to lead teams: the Waterfall Method. Why was it important to change from a static method to a more agile, efficient tool?

Needless to say that Waterfall methodology had its role and it was not ruled out to darkness. But how did Scrum affect the usage of Waterfall in companies’ workflows and processes and it is more preferred than the so-called ”traditional method”?

This article will find out the difference between Scrum and Waterfall and how it impacts your business growth.

Before we go further, let’s see some articles on Scrum:

What are the obstacles to use Scrum?
Scrum vs Agile: What is the Difference?
What are the 5 Scrum values?

What is Waterfall Methodology, anyway?

The waterfall model, also known as the traditional method, is a form of project management that uses sequential phases, long planning, projects with fixed costs, scope, and schedule.

This method started its way since World War II, and it covers basic phases that are: planning, execution, validation, and delivery.

Over the years, the market also started to call this type of method predictive, because, with it, it is possible to estimate and forecast the total time and budget of the project.

In this method, the planning phase gains great importance in the process, all requirements are analyzed in all aspects.

As it is carried out in sequential stages, the Waterfall method foresees that the project will only advance from the moment that a stage is finished, and each one of them can only follow after the approval of the stakeholders.

In the Waterfall Method, projects are executed based on the total agreement of developers and customers, who decide, right from the start, what will be delivered throughout the life cycle of a project.

Due to this more rigid format, this method may not be so interesting for very long and complex projects, which can impact deadlines, costs, and quality.

In addition, because it is more rigid, the testing phases in the Waterfall model only occur at the end, that is, the development team will not know if what is being executed will work until this point is reached.

On the other hand, the method can reduce risks in fixed-price contracts, with a risk agreement early in the process. Also, by having all the details well planned, it’s easier to manage.

How do you use Waterfall Methodology?

The Waterfall method is very suitable for projects that have well-defined requirements, in which no changes are expected. In addition, you can also use it when you need to make adaptations or improvements to an existing product or service.

Therefore, the software can also be developed in the Waterfall method, especially when there are predictable steps, almost like a roadmap to be followed, with a sequential and systematic approach.

However, due to different needs of changing requirements, many companies today opt for the agile method to develop a new product or service in this segment.

However, some fields that require more compliance, such as medicine, aviation, food processing, can benefit from the waterfall model, as can planning, infrastructure, and city building, such as bridge or tunnel construction projects.

Although it is not a rule, projects of this nature are usually developed using the cascade method.

Roles and responsibilities

All steps are followed sequentially. The basic phases are usually requirements definition, planning, execution, and validation, and may vary depending on the type of initiative.

The Waterfall model only allows the project to move forward when a phase is fully complete. Going back a few steps, jumping forward or overlapping activities is not allowed.

Furthermore, in the Waterfall method, the requirements are fully defined at the beginning of the project and usually undergo little or no change during its execution.

When we talk about roles and responsibilities, usually the team formed by this methodology has some components:

  • The business analyst/specialist is responsible for delegating project requests and needs.
  • The project manager maps risks track task completion dates to final delivery and ensure that scope changes do not occur during project time.
  • The development team is the one who gets their hands dirty and makes the project born based on the pre-defined scope.
  • The UX, designer, and UI roles are the ones who design the prototypes and ensure that the best user experience is implemented to meet the needs of the end-user.

Benefits of the Waterfall methodology

It is one of the easiest models to manage. Due to its nature, each phase has specific results and an evaluation process.

  • Works well on smaller projects where requirements are easy to understand.
  • Faster project delivery.
  • The development process and deliverables are well documented.
  • Easily adaptable method for different teams per phase.
  • Specialists in specific fields are better off.
  • This project management methodology is useful for managing dependencies.

Disadvantages of the Waterfall methodology

  • It’s not an ideal model for a big project.
  • If the requirements aren’t clear at the start, it’s a less effective method.
  • It is very difficult to make changes to closed phases.
  • The testing process starts as soon as development ends. So there’s a high probability of bugs that we’ll encounter later in development. This makes them expensive to repair.


What is Scrum?

Scrum is an iterative and incremental development framework for project management and agile software development.

Scrum is not a prescriptive process, meaning it does not describe what to do in every situation. It is used for complex jobs where it is impossible to predict everything that will happen.

Although Scrum was intended for software project management, it can be used in software maintenance teams or as a general approach to project/program management.

With Scrum, there is a reduction of the delivery cycle to a maximum of 30 days and there is also feedback to the process after this period. The focus is on delivering high value-added software based on the ordering made by those who understand the business world.

There are well-defined times to plan, build, deliver and review, but the range we look at is no longer than 3 iterations. The false idea that agile methods are not planned, falls to the ground right now.

The main advantage is that, as part of the so-called agile methodologies, Scrum follows the principles of the Agile Manifesto, and therefore, brings all the benefits of agile thinking.

It helps to show the imperfections in the work ecosystem, it brings transparency, but it is based on the pillars: Transparency, Inspection, and Adaptation.

It is necessary to understand and recognize the problems and act on the causes, thus making the environment healthier and more productive.

Scrum – Roles and Responsibilities

In short, it is an agile methodology for managing and planning software projects focused on delivering value.

In Scrum, projects are divided into cycles (typically monthly) called Sprints. The Sprint represents a Time Box within which a set of activities must be performed.

Agile software development methodologies are interactive, that is, the work is divided into interactions, which are called Sprints in the case of Scrum.

The features to be implemented in a project are kept in a list which is known as the Product Backlog.

At the beginning of each Sprint, a Sprint Planning Meeting is held, that is, a planning meeting in which the Product Owner prioritizes the items in the Product Backlog and the team selects the activities it will be able to implement during the beginning Sprint.

Tasks allocated in a Sprint are transferred from the Product Backlog to the Sprint Backlog.

In Scrum, a development team is called Squad and as a rule, they need to have:

  • PO (Product Owner): is who defines the priorities of the Product Backlog list and who brings the needs of the end-user of the project in detail through what we call “stories”.
  • Scrum Master/Team Lead: Responsible for ensuring that the agile methodology is applied, shielding the Dev team from external impacts, and removing impediments that interfere in the day-to-day of a Squad Team. In some cases, this professional has the mission of managing the project and the resources used in it.
  • Team Dev: It’s the software developers, the professionals who make the Product Backlog real and tangible. Generally, divided between the front-end (layout) and the back-end (technical structure), these professionals do the software development.
  • UX, Designer, and UI who design the prototypes and ensure that the best user experience is implemented in the software.

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Leonardo Salles

Copywriter for GitScrum.