Which Project Management Methodology to Follow: Agile vs. Scrum vs. Waterfall vs. Kanban

Which Project Management Methodology to Follow: Agile vs. Scrum vs. Waterfall vs. Kanban

Dec 01, 2021

Over the years, project management methodologies have evolved from rigid structures to more flexible frameworks. These methodologies vary from one project to another, depending on the nature of the projects. Some project management methodologies are Agile, Scrum, Waterfall, and Kanban. Each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, but they all have a common goal of maximizing collaboration and ensuring effective team management.

Starting from the Waterfall model in the 1970s, software development teams all around the globe are now using a variety of methodologies for more efficient management and more control over project flow and deliverables. However, before deciding on the best method for a team and, ultimately, the project, one should consider all aspects of the project’s requirements from the client’s and the team’s perspectives.

Let’s clarify the differences between these frameworks, discuss their pros and cons, and then help you decide which project management methodology you should follow.

So let’s dive in!

What Is Agile?

Companies use Agile to work on several iterations of a project, which are subsequently prioritized based on end-user feedback. The fundamental underlying premise of the Agile approach is to be adaptable enough to make adjustments as needed. A project manager does this by allocating a set amount of time to each stage of a software project.

Companies intend to cultivate an environment and a team that collaborates, has a feeling of ownership, and values face-to-face contact. The primary objective is to build a product that fits all the client’s requirements and meets the company’s goals.

There is always an opportunity to refine and reprioritize tasks to accommodate changes in an Agile framework throughout the project. Even if your end goal is not defined as the project progresses, the goal will become evident, and the team will adapt. That also allows for continuous implementation of improvements and feedback from clients during the development phase.

Breaking down the project into iterations allows the team to focus on high-quality development, testing, and collaboration by breaking the project down into iterations. Testing at each iteration also helps in identifying bugs easily and solving them more quickly.

Although Agile has many favorable advantages, one of its disadvantages is that it is hard to establish a solid delivery date for the project in Agile methodology; as the tasks are reprioritized and more requirements are added into the project; it may not be completed within the deadline.

Because of client feedback and resulting multiple changes, the project can go quickly out of the track if the project manager does not clearly understand the outcome. Agile also fails at times due to unrealistic expectations.

Moreover, project documentation can become problematic as it focuses more on working deliverables than comprehensive documentation. While the document does not lead to the project’s success, a proper balance between discussion and documentation is needed to have clear requirements.

What Is Scrum?

According to a survey conducted by Scrum Alliance, Sixty-three percent of Scrum-based projects were finished on schedule and successfully. Because of its high success rate, the scrum framework is perhaps the most widely used variant of Agile.

Scrum is a phrase adopted from rugby, where a Scrum is a huddle formed on the field by the team to call plays and make strategic choices throughout the game. Likewise, scrum methodology assists individuals, teams, and organizations to create value by providing adaptable solutions to complicated situations.

Product backlogs, sprint backlogs, and sprint planning/goals are the three components of Scrum-based development projects. Each sprint defines, develops, and tests a specific function.

Product Backlog: a prioritized feature list comprising brief descriptions of every needed product functionality.

Sprint Backlog: a list of tasks that the scrum team has identified to be accomplished within the Scrum sprint.

Sprint: a brief period during which a scrum team works to finish a specific amount of work.

A Sprint might last anywhere from seven days to a month, depending on the needs of the customer and the feasibility of the project. On the other hand, the Daily Scrum entails a daily stand-up meeting involving the team, Product Owner, Scrum Master, customers, and management (preferred) to analyze task accomplishment daily and delays and potential risks pertinent to those tasks.

Because of the pre-set milestones, scrum methodology usually delivers projects within the timeline. Under this framework, the Scrum Master is responsible for ensuring the success of each project. They must ensure that all team members stay on track, discuss and solve any difficulties that emerge, certify that the team uses Scrum practices, and enforce deadlines.

Suppose any business requirements require a code change. In that case, it is faster and simpler to discover it in the sprint backlog rather than repeating the entire software development lifecycle, as is the case with a Waterfall technique. It also increases customer satisfaction by encouraging client participation throughout the project development life cycle.

As scrum methodology involves the higher collaboration of teams, adopting this methodology in larger teams often becomes confusing and chaotic. Since it depends on team collaboration, if any team member leaves the project before completion, it might have a negative effect on it. Moreover, daily sprints might also agitate the team members and keep them from doing actual work.

What Is Kanban?

The Kanban technique was founded in the 1940s when the Toyota Production System chose to treat inventory in the same way that a supermarket does - they didn’t put too many of the same things in one go, only replaced it when it was empty and so on. It was subsequently claimed by Agile software development teams as Kanban project management methodology.

Kanban project management methodology provides a visual depiction of the throughput, time, and space required for each project and suggestions for enhancing the project’s process.

The Kanban framework is based on a central Kanban board used to organize and prioritize tasks. The Kanban board, which comprises columns, displays each stage of the workflow: Progress, Testing, Ready for Launch, and Launch. Apart from this, columns might also be defined as To Do, In Progress, In Review, Blocked, and Done. That enables the teams to remain adaptable to changes and easily make transitions as needed.

For the task cycle, Kanban integrates Work In Progress (WIP). This entails establishing a limit for each column or condition on the Kanban board. The WIP limit determines the number of work items or the quantity of work to retain in a particular condition at any one moment.

No additional work may be classified in that state when a predefined WIP limit is reached. This forces the team to complete the outstanding issues before tackling the new tasks. Anyone in the team can use and modify the Kanban board as long as it depicts the status of the task and the revisions involved. This means that no single individual is in charge of ensuring that the team is aligned or following the set policies.

Kanban methodology contributes to optimizing a project development cycle by assisting teams in achieving continuous project improvement. That, in turn, contributes to high throughput while retaining the quality of the final product and decreasing wastage in the form of inessential tasks.

One of the downsides of Kanban is an outdated Kanban board, which may cause challenges in development and make the board overcomplicated. Another disadvantage is a lack of timeliness, as there are no timeframes linked with each phase.

What Is Waterfall?

A linear-sequential life cycle model is another name for the Waterfall Model, and it was the first to be offered as a Process Model. This paradigm, which originated in construction and industry, was utilized in physically structured workplaces that were difficult to adjust to changes.

Because there were no clearly defined alternatives, the Waterfall approach was chosen as the software development life cycle model. In the Waterfall approach, each identified step or group of duties must be accomplished before moving on to the next.

This prevents project stages from overlapping. Instead, the workflow is intended to flow in a single direction, downwards, similar to a waterfall. It includes the steps of project conception, initiation, analysis, design, building, testing, deployment, and maintenance.

The Waterfall technique, like any other, has advantages and disadvantages. To begin with, the project planning and design processes in the waterfall approach are more established and straightforward, resulting in more alignment between the development team and clients on project deliverables.

It is also easy to track progress because the complete scope of the project is understood ahead of time. Instead of the entire team working on a single-stage - developers, testers, business analysts, and specialists from other areas related to the project can focus on their respective lines of work in other projects.

The major disadvantage of the waterfall methodology is its rigidity. Once an application has entered the testing stage, modifying anything planned at the idea stage is pretty tough. That also makes the clients unhappy, and it does not allow modification as per their changing requirements.

Agile Vs. Scrum Vs. Kanban Vs. Waterfall

In the early IT Industry, software was developed following the Waterfall approach. Since it is a linear approach where the next stage of development starts only after the previous stage is completed, it is referred to as a waterfall. However, since the process is rigid, difficult to bring changes to software, and time-consuming and risky, it is not favored in today’s world where customer satisfaction is the priority of the companies.

Agile changes the view by focusing on individuals and interactions, working software, customer collaboration, and response strategy. It provides a lot of flexibility. Scrum & Kanban are both Agile strategies, so comparing them with agile is like comparing apples and oranges with basket fruits.

Scrum and Kanban both aim to eliminate waste through iterative work approaches. They both rely on process flows and are pull systems, which means team members must finish specific tasks before choosing new ones.

A critical distinction between the two frameworks is that Scrum assigns team members fixed responsibilities, whereas Kanban fosters equal involvement by all team members. In addition, Scrum, like Kanban, employs rigorously controlled sprints to measure project deliverables without allowing for many variations; however, Scrum allows for greater flexibility as needed during a project.


Finally, the approach used for project management is determined by the specific needs of your project. Ask yourself what your goals are for a particular project. You may have varied requirements for different projects.

The waterfall framework is an excellent method for shorter projects with specified scope and finances.

Whereas, if your project does not require fixed iterations, your team prefers incremental change and wants to enhance the delivery flow and improve the production process, you can adopt Kanban.

Agile and Scrum are ideally suited for projects where the result is unclear, and modifications will be incorporated throughout the process. It’s also used to deliver projects faster and on shorter deadlines.

But it is high time to leave conventional methodologies and systems behind that only slows down the delivery of your milestones and wastes resources along with the delay. The best thing for your project is to release early and get timely feedback. That ensures a tight feedback loop between the developers and the client, thus ensuring complete customer satisfaction.

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