7 leading software development methodologies
Software development methodologies help streamline the creation process

Adapting to clients’ changing requirements is the greatest challenge to software developers, according to a study that surveyed over 150 development companies.

Additional challenges: missed deadlines and exceeded budgets.

Opting for one software development methodology and sticking to it can help solve these issues.

In this article, we’ll look into seven leading software development methodologies and their pros and cons, then establish how to find the one that’s best suited for your needs.

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How Software Development Methodologies Inform The Process And Final Product

An often overlooked and underestimated part of software development is choosing a methodology that is most fitting for the project at hand.

Factors such as project cost, deadline and software requirements play a role in determining how the software project will be executed.

Software development methodology is a predefined approach of processes that defines the route to be followed for successful delivery and deployment of the software product.

The benefits of establishing a specific software development methodology and project framework are:

  • Project costs remain constant 
  • Development teams follow the schedule and meet the deadline
  • Administrative talks that have no value to the project and that waste time are eliminated
  • Teamwork is improved and requirements are met
  • Project management burnout is eliminated

Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of the seven most frequently used software development methodologies.

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Agile Software Development

This innovative software development methodology is based on evolutionary development, flexible response to change and improvement through adaptive planning.

Agile development creates software solutions over shorter time frames called “iterations.” Each iteration can last between one week and one month.

Using this process, teams of developers, designers, engineers, marketers and stakeholders all provide their input during regular brainstorming sessions.

While agile software development has flexibilities, it is a very disciplined management process that allows alterations while the project is underway.

This type of software development usually results in fast software release with a lower risk of bugs and minimized impact of other issues such as cost overruns and changing requirements. 

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  • An adaptive approach that responds to the clients’ changing requirements
  • Feedback and direct communication with stakeholders and development teams diminish the guesswork and minimize the risk of misunderstandings
  • Improved transparency between the client and the development team
  • Finds and fixes errors and defects quickly and identifies mismatch between expectations and the actual product early on, improving the end-product quality
  • Working software can be produced before the final stage


  • Focus on software and lack of documentation may cause functioning issues
  • Agile projects may sway off track if the client is not clear about their objectives

Agile software development methodology

Waterfall Software Development

This software development methodology is the traditional and most common software creation process. 

Quite opposite to Agile, it is linear and strict and requires developers to complete the current stage or task before moving on to a new one.

Waterfall stages gradually flow into each other and developers do not return to the previous stage to handle changes in requirements. 

This method’s life cycle flow assumes the strict sequence of completed tasks.

Waterfall’s linear process simplifies software engineering tasks. Waterfall software development is best suited for smaller projects with well-defined requirements.


  • Simple, easy to understand, gradual and analytical process that is beneficial for software development beginners
  • The rigidity of the model makes it very manageable
  • Each phase has an individual review process and specific deliverables
  • Tasks are processed and completed at once, saving a lot of time
  • Simple process makes testing and analysis easier


  • Very precise and up-front requirements are needed to make this method work
  • Not suitable for maintenance or long, ongoing projects
  • Development cycle has to reach the last stage to produce working software
  • Once the software is in the testing phase, it is not possible to go back and make changes

Waterfall software development methodology

Scrum Software Development

Scrum methodology is a multi-faceted approach applicable to any type of software project. It is most suitable for developing projects with rapidly changing requirements. 

It begins with brief planning, continues with daily stand-up meetings - or scrums - during which the progress is reviewed and closes with a final review.

This speedy software development consists of multiple work iterations - or sprints - needed to create the required product.

The greatest advantage it has over other processes is that it brings even the slow-progressing projects on track very easily. Scrum software development is designed for teams of three to nine members who can complete the project in two weeks’ time.


  • Development teams make all the decisions and work at their own pace
  • Business requirements documentation is not very significant for the project’s success
  • Flexible method that handles  frequent changes and updates and speeds up the development process
  • Measures individual productivity in daily meetings, leading to better productivity of team members


  • Not suitable for large projects
  • Requires an experienced team with a broad skill set that works in close proximity with each other
  • Requires a lot of planning due to division of the project into sprints

Scrum software development process

Lean Software Development

This software development methodology creates software solutions that are easy to edit and change.

Lean is a flexible, strategically focused process with an objective of the fast creation of software when there are a limited budget and minimal requirements.

The lean methodology applies principles of lean manufacturing to software development in order to decrease programming efforts and defect rates. It has a solid conceptual framework and offers developers strong principles based on established rules.

This software development process requires specifications to be examined to the last detail beforehand in order to eliminate any wasted time or budget. 

Its core component is value for the client, which makes the role of feedback and fast action crucial.


  • Follows the core Agile Manifesto principle of “find good people and let them do their own job”
  • Speedy process and reduced costs
  • Developers can deliver more functionalities in a shorter period of time
  • Development team has more decision-making freedom, empowering individuals and introducing motivation


  • The success of the project depends on the team’s discipline and technical ability
  •  Additional training may be required
  • A business analyst must make sure that documentation is correct and that everyone understands it
  • Too much flexibility may result in poor focus that could compromise the project

Lean development methodology

Rapid Application Development

Rapid application development (RAD) is a methodology that provides fast and high-quality results. Its main objective is to accelerate the process of software development through active user participation.

As a subset of agile methodology, RAD puts emphasis on user feedback in favor of planning. This process uses the assistance of other development methodologies to focus on fast prototype releases and iterations.

The quick feedback which RAD projects receive makes early elimination of errors possible, leading to desired outcomes. 

Usually, RAD methodology consists of five stages: 

  • Analysis
  • Quick design
  • Prototype cycles
  • Testing
  • Implementation


  • Reduces risks of poor execution thanks to constant client feedback and early detection of issues
  • Users interact with prototypes, resulting in a product of higher quality
  • Speedy development due to less planning and documentation
  • Frequent feedback makes client and developer cooperation transparent


  • Relatively new and risky method
  • Not suitable for small budget projects due to costs of modeling and automated code generation
  • The fast-moving nature of this method requires an experienced team that works together for a lengthy period of time

Rapid application development

Feature Driven Development

This software development methodology is best suited for big teams that work on project-oriented or object-oriented technology and organizations that are moving from stage-based to iterative approaches.

Feature-driven development combines several software development practices and methodologies into one. Its main objective is to focus on organizing software development around its features and delivering working products quickly.


  • Helps move large projects with continued success
  • Obtains structure and a good overview of the project through its five simple processes: model development, feature list building, planning, design and build by feature
  • Built on set standards for software development and uses industry’s recognized best practices, making it easy for developers to understand the method quickly


  • Not suitable for smaller projects and teams due to complexity
  • Lead developers need to be highly trained and fully equipped because a lot of responsibility is on them
  • This highly complex process needs to be monitored at each phase to avoid significant issues

Feature driven development

Rational Unified Process

Rational unified process (RUP) methodology splits the software creation process into four phases that all contain business modelling, analysis, design, implementation, testing and deployment.

RUP’s flexible life cycle consists of these four phases:

  • Inception
  • Elaboration
  • Construction
  • Transition

Each phase has its own goal. RUP’s main objective is to achieve fast results by using the assistance of other methodologies. 

This adaptable process is object-oriented and allows developers to find suitable guidelines, templates and examples for all aspects and stages of development. Teams can tailor this framework according to their own organization.

As a result of adjustable fast prototyping and iterations, developers get quick feedback and can eliminate errors on the go, reaching optimal product outcomes. 


  • Makes development process easy and assists clients with quick reviews
  • Encourages feedback from clients
  • Helps team members identify and resolve project risks associated with client’s changing requirements via request management
  • Scalable and suitable for any team or project of any size
  • Reviews help maintain focus and improve client-developers transparency


  • Highly complex, potentially disjointed process that’s difficult to understand and requires a skilled team
  • Continued testing and integration increase complexity, which may lead to new issues
  • Too much dependency on team performance

Rational unified process software development methodology

How To Choose The Software Development Process That’s Right For You

The choices are there - but how do you know which software development process is right for you?

These five tips can help you decide: 

1. Evaluate The Requirements Flexibility

Before deciding on one software development methodology, you should consider the flexibility of your software specification.

For web and app development, in which changes are frequent along the way, Agile approach is ideal. Waterfall is a good method for a classic software development process in which predictability and stability in all phases are present.

2. Define The Software’s End-Users

If your target audience is diverse, there will likely be a huge amount of requests to include new features in the software after the launch. For this scenario, Agile method would be the most helpful as it lets you take a step back and edit your product.

On the other hand, if your software is targeting a controlled group of users, there will likely be a fixed set of requirements, making Waterfall method ideal. 

3. Be Aware Of The Project Size

As we’ve seen, each software development methodology requires a certain number of developers in the team. The number of developers will depend on the scale of the project.

Big projects will require a more elaborate project management plan. These orderly plans are best suited to the streamlined Waterfall methodology.

4. Evaluate Your Development Time Frame

If the time frame for software development is long-term and there are no deadlines in sight, Waterfall methodology is the best choice.

However, for developments that go through sprints, with deadlines fast approaching, Agile and other iterative-based methodologies are the most fitting choice because they make the release of partially finished products possible.

5. Consider The Development Team’s Location

Accountability, coherence and coordination are all very important if you’re working with an outsourced remote development team. In these scenarios, a rigid development method like Waterfall is best.

Agile, feature-driven and rapid application development methodologies require a lot of meetings and frequent discussions with teams that work closely together. They are a better option for software development teams that are near you. 

Takeaways On Software Development Methodologies

Choosing a software development methodology that is right for your project before the process begins is important because implementing methodical changes down the road can be difficult.

Knowing the software requirements and the scope of the project are two of the most important factors that will inform the type of methodology you will use and help you find the software development team that’s right for you.

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