Agile v Waterfall

Project Management Cage Match

Melissa Reinke headshot
By Melissa Reinke
Apr 17 2018 read

Project Management Institute (PMI) believes that in order to understand project management, you must first understand the definition of a project. Likewise, in order to decide which project management style to use, you must first determine your project, goals, and any associated requirements. Once you have that down, select the style - either Waterfall or Agile - to best accommodate your needs and goals.

In order to help you do that, Melissa Reinke from has written this helpful post about the advantages and disadvantages of using each project management methods in your business:


Waterfall is the historically recognized form of project management. As the name suggests, it uses a linear system flowing mostly in one direction. Tasks rely on dependencies, and as one task is completed, the project “falls” to the next in line. The Waterfall method was first associated with construction and manufacturing - highly structured environments with little flexibility.


Waterfall methodology is easily understandable and digestible thanks to the step-by-step, linear progression. Waterfall also encourages documentation and, therefore, the preservation of information that may be lost in the continual trial and error efforts of other methods. This is especially important for highly specialized professions in science and engineering that require exact formulae and processes to avoid possible disaster.


The lack of flexibility in Waterfall methodology has received some criticism because it cannot adapt easily to changing project needs. Others have found the silo-like nature of departments and teams within the system discourages collaboration that could further enhance improvements to the project’s product, quality, and/or service.

Best Suited For

When it comes down to it, Waterfall is great for projects that need strictly defined work areas. Because Waterfall originated with manufacturing and construction, it still holds well for assembly-line-type projects and environments. It is also ideal for projects that require exacting specifics and little flexibility, such as those involving chemical interactions.


Thanks to its quick turnaround times and constant improvements, Agile is very popular among software developers. Agile success has been so marked that businesses have started to take note and apply Agile methodology to other departments, as well. Agile project management, like its name, is nimble and flexible. Agile is an ever-evolving joint effort that accomplishes long-term projects by focusing on short-term goals. Because of this, Agile teams are often short-lived collaborations from various departments designed to resolve a single problem and move on.


Unlike the silo-like trickle down of Waterfall, Agile teams are made up of people from several different areas so that they can all bring something to the table and work together to find a common solution, rather than one that will work for one area and not another.

This collaboration offers unique, multi-faceted insight to problem-solving not highlighted in other methodologies.

Also, the quick turnaround Agile offers often allows companies to cut production time and move up release dates that will then be followed up with improvements.


For some people, the items listed above as Agile’s advantages are actually disadvantages. Being drawn from regular work to participate in what appears to be an ad hoc committee can be overwhelming for some people. The disparate departments may prove too different to work together. Also, more traditional companies may be turned off by the quick moving, release and-then-refine philosophy.

Best Suited For

How do you eat a piece of pie? One bite at a time. If you’ve got a whopper of a project but can only digest a little at a time, spend some time looking into Agile project management. Software and app developers like Agile because it allows them to get a product on the market and then fine-tune based on feedback.

In closing, if you’re looking for a flexible, collaborative environment with a quick release that you can continue to update later, try Agile. If you need structure and exactitude, look into Waterfall. Go with what fits your project and remember: what works for one project may not work for another. Head over to to compare your options or click here to start your free trial of Accelo's adaptive project management today!


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