Kanban vs Waterfall

kanban vs waterfall

Do you have a new software development project in the works? Well, if you’re a software developer, you’ve undoubtedly heard of Kanban and Waterfall methods. Even though, year after year, new strategies emerge, these two methodologies have remained among the most prominent techniques employed during a product’s SDLC. Today, we’ll discuss the differences between Waterfall vs Kanban and see which one may be the best fit for your new project.

Kanban vs Waterfall: Definitions

A prominent software development technique is Kanban: a Japanese management system that dates back to the 1940s. It began as a manufacturing process aiming at delivering the greatest amount of product in the shortest period. Later on, teams applied the approach to the development of software. Kanban’s key ideas are to take into account the client’s needs, visualize the process, and restrict the amount of work in progress.

Still, the Waterfall model has the longest history of being applied to software development. This method of work and resource application within the scope software development business dates back to the 1950s. Waterfall has three fundamental principles:

  1. minimal client interaction
  2. thorough project documentation
  3. project sequencing

Kanban vs Waterfall: Pros and Cons

Kanban Methodology

The Kanban method centered around a visual representation of duties and backlogs. This visual aid is displayed on Kanban boards to help the teams see their process. Tables are the physical or digital devices, and work phases are depicted in their columns. Kanban boards organize the tasks according to their level of completion.

To make the project realization process more successful, Kanban teams rely heavily on client interaction. To further this point, in most cases, each team includes a client representative, usually in the form of the Product Owners.

What Are the Benefits of Kanban?

Kanban is a method used within the Agile framework. Therefore, many of Agile’s benefits can be found in the Kanban method. The benefits of using Kanban boards within Agile include:

  • A client-centric methodology which keeps the client informed throughout the project, whereby customers can view the work in progress and make judgments and adjustments as needed.
  • The development’s quality is clearly maintained.
  • The Kanban development method focuses entirely on incremental progress.
  • Teams are well-organized and given greater autonomy.
  • Clients have a clear understanding of what is complete and what is not, which reduces development risks.
  • That deliverables can change at any time to suit the needs of the overall project.

What Are the Disadvantages of Kanban?

Being within the Agile framework, the Kanban method will also share many of the same pitfalls, including:

  • It isn’t practical for small-scale development initiatives.
  • It requires a lot of dedication from the development team for the duration of a project.
  • If Project Managers are unsure of the desired goal, projects can quickly go off track.
  • There may be difficulties due to communication. Because the technique necessitates a high level of collaboration, development projects utilizing it will also necessitate a high level of communication.
  • The high level of consumer interaction may cause issues for clients who may not have the time or want to participate in this manner.

Waterfall Methodology

Waterfall project contains five or seven steps that developers must complete in order. Before it is ready, the product must pass each of them one by one. Waterfall projects’ sequential nature can sometimes cause issues, forcing Waterfall teams to restart them from the beginning.

Waterfall teams do not include their clients in the project implementation process. During each assignment, they usually only have two meetings with their clients. The first meeting is for setting the project’s goals, and the second is for delivering the final result. 

What Are the Benefits of Waterfall?

The Waterfall method is a tried-and-true system that software development firms have relied on for decades. The reasons include the fact that Waterfall:

  • Is a simple framework and one of the most manageable models. Before the project begins, you have a clear knowledge of the project’s timetable and deliverables. The development team and the clients agree on the project scope ahead of time.
  • Allows for faster completion of projects.
  • Is well-modeled for smaller tasks with easily understandable requirements.
  • Provides methods and outcomes that are well-documented. To avoid misunderstandings and shortcuts, each project step is meticulously recorded.
  • Distributes the load. Each team member can focus on different elements of their job depending on the phase.
  • Is a non-interventionist strategy. There is little need for continuing client presence after the original design and project plan are in place until the review phase.
  • Is flexible enough to accommodate changing teams.

What Are the Disadvantages of Waterfall?

As you can expect, such an approach has several drawbacks. Here are a few examples:

  • It doesn’t appear to be suitable for large-scale projects.
  • If the requirement is not clear from the start, the technique will be less effective.
  • It’s not easy to go back and make adjustments in the previous phases.
  • After completing the development phase, the team can begin the testing phase. As a result, there’s a reasonable probability that defects will be discovered later in development when they’ll be more expensive to correct.
  • The customer may be unhappy with the project’s outcomes when completed. All work on a project is based on the initial paperwork, and the end product may not satisfy the client’s expectations.
  • It allows for less consumer interaction. As the project progresses, some clients will want to be more involved.

Which Is Better: Kanban vs Waterfall

Choosing the best method between Kanban vs Waterfall comes down to several factors.

However, the most significant distinction between both methodologies is that the Kanban approach to software development lacks a rigid framework, allowing for greater flexibility during the development cycle. Conversely, Waterfall’s sequential structure ensures a higher degree of documentation, resulting in less risk of delivering a project outside the scope of what the client had intended.

When Should You Use Kanban?

Kanban appears to be the better option for more complicated and more extensive projects with quick access to client input. Because of its adaptability, the method is better suited to projects with continuously changing requirements.

When Should You Use Waterfall?

If you don’t have (or have limited) access to a client who can offer regular input, Waterfall could be the best option. It’ll also work for projects with a distributed crew, a set budget, and a defined scope.

While there is no “best” method, given that each project presents unique challenges, even those who use the conventional technique are more likely to employ a hybrid strategy that incorporates both approaches. Despite Kanban’s evident success, the Waterfall model is still a viable option in some situations.

Still Have Questions?

If you’re learning the ropes of product management, it helps to have some support. Product Gym is a lifetime membership program for PMs, PM job hunters, and product people of all sorts. Getting people jobs in product management is our bread and butter: that makes us very good at assessing where you’re at in your job hunt and equipping you with the knowledge and skills you need to kickstart your dream career in product management. And that includes necessary information like learning about Waterfall and Kanban Methodology.

If you want to learn more about the ins and outs of Product Manager skills and job search tactics, get in touch with us! We’re offering free career coaching sessions with our in-house team of PM Recruiter experts. We’d love to hear from you.

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