What is a software development methodology?
In simple terms, a methodology can offer your team different features and practical ideas to help the production of an application. Each one comes with a specific package of methods that will help you meet deadlines and create quality products, by creating a plan and structure for each task on the way to the finish line. They can usually be divided into two main categories (Agile and Waterfall), although some of them incorporate elements of each. You will need to weigh in the pros and cons of each to decide which one will be the best fit for you.
Waterfall development methodologies
One of the more traditional methodologies, Waterfall development is considered a ‘classic’. It offers teams a sequential development cycle to follow, which ensures every task is fully completed, allowing software production to flow downwards (like a waterfall). It is linear and rigid, ensuring that each phase is completed and tested before moving on to the next step, which makes it a common choice for businesses.
Its main advantages are that rigorous consistent testing saves time long-term and create a stable environment with clear-cut objectives. It’s also useful for smaller projects with limited resources, as Waterfall can help to break down tasks and allow everyone to be involved in the development process.
While it’s effective for quick turnover, its downside is that there is no way to produce a working application until you’ve reached the final stages of development, and you won’t be able to check if the build has been successful half-way through, which may delay fixing bugs. You’ll also need to know all the requirements for your project upfront since there won’t be room for maneuver down the line or changes past the testing stage.
Iterative development methodology
If you’re interested in the waterfall model but want something simpler to upkeep, the iterative development methodology could work wonders for you, by breaking down your project into smaller and more manageable chunks* and testing the code in repetitive cycles to catch bugs earlier. This way, each phase of development is gated and will need design approval before starting coding, which may slow down the overall process but will surely offer you more flexibility.
It also offers additional features that can be incorporated into the software which will enhance the final product’s quality.
Agile development methodologies
In recent years, Agile has become a lot more popular, even overtaking the more traditional waterfall method. Its strict software management process allows for code modifications while an application is being created and deployed, favoring individuals over processes. It allows you to incorporate changes requested by clients while still minimizing the risk of exponential errors by working within cycles of short periods.
You will need constant communication between the team of developers tasked and the end-user to successfully use this method. Only a stream of contact will permit developers to respond to changes when they’re needed, rather than stick to a pre-determined plan.
Agile development comes in many different forms, including Scrum, one of the favored ones currently. It breaks down coding and testing phases, into biweekly or monthly iterations (which are called sprints), and production progress is tracked through regular meetings. The unpredictability of Agile can therefore be erased by assigning everyone roles and responsibilities in the process which will never change and encourage continuous delivery. There are three roles, within this methodology, that team members will need to be familiar with:
- Product owner: This member is the one with an overview of the entire product, and a vision of how it should come out looking, making it their responsibility to guide developers down the right path and answer whatever questions they may have.
- Scrum Master: This is the facilitator between the product owner and the development team, working to remove any obstacles that developers may face and facilitate communication between all members. They deliver new features and then report back any necessary changes or new directives back to the team.
- Development team: If everyone does their job properly, the team working on the piece of software should be self-sufficient. It can be a mix of programmers, QAs, tester, and software engineers who organize their own tasks and work together to meet the sprint deadlines.
Kanban is another popular development method, for its agility and flexibility. It offers less structure and is centered around the need to add amendments to code through small incremental changes, meaning you can incorporate it at any stage of development. It’s a non-disruptive method that focuses on not making radical or instant changes to your setup.
A Kanban board will let developers list their current workload organize their work within different lists, ticking off tasks as they go. This method focuses on continuous improvement, with a visual framework allowing you to tackle small changes simultaneously for easier project management. Because, unlike other agile methodologies, it doesn’t offer predefined roles, developers can focus on continuous delivery and balance the demand of tasks if there are numerous changes to be made at once.
One of its drawbacks is that any variability or unpredictability can affect its function, so you’ll need a strong hand managing a spearheading the project in the right direction.