Over the years, three models have emerged for building complex software: Waterfall, Agile, and DevOps.

Each approach has its strengths and weaknesses. We’re going to run through each model’s pros and cons so that you can make an informed choice about the right one for you.

Understanding Waterfall, Agile, and DevOps

Let’s take a quick look at what each model is about before we help you out with some advice on when to use them.


This is the oldest model supported by the Kaizen method of continual improvement and the Project Management Book of Knowledge, among other solution-delivery models that date from the 1950s. It gets the name ‘waterfall’ from its cascading approach to delivery.


The rise of the Web and the demand for faster software releases drove the evolution of Agile. It enables you to deliver solutions quickly to your audience. Agile and Waterfall are similar—but not the same. The main difference is that cross-functional teams are pulled together and asked to iterate fast for solution delivery. This method has become a standard in the banking industry.

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The modern digital age, powered by apps and services, must scale to support billions of users. These solutions need continuous delivery of new features and support resulting in what is now known as DevOps, and to be clear, DevOps is also Agile. The model for DevOps came from a need to drive features to customers faster. Gmail and Microsoft Office are examples of DevOps in action, with hundreds of updates every day. The DevOps mantra is ‘continuous delivery’, and it’s driving a revolution in modern IT.

Each of these delivery approaches come with their own pros and cons.

When to Use Waterfall

Teams work through the following stages when using the waterfall model:

  • Business process assessment
  • User acceptance testing
  • Quality control (QC)
  • Business need
  • Development
  • Testing
  • Release.

Each stage includes gateway approvals to ensure all requirements have been met.

It is easy to bash the Waterfall. The approach is process heavy and frequently fails. However, many of the tools used in Waterfall have value. The Kaizen mindset drove the rapid growth of companies such as Toyota. The phrase is Japanese for ‘improvement.’ There are times when Waterfall is of value, such as when you’re working on legacy systems.

When to Use Agile

 A solution’s architecture might suit Agile delivery if it was built any time after 2000. That’s because Agile—particularly one methodology, Scrum—makes it easier for a team to ‘sprint’ and deliver working code over a two-week cycle. Agile delivery is an excellent model to move to if your company has only ever done Waterfall projects. That’s because it can deliver faster results.

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When to Use DevOps

The challenge with adopting DevOps is that it is a mindset change. You are moving from big releases fraught with anxiety typical for Waterfall to a model of minimal releases. The key to DevOps success is that at every step, your code, and solution goes through iterative testing.

The best time to start using DevOps is with a mobile app, AI solution, or VR system. Consider these projects to implement DevOps.

Persuading Business Leaders

It matters what delivery model you use. But what matters most is how can you increase value to your company through increasing value to your customers. To do that, you’ll need buy-in from the following people:

  • CFO 

    Ensure you can justify your delivery model to the CFO so you can get funding
  • Sales Leader 

    The bottom line is making money. Does your delivery model open up new revenue channels or increase the value of existing channels?
  • Project Management

    your project management office leader will need to support the delivery model and help you gain leadership support
  • Colleagues 

    They can act as bottom-up influencers

Wrapping Up 

While Waterfall still exists, its use has been on the decline for about a decade. News paradigms and technologies around the cloud and mobility require more flexible and rapid models for software development. Honestly, businesses that don’t adopt the latest Agile models, including DevOps, in today’s hypercompetitive world, aren’t going to succeed.

Simplilearn offers comprehensive training and certification programs in both DevOps Course and Agile and Scrum.  To get your team up to speed and fill specific roles in these categories, check out some we offer like Certified ScrumMaster and Docker in-depth Certification. It’s better to get certified before your competitors, after all!

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