6 Most Common Software Development Methodologies

6 Most Common Software Development Methodologies

Creating software is no simple endeavor: Typically, developing an application demands the coordinated efforts of a diversely skilled team. Without strategic management, this complexity can quickly tip into chaos. Accordingly, implementing a structured development approach can be crucial to the efficient completion of any software project.

There are multiple popular methodologies in software development, and they each possess appealing characteristics. In this guide, we’ll discuss six of the most commonly used software development methodologies.

While these approaches differ significantly, they’re popular because they can be utilized in many contexts by many kinds of organizations, including distributed workforces and hybrid teams of employees and independent professionals.

Could one of the options below provide the perfect structure for your next software development project? Keep reading to find out.

1. Waterfall

The Waterfall approach, the most traditional development methodology we’ll discuss, comprises a series of stages executed consecutively. From conceptualization through construction, implementation, and maintenance, each phase flows down to the next (hence, the approach’s name).

The process is defined by orderly progress: Once a stage is completed, doubling back to revise is generally discouraged. While some teams love the clarity and consistency of a set trajectory, critics find this approach rigid and impractical.

Indeed, the Waterfall process lends itself to straightforward projects with clear and unchanging requirements, rather than efforts involving many pivots and potential pitfalls.

Benefits of this software development methodology

  • Planning clarity: With a pre-established trajectory for each project, managers and team members can plan their contributions at each stage.
  • Opportunities for staggered execution: If your team is handling multiple projects simultaneously, the Waterfall approach may allow different team members to focus on separate projects at various stages.
  • Simplicity for all stakeholders: Because the Waterfall approach is relatively straightforward, it’s easy to convey to team members, managers, and clients. You don’t need extensive experience in development to comprehend where a project stands.

2. Agile

Agile may be best understood as a mindset, rather than a singular software development methodology. In fact, many of the other methodologies we’ll discuss are informed or inspired by the Agile philosophy, which was developed as an explicit rejection of the Waterfall model.

Essentially, Agile invites developers to dive in and “get their hands dirty,” prioritizing iterative improvement over a cautious crawl to launch. The initial goal is to generate a “minimum viable product” and continuously improve it in light of evolving information about users’ needs and preferences.

In the Agile model, software development teams typically identify one problem or priority, work together in a time-bound “sprint” to achieve a solution, and then move on to the next challenge.

In contrast to the Waterfall approach, there’s no plodding, set progression for the team’s development process. The team tackles enhancements and changes flexibly, responding to emerging requirements.

Benefits of this software development methodology

  • Responsiveness to change: Agile is, well, agile. If user needs dictate new priorities or internal direction changes, a team using Agile can adapt accordingly.
  • Sprints enable strategic prioritization: When the full team immerses itself in one priority, you’ll generate results in important areas. No more spreading your team too thin and letting urgent needs go unaddressed.
  • The process doesn’t hinder productivity: Developers like to sink their teeth into problems, but rigid process requirements can prevent them from doing so. Agile is designed to keep the bureaucracy at bay, letting your team do what it does best.

3. Scrum

If Agile is a broad conceptual orientation, Scrum can be understood as its concrete application. Using a Scrum framework, teams break down a software project into specific increments of work to be completed. These objectives are then accomplished in time-limited sprints (typically two to four weeks), during which team members devote their attention to the specific challenge at hand.

After these sprints, the team and key stakeholders review progress, noting necessary improvements and key learnings. The Scrum team then shifts to another sprint, which may or may not relate directly to their last one.

The Scrum approach demands discipline, as encourages your team to remain singularly focused on a given sprint. Some professionals love this freedom from distraction; others prefer the ability to toggle between priorities.

Benefits of this software development methodology

  • Undivided attention: By focusing your team’s efforts for set periods, the Scrum approach liberates developers from peripheral demands on their time.
  • Collaborative camaraderie: Scrum teams are immersed continuously in shared priorities. Accordingly, they come to aid and rely on each other as they pursue mutual goals.
  • Frequent feedback: Because each sprint concludes with a constructive review, Scrum teams are constantly attuned to the needs of stakeholders. If requirements shift or miscommunications occur, you’ll discover discrepancies quickly.

4. Extreme Programming

Extreme Programming, another offshoot of the Agile mentality, emphasizes iterative development in time-limited cycles. However, in contrast to the Scrum framework, Extreme Programming entails more specific recommendations for software development practices, down to the way code is written and reviewed.

The spirit and name of Extreme Programming reflect this methodology’s emphasis on implementing widely accepted values to an “extreme” extent. For programmers who buy into its rules, Extreme Programming can seem like the apotheosis of sound development principles.

For example, based on the notion that frequent code reviews limit the impact of errors, Extreme Programming recommends that teams code in pairs to catch mistakes as they occur. Similarly, based on the idea that frequent testing keeps code aligned with customer requirements, Extreme Programming asks developers to devise tests before writing the code to fulfill them.

The process is multifaceted and highly nuanced, so you should consider  doing plenty of research before choosing this methodology.

Benefits of this software development methodology

  • Comprehensive guidelines: Whereas all methodologies suggest process elements, Extreme Programming also provides detailed guidance on how programming should occur. For some teams, this degree of specificity is quite constructive.
  • Emphasis on continuous improvement: One of the Extreme Programming’s core principles is its commitment to regularly updating code. With small improvements constantly occurring, everyone can work from the latest version, and the team can take encouragement from the ongoing progress.
  • Increasing team engagement: Unlike some methodologies, Extreme Programming has clear instructions for collaborating with other team members and facilitating feedback. These elements of the software development process can be just as important as the technical aspects of the work.

5. Lean

The Lean methodology, another product of the Agile philosophy, aims to decrease waste in all stages of the software development process. Common sources of waste include unnecessary features and bloated code, miscommunications and duplicated efforts, vaguely expressed requirements, and quality issues undermining subsequent progress.

To combat these common challenges, Lean teams often use some of the same techniques found in Extreme Programming, including paired programming and test-driven development. It also emphasizes continuous improvement and the fast delivery of a viable product.

But Lean includes its own concepts, such as delaying major decisions to keep the team’s options open as the project moves forward. Another key component is respect for the developers’ autonomy. Rather than forcing their teams to follow top-down directives, Lean leaders allow developers to create their own solutions.

Benefits of this software development methodology

  • Emphasis on efficiency: Lean turns everyone’s attention to streamlining core processes. Within a development team, this ethos can be a powerful accelerant.
  • Flexibility moving forward: Lean teams don’t commit to a firm vision of their project at the outset. Instead, they keep alternatives on the table until a decision must be made. In evolving or uncertain contexts, this adaptability is valuable for team members and stakeholders alike.
  • Respect for your team: Developers can do more than implement others’ instructions. Lean regards their insight as critical and empowers them to solve problems independently.

6. Kanban

Kanban is a system for organizing and executing software development tasks and can be utilized independently or in conjunction with the methodologies we’ve already discussed. Kanban is a means to visually identify and address bottlenecks as they arise, adapted from a workflow management system originally used in automotive manufacturing.

The crucial element of this approach is the Kanban board, which consists of columns denoting different stages in the life cycle of a given goal, such as “coding,” “code review,” and “code revisions.”

As team members complete a stage, they move the goal into the next column. This visualization highlights stoppages in workflow and facilitates adjustments. In fact, when a designated number of goals are stuck in one column, the team must “swarm” the backlog to address the issue.

Benefits of this software development methodology

  • Shared reference points for progress: Whether it’s physical or digital, the Kanban board keeps everyone on the same page about the team’s efforts.
  • Equitable assignments: If the team’s workload is unevenly distributed, the Kanban board will make this issue abundantly clear. Moreover, team members may then shift their work priorities to assist their overburdened team members.
  • Accessible to visual processors: Many programmers and other creatives are visually oriented thinkers. The Kanban board serves their needs in ways that a spreadsheet or verbal updates might not.

Enhance your software development approach with independent talent

The six methodologies described here represent an intriguing mix of approaches to software development. Each option has its own advantages and may be particularly suited to specific kinds of projects or teams.

Armed with a basic understanding of these methodologies, you’ll be positioned to select the optimal approach for your next development effort. Whichever framework you choose, your structure will surely be more efficient than a haphazard, disorganized approach.

You’ll need talented professionals who can thrive within your chosen methodology. Use Upwork to find independent developers and other top professionals to make your next software development project successful. Our platform makes it easy to attract and engage experienced professionals who can contribute effectively to your larger team.

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6 Most Common Software Development Methodologies
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