Choosing an effective project management methodology often relies on knowing your options and project requirements. In this post, we’ll compare and contrast two popular development process models that can help you optimize your approach to planning, creating, and testing software.
Should you choose Waterfall or Kanban? We’ll explain how each methodology works to help you make an informed decision.
Waterfall takes a sequential approach to software development. Managers using the Waterfall model create stages that define how a project proceeds. Team members must complete one phase of the project before moving forward to the next phase.
A typical software development project will have sequential phases that include:
It’s important to recognize that a work in progress can not move to the next stage until the current stage has been completed. A visualization of the workflow looks like a waterfall, which is where the model gets its name.
The Waterfall is special because it encourages groups to find production methods that work well for them. Once they establish a successful template for work, they can apply it to future projects.
Ideally, it leads to the predictability that helps teams understand how much of the new work they can accept and how much they need to charge for projects.
Managers might choose Waterfall projects when they want to:
With Waterfall projects, you rarely intend to complete ongoing iterations of the software. While you might update the code for future versions, you deliver a completed product to the client.
Are you interested in learning about other approaches to project management? Get started by reading our post about DevOps vs. agile methods.
Kanban is a lean project management method that breaks milestones into small tasks. As the team completes tasks, it moves closer to project completion.
Unlike the Waterfall process, the Kanban methodology does not force team members to complete entire stages before moving forward with deliverables.
Instead, individuals and teams complete small tasks rapidly while others work on different aspects of the project.
We tend to think of Kanban boards when describing the method. Kanban boards have columns that show a task’s progress. For example, a Kanban board might have columns labeled:
You always can start with a simpler board with less columns such as in the ilustration below.
The Kanban method often works best when it:
Unlike scrum boards, Kanban boards do not set strict deadlines for sprint backlog tasks. Instead, people have more flexibility regarding task prioritization, self-organizing, and sprint planning.
Development teams often like the Kanban system because it relies on small, achievable tasks. The method’s flexibility can also help them avoid bottlenecks because they don’t have to wait for others to complete their jobs before moving forward.
From a psychological perspective, seeing a project move toward the final product can also create a sense of accomplishment that keeps team members motivated without much oversight from managers.
It often makes sense for project leaders to follow the Kanban method when their projects could benefit from:
Anyone working with distributed teams will want to use digital Kanban tools that improve communications. Some of the most popular digital tools include:
You can often access basic Kanban board features for free, but you will need a paid membership to unlock the most useful features.
Waterfall and Kanban have pros and cons that will influence which options stakeholders choose. We’ve put together this list to help you compare and contrast the methods easily.
Still not sure which project development method will serve your needs better? We can help you compare Waterfall, Kanban, and other options, such as agile software development and adding a scrum master to your team.
We want to make sure you have the support you need to make all of your projects successful. Feel free to reach out if interested in learning which method suits your project the most.