7 Software Development Methodologies You Should Know (Which One Is Best?)

Software Development Methodologies
Table of Contents

What is Software Development Methodology?

A software development methodology is the complete set of structured steps and proven processes that help teams efficiently bring a project from idea to completion.

In short, software development methodology is the method used to develop software.

a development team enjoying a systematic process with software development methodology
The definition of easier said than done.

The end!

And also the beginning – keep reading and we’ll explain.

Importance of Choosing the Right Software Development Methodology

As this post is written for non-technical founders, let’s try to address your ‘why’.

Inevitably as a founder, you’ll find yourself working with or even leading developers.

Developers come with their own areas of expertise, including the various development methodologies available. 

Push a developer outside this scope and they will almost certainly be less productive.

developers used to agile software development methodology
That’s why you NEVER mess with a developer’s keyboard.

By understanding the strengths and limitations of a methodology, you as the founder and likely manager can decide on its suitability for your project, and then build the right team to execute it. 

Each methodology comes with benefits, compromises, and defining principles – and understanding them is how you make an informed choice. 

Seven Software Development Methodologies

The table below is a quick overview of the seven most used software development methodologies.

MethodologyStrengthsCompromisesTeam Size
WaterfallClear structure, easy to understand, ideal for simple projects with well-defined requirements.Lacks flexibility, not suitable for complex and evolving projects.Small to Medium
AgileHighly flexible and adaptable, promotes iterative feedback, great for rapidly evolving or highly complex projects.Requires high customer involvement, can lead to scope creep.Medium to Large
ScrumEncourages teamwork and transparency, manageable work packages via sprints.Requires experienced team members, scope creep can occur.Medium
KanbanVisualizes workflow, encourages continuous delivery, easy to implement.Requires high customer involvement, which can lead to scope creep.Small to Medium
LeanGreat for large codebases and teams, focus on developing features.Eliminates wasted time and resources, and fosters continuous improvement.Large
Extreme Programming (XP)Promotes high customer involvement and rapid feedback loops.Requires cultural shift, which can be challenging to implement correctly.Small
Feature Driven Development (FDD)Less focus on documentation can become complex quickly.Can lead to bottleneck issues, and requires constant monitoring.Large

As you can see, their strengths and potential compromises ultimately affect their suitability for different team sizes.

We’ll discuss each methodology, its primary strengths, and potential drawbacks. 

1. Waterfall 

If we had to explain The Waterfall method with just one word, the word would be ‘linear‘.

Teams follow a clear, linear path to software development, where you finish one stage before moving on to the next.

The strength of this approach lies in its simplicity and clarity, making it well-suited for small, well-defined projects where the requirements are clearly outlined and unlikely to change

However, that same rigidity means it’s quite bad for projects that require frequent changes.

2. Agile

If we had to explain Agile methodology in one word, the word would be ‘Anti-Waterfall‘, because it couldn’t be more different from the previous method.

Agile teams approach development in cycles, with each cycle including some form of increment.

This is a far more flexible method that gives room for frequent adaptation and changes. 

Agile works extremely well with long-term projects with uncertain requirements and technologies.

However, that same flexibility also means it will lengthen development time, which can be unnecessary for projects with iron-clad requirements.

3. Scrum 

Scrum is a type of agile software development methodology that is highly iterative and focuses on achieving specific objectives in short blocks of time called ‘sprints’. 

Its strength lies in its ability to welcome changes, scalability and improved transparency.

On the downside, the lack of a strict schedule could potentially lead to scope creep.

Scrum works best for complex, innovative projects requiring rapid adaptation, and can be combined with Agile methodology to form cycles of incremental development and review.

4. Kanban 

Kanban is a visual-centric branch of Agile methodology, focusing on continual delivery without overburdening the development team.

This makes project progression transparent and accessible to all stakeholders.

However, like Scrum, Kanban risks scope creep if not properly managed.

Kanban is suited to projects where priorities shift frequently and immediate action is required. 

5. Lean 

Lean is a production-focused methodology that eliminates waste and maximizes value to customers. 

However, its heavy reliance on customer feedback makes it less suitable for projects where customer interaction is limited or unreliable.

Its strength lies in improving efficiency and optimizing the production process, which means it works best with processes that are repeatable and predictable.

6. Extreme Programming (XP) 

Extreme Programming (XP) emphasizes customer satisfaction and enhances software quality through frequent releases in short development cycles.

While it’s highly effective at improving software quality and responsiveness to changing customer requirements, it requires a high level of engagement from all team members.

Thus, it is ideal for projects that need constant testing and refinement. 

7. Feature-Driven Development (FDD) 

Feature-Driven Development (FDD) emphasizes the delivery of tangible, working software in a timely manner.

FDD is easy to manage, flexible, and provides constant progress insight.

However, it requires strong and clear documentation to function efficiently.

It’s most effective in large development environments, with complex but well-understood requirements, such as large and established corporate IT teams.

How to Choose the Right Development Methodology? 

Choosing an appropriate software development methodology should hinge on the nature of your project, team size, and the unique needs of your organization.

And frankly, just as important as it is to choose the right development methodology, it’s crucial to choose the right team.

As we’ve mentioned before, developers often have established areas of expertise.

Within this space is where they are at their most efficient and knowledgeable. 

And so, if you believe that a certain methodology is vital to your project’s success, hire developers who are experienced working in that style.

What Methodology Does Upstack Studio Use? 

At Upstack Studio, we’ve found a blend of Agile and Scrum methodologies to serve us best.

After years of working with non-tech founders all over the world on a variety of software projects, we’ve learned that it’s natural for new requirements and priorities to surface later in the project lifecycle.

waterfall methodology software development vs agile software development methodology
Satisfaction guaranteed.

Because of the flexibility built into Agile, these discoveries are not setbacks.

Instead, they allow the dynamic nature of software development to express itself. 

That’s a nice way of saying our clients can tell us something important they just thought of six months deep into development!

It happens – Agile and Scrum help us accommodate it.

Wrapping Up the Discussion

If you have unlimited time, money, and patience, you can execute any app or SaaS project.

(also, we’d love to have you as a client)

However, if you’re a typical founder, you don’t have unlimited resources.

You must execute in the shortest time, with the least amount of money, and with your sanity intact.

After all, wouldn’t it be great to continue working with the same team that built your app?

The right development methodology is the one that lets you build your app without breaking the morale of everyone.

And these are just theories at the end of the day, so feel free to take the best of several and create your own hybrid methodology.

The best software development methodology is the one that best serves your project.

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