As a trainer, I am frequently asked, “What is the difference between Scrum and Waterfall methodology”?
Let’s break down these two different methodologies so you have a clear understanding of the differences.
Let’s start with waterfall.
Waterfall methods use a sequential approach to development in which deliveries to customers are generally done infrequently. The idea of Waterfall is that we should follow a strict set of phases or stage gates to ensure that we do things “properly and in order.” Typically for waterfall software projects, we see phases around Requirements, Design, Coding, Testing, Deployment, and Maintenance. Once we “lock down” our requirements, we resist change and “stick to the plan.”
How long is a typical waterfall? Usually each phase lasts for weeks or months, and deliveries only occur every few months or even after a year or longer.
Waterfall is a project-oriented approach and has a poor track record of success in complex areas like software.
What’s the solution to dealing with complex work efficiently and effectively?
You guessed it. Scrum.
In Scrum, we tend to focus on products more than projects and more on continuous prioritization than detailed requirements. The approach shifts to rapid delivery cycles fueled by empowered, cross-functional teams. Scrum teams typically deliver a new version of their product every 1 to 4 weeks. These development iterations are called sprints, and can be thought of as all the functions of the waterfall phases occurring continuously. Development priorities are captured in a product backlog and can shift as we learn more from talking with customers and delivering new versions of the product to them.
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