Comparison and Contrast of Waterfall and SCRUM Model of SDLC Cycles


SDLC models have a pivotal role in the success of a project development. And it is imperative that the project development teams adapt to one or the other SDLC models that could support in effective project development framework. In the given scenario, where there are numerous SDLC models that has been developed and is used in the process of project development, in this research paper the focus is upon understanding the intrinsic factors related to the traditional model like the Waterfall model and the agile methods like the SCRUM Model. An attempt has been made to compare and contrast both the  models, and it can be stated that the success and the suitability of the SDLC model depends more upon the need of the project and the project environment rather than on the inherent strengths of the SDLC model.

1.0       Introduction

SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle) is an integral part of the application development process and it very essential for the organizations to choose right kind of SDLC models in order to ensure successful and righteous development of the application systems. Alongside of rapid advancements that are taking place in terms of technology, systems and developments, also there are various new methods of SDLC structures that are emerging from the innovative approach and practices from the project teams. (Devi, 2013)

Numerous SDLC models like the waterfall, Spiral, V-Model, Rapid Prototyping and many other such models are effectively used by the organizations towards developing robust solutions for the organizational requirements. Keeping in view the project requirements, it is very essential that the companies take right kind of decisions in terms of choosing the right kind of SDLC models. One of the effective SDLC models that have been considered in the recent past by the organizations is about SCRUM methods. (Hurst)

In this research paper the focuses is about comparing the traditional SDLC cycle of Waterfall method to the SCRUM method and understand the intrinsic differences between the two models and how each of these models could be inherent strength to the development cycle for a new product or a solution. (Bhuvaneswari & S Prabaharan, 2013)

2.0      Waterfall Method vs. SCRUM Method

In the case of traditional SDLC model, the key factor is that there is a defined sequential order which is adapted in the process, and it’s a top down flow of the sequential steps, and has its suitability for the software development process. However, the key challenges with this model is that once the model is freeze, nothing much can be done based on the customer requirements if there is any change in the scope, and the entire design has to be re-built. This could lead to complex challenges in terms of project outcome, the quality of the process, and additional time and cost factors in the case re-design and development. (Munassar & A. Govardhan, 2010)

Also the issues pertinent to the customer dissatisfaction, requirements not being met in the developed product could be some factors which could create problems for the projects. The other positive factor associated with the waterfall model is that, it is one of the most direct approaches which has very short development schedules and the costs are also minimal but the major challenge is that there is hardly any scope for unvarying target, and once the specifications are defined and the design is developed, there is not much of flexibility and is a very rigid model. (Mahalakshmi & M. Sundararajan, 2013)

SCRUM is a kind of agile mode of life cycle development and has very sound methodology which can support the organizations towards managing framework for the complex projects. The key reasons why the organizations prefer the SCRUM model compared to the traditional models like the Waterfall models is due to its feasibility and the flexibility in the structure that is adapted to support the project development. (Devi, 2013)

In the Waterfall model approach, once the phase is completed, there is hardly the scope for revisit, and this is considered to be one of the key limitations for the organizations while choosing the Water fall approach for the project development. One of the key limitations that are envisaged by the organizations in terms of using the waterfall model is the limitation of correcting the mistakes. In fact the observation of the limitations has led to development of new models like the Spiral Model, Rapid Prototyping model etc. (Munassar & A. Govardhan, 2010)

Whereas the basic advantage of the SCRUM model that is introduced by Ken Swaber in the year 1995, is about the agile methodology which is based on the concepts of agile framework. In the agile methodology, there is feasibility to change the structure at any given time, during the phase of implementation and the agile method of architecture supports in making changes to the design process as per the requirements. The key advantage of the SCRUM method is that, everyone in the team works together and has integration between the process and high level of coordination. This will help the team have an effective coordination on the progress of the project and can manage to complete the project within the scheduled time and the estimated budgets. (Bhuvaneswari & S Prabaharan, 2013)

Unlike the Waterfall model, where the “process” has emphasis, In the SCRUM model the “stakeholders” have the emphasis. The framework of the process in SCRUM is very light and has constant monitoring from the Product Owner, SCRUM MASTER, SCRUM Team, and has constant reviews like the Sprint meet, which will facilitate quicker processing of changes and specifications. Whereas, in the case of waterfall model, the emphasis is more on the linear path systems and plans all features for simultaneous implementation which is different from the SCRUM model. (Devi, 2013)

The key challenges that are encountered by the development teams in terms of using the waterfall model is that, in this model, usually the problems with one phase if not completely resolved during that phase, then it might lead to many problems in the consecutive phase. This could result in the work being struck at every phase and is more dependent. Despite of all such challenges, still the water fall model is one of the most popular models that are being adapted in the software development arena, due to the robustness that is provided by its sequential methodology. (Devi, 2013)

In the case of SCRUM method, the key advantage vests in its agile framework, and even if in one phase of development things are not clear, still the next phase of it can be worked out, and any modifications has the feasibility. The key advantage of SCRUM model is that the documentation process is very less and the framework is less complicated when compared to the waterfall model. (Mahalakshmi & M. Sundararajan, 2013)

3.0      Conclusion

In a conclusive outlook, it can be stated that, deciding about which could be an effective model depends more about the external factors that could influence the project decisions too. For instance, if the project objectives and the problem statement is well-defined and the inputs are very clear about the expected outcome of the problem, then depending upon the factors like the probabilities for change in the defined scope, the intensity of the scenario and on the basis of inputs like the scope, the resources and the other factors related to development, either the waterfall model or the SCRUM model could be resourceful. Every model has its own intrinsic strengths and the critical success factor is all about choosing right kind of system that suit the requirements for the development. (Hurst)



Bhuvaneswari, T., & S Prabaharan. (2013). A Survey on Software Development Life Cycle Models. International Journal of Computer Science and Mobile Computing , 262-267.

Devi, V. (2013, Jan 23). Traditional and Agile Methods: An Interpretation. Retrieved Feb 20, 2015, from SCRUM ALLIANCE:

Hurst, J. (n.d.). Comparing Software Development Life Cycles. SANS Software Security site.

Mahalakshmi, M., & M. Sundararajan. (2013). Traditional SDLC Vs Scrum Methodology – A Comparative Study. International Journal of Emerging Technology and Advanced Engineering, 192-196.

Munassar, N. M., & A. Govardhan. (2010). A Comparison Between Five Models Of Software Engineering. International Journal of Computer Science Issues, 94-101.

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