Traditional vs Agile Software Development

The modern software development life cycle methodology can be subdivided into two types – the Traditional process and the agile process. In this post, we will look at what each of these processes are and then do a comparative analysis between them.

A software system is built in such a way that it can perform complex tasks and computations on the behest of the user. The process of building a software requires a rigorous attention to detail and a general guiding algorithm. The traditional and agile processes essentially are manifestos for software development ideologies, more than anything else. They can be further subdivided into more specific processes that form the basic plan of each unique software development life cycle. The agile methodology post-dates the traditional one in the evolution of the software development processes.

Traditional Software Development

Traditional methodologies are characterized by a sequential series of steps like requirement definition, planning, building, testing and deployment. First, the client requirements are carefully documented to the fullest extent. Then, the general architecture of the software is visualized and the actual coding commences. Then comes the various types of testing and the final deployment. The basic idea here is the detailed visualization of the finished project before the building starts, and working one’s way through to the visualized finished structure.

Agile Software Development

As its name suggests, the agile method of developing software is a lot less rigorous than the former. The crux here is incremental and iterative development, where phases of the process are revisited time and again. Agile developers recognize that software is not a large block of a structure, but an incredibly organic entity with complex moving parts interacting with each other. Thus, they give more importance to adaptability and constant compatibility testing.

Traditional Vs. Agile Methodologies

Customer Involvement

While traditional methodologies require the user to provide a detailed idea of the exact requirements with respect to the intended software, agile developers are more flexible through their iterative style of work. With agile development, the user is constantly in the loop, suggesting improvements and reviewing every phase. This increased customer involvement works on two levels – one is that it makes reflective changes easy, as opposed to traditional development where chunks of system might have to be dismantled to improve a small part, and the second being that it increases the customer satisfaction drastically.

Cost

This is a key issue. Especially the reworking costs, which tend to shoot after a bout of testing, are very low in agile computing than the traditional methods. Since testing is not compartmentalized in agile development, a potential problem can be identified and swiftly dealt with. This affects the corrective maintenance costs for the software.

Development Flexibility

Again, agile wins hands down in this category. The idea is that in traditional systems, the role of a coder and a business analyst is bifurcated. The architecture stems from the initial customer requirements collected and analyzed by the business analysts which is then developed by the coders. With agile, since the customer interaction is so extensive at every stage of development, and since the developers are the ones who are handling the interaction, the amount of architectural, functional and fiscal flexibility endowed to the project is pretty high.

Documentation

One of the few areas where the agile methodology falls short as compared to the traditional one is the documentation process. Traditional development prides itself in stringent documentation and reviewal of every step in the way to deployment. The documentation process also becomes easier due to the unidirectionality of the algorithm. With agile, the primary interface of documentation and reviewal is the code itself, with annotations and comments added by developers. This can become a bit of an issue in terms of communicability.

System Size

Small to medium sized systems are perfect for agile development since they offer more compatibility to the elastic method of attack that agile brings to the table. Large software systems offer more inertia to iterative change in some respects, especially with the system design parts. In this case, one can either go for the traditional way of software development that deals with bulkier, unilateral systems with better ease and forgo the other advantages offered by agile; or one can compartmentalize the large system into smaller agile developed processes and play a compatibility gamble.

Choosing the development ideology compatible to your software is a difficult and complex decision.

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