Software Development Models: Types and Their Comparison

Article by:
Anastasia Moroz
14 min
Software development methodologies are an important part of making the process of application building more effective. In this article, we will review the most popular software development models and frameworks, their pros and cons, and which of them can be a good fit for your project.

Every software development project, even the smallest one, involves a team of IT specialists, lots of planning, meetings, discussions, and deadlines to meet. This means that in order to make software development effective, it is important to apply software development methodologies and frameworks. They help manage the project, keep everything up to a certain standard, and see what is going on both from the client's and the team's perspective.

In this article, we are going to review and compare some of the most popular software development models and frameworks, their pros and cons.

What Are Software Development Methodologies?

Software development methodology includes all the processes used in software development while working on a project. The main goal of the software development life cycle, or SDLC methodologies, is to make the development process more systematic and efficient.

Over the years, there have been many methodologies based on the available technologies and resources. Such approaches determine the way developers work together and share information as a team.

Today many companies that offer software development services use different development approaches to facilitate this process. However, there is still a lot of debate on which of the software development models to choose. This happens because each of them has its own pros and cons. Choosing the right software development approach is determined by the project goals and requirements, the web development team structure, and the team's background.

According to GoodFirms, the most popular development methodologies are Agile (61.5%), Scrum (21.3%), and Waterfall (9.6%). And 5.8% of companies use other models in order to achieve their goals.

The most popular software development methodologies
Top Software Development Methodologies

Now let's have a look at the most popular software development methodologies used today.

Waterfall Software Development Methodology

The Waterfall project management strategy is considered to be the most traditional approach to software development. In spite of the fact that it was introduced decades ago, it is still relevant for some projects today. This is a linear model consisting of sequential phases (discovery, design, implementation, testing, deployment, maintenance). Each of these phases needs to be fully completed before you start working on the next one. Usually, it is not possible to go back or change the plan or direction in the product development life cycle.

Waterfall Software Development model
Waterfall Software Development Life Cycle

Advantages of the Waterfall model:

  • This model is linear and easy to understand;
  • All the stages are completed one at a time;
  • All the project requirements and specifications are set before the project starts;
  • There is little space for miscommunication, as all the information is clearly defined at each step;
  • This model requires less interaction with the client after the discovery stage;
  • It is easier to estimate the costs of the projects based on this method;
  • Easy management process, as every stage has a separate review process.

Disadvantages of the Waterfall model:

  • It is necessary to specify the requirements for the whole project before starting;
  • It is impossible to change anything in the project before moving to the testing stage;
  • The project discovery phase takes up a lot of time;
  • The testing takes place only at the end of the development phase, though there can be some problems that are hard to fix later on;
  • The software built using this methodology becomes functional only at the last step of the development process;
  • It is not suitable for complex projects.

Use cases:

  • Small and simple projects with clear requirements, like websites for small companies;
  • The cases when it is necessary to plan the budget and project timelines thoroughly before starting;
  • Projects with strict rules and regulations;
  • Projects that involve well-known tools and technology stack.

Agile Software Development Methodology

Today, a lot of companies prefer using the Agile SDLC methodologies. The main features of Agile software development approaches are iterative development, customer feedback, and intensive communication. The tasks are usually divided between short iterations 1 to 4 weeks long. After completing each of them, there is a working app version, that's why many teams give preference to MVP agile development.

The Agile software development model focuses on creating the functional part of an application as fast as possible and pays less attention to the documentation (requirement specifications, detailed architecture descriptions). This model requires close collaboration both with the team members and with the customers. At the end of each sprint, there is a review and a re-evaluation of the priority tasks.

Agile Software Development Model
Agile Software Development Life Cycle

Advantages of the Agile development model:

  • The final result has little defect because of multiple tests and upgrades;
  • Clear communication between the team members and the customers;
  • It is possible to make changes in the process of development with little impact on the project timeline;
  • Improvement of the application quality;
  • Easier testing and maintenance;
  • The costs and budget are well planned, as this approach requires accurate project estimation before starting each iteration.

Disadvantages of the Agile development model:

  • Inconsistency in project specifications;
  • Lack of clarity from the start of the project;
  • No strict deadlines, as the project requirements can change in the process of development;
  • Sometimes it is hard to estimate the project costs, as changes can be made along the way;
  • Lack of efficiency in documentation;
  • Requires experienced developers who can work on their own.

Use cases:

  • Projects that require early user feedback;
  • Custom software development projects, where it is hard to set the project requirements from the start;
  • Large projects that can be divided into small parts and developed gradually.

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Agile Framework #1 - Scrum

Scrum is one of the most popular Agile development frameworks. The work here is divided into iterations called sprints. Each of the sprints starts with planning and ends with the deployment of a stable working product. After the sprint activities have been planned, it is not allowed to make any changes.

Scrum Development Process
Scrum Development Process

Advantages of the Scrum approach:

  • Short sprints allow to solve the problems quickly;
  • Regular client feedback;
  • Scrum is economically effective;
  • Daily meetings increase the productivity of the team;
  • Flexibility and customer-oriented approach.

Disadvantages of the Scrum model:

  • Daily meetings can be tiresome for the team;
  • The time-to-market can increase, as there is no strict deadline;
  • The Scrum approach is not very useful for large projects;
  • Not a good option for junior and middle-skilled developers – all team members should be equally skilled and committed.

Agile Framework #2 - Kanban

The Kanban approach is even more flexible than Scrum. The main feature of Kanban is that there are no distinct iterations. The team focuses only on the work in progress. There is a Kanban Board that shows all the project activities and their progress. The model has no separate planning stage, so all the changes can be introduced at any time. This model is often used for projects on software support and evolution.

How Kanban works:

  • The project is divided into small tasks;
  • The tasks are marked with cards;
  • As the developers finish the tasks, they move them on the Kanban board from left to right.
Kanban software development model
Kanban Board Software Development

Advantages of Kanban software development:

  • Easy task management and tracking;
  • Flexibility, as there is no planning and sprints;
  • Doesn't need additional planning if the requirements change;
  • Works well for projects under maintenance.

Disadvantages of the Kanban model:

  • No sprints, which can lower the productivity of the team;
  • Requires self-management skills;
  • Hard to plan and control the scope of work.

Agile Framework #3 - Feature-Driven Development

Feature-Driven Development (FDD) is a workflow management method based on Agile. Feature-driven development divides the development activities into a list of features. The development team goes through the process of planning, designing, and building for each of the features. Usually, a feature takes up to two weeks to complete. The information is communicated through detailed documentation.

This model is a great option for long-term projects that can frequently change and add new features in regular and predictable iterations. The Feature-Driven development approach is suitable for small teams as well as for large ones, as it focuses on the customer's needs and requirements. Plus, it is often chosen by those opting for dedicated developers.

5 steps of the FDD life cycle:

  1. Develop the overall model;
  2. Go through feature prioritization and build a list;
  3. Plan by feature;
  4. Design by feature;
  5. Build by feature.
Feature-Driven Software Development
Feature-Driven Software Development

Advantages of feature-driven development:

  • This model is a good option for big projects with predictable results;
  • The team has a good understanding of the project's scope and context;
  • FDD uses detailed documentation and requires fewer meetings;
  • This approach allows several teams to work at the same time;
  • FDD has a user-centric approach;
  • Easier to track and fix errors.

Disadvantages of the feature-driven development model:

  • ​​FDD is not recommended for smaller projects;
  • It provides almost no documentation for the client, though there is a lot of documented communication between the team members;
  • This model is too complex for individual developers;
  • High dependency on the Team Lead and their skills.

Agile Framework #4 - Extreme Programming

The Extreme Programming (XP) model typically has iterations 1-2 weeks long. It allows changes to be made even within an iteration, if the development team hasn't started working on the particular software element. This model is extremely flexible, which makes it harder to deliver quality software. To solve this problem, XP requires using pair programming, quality assurance software testing, test automation, small releases, continuous integration, simple design, and strict following of the coding standards.

Extreme Programming Development
Extreme Programming Development

Advantages of Extreme Programming Development:

  • XP is comparatively cost-effective;
  • The customer is involved in the process of development;
  • Works well for small teams;
  • Suitable for creating software in an unstable environment;
  • Effective risk management.

Disadvantages of Extreme Programming:

  • Hard to estimate the project costs because of the constantly changing requirements;
  • Requires frequent meetings;
  • Can be time-consuming;
  • Involves too many changes in the code;
  • Changing initial requirements at a later stage can be costly.

Extreme Programming works well when:

  • The project's functionality often changes;
  • The customer is not sure what they want the app to do, so they constantly change the requirements;
  • The team is small (2-12 members);
  • It is possible to work closely with the client.

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Lean Software Development Methodology

Lean Software Development Methodology is based on the lean manufacturing principles invented by Toyota. The main idea of this software development model is to minimize wastage and increase productivity. The developers avoid non-productive activities to increase the quality of fulfilling their tasks.

The Lean Development approach encourages the team to keep an open mind during development and consider all factors before making a decision. The main goal is to establish a system that works with maximum efficiency, such as an MVP development process. The workflow of this development model is minimal, and all forms of excesses, like meetings and documentation, are minimized.

Lean Software Development Methodology Principles
Lean Software Development Methodology Principles

Advantages of the Lean development methodology:

  • It is cost-effective and good for low-budget projects;
  • Cuts down wastage, like repetitive tasks and unnecessary documentation;
  • It allows to speed up the development process;
  • Allows the development team to make decisions.

Disadvantages of the Lean development methodology:

  • In order to save time and budget, all decisions should be accurate and final;
  • Low flexibility;
  • Requires discipline and highly-skilled developers;
  • Requires detailed documentation.

Software Development Models Comparison

Choosing a software development model depends on the project and the client's needs and requirements. There is no universal solution that will be suitable for any project. Here we have created a list of the types of software development methodologies and their frameworks and explained the cases when their use is recommended.

Name When to use Client involvement
Waterfall Small and simple projects, projects with, projects with strict rules and regulations High during the discovery phase, lower on other stages
Agile Projects of any size that require early user feedback The client sets requirements and gives feedback
Scrum Complex or long-term projects The client defines the project requirements and gives feedback
Kanban Projects on software support and fixing bugs The customer sets tasks and provides feedback
Feature-Driven Development Long-term projects that continually change and add features The client sets the project requirements and gives feedback
Extreme Programming Projects with changing requirements and small teams (2-12 developers) The client sets the requirements and takes part in project estimation and prioritization
Lean Development MVP startups, low-budget projects The client sets the project requirements
Software Development Methodology Comparison


Different software development models help developers build software and applications in a more conscious way. Though there are many SDLC methodologies, there aren't any universal ones that can be used for every project, each of them has its own pros and cons. Choosing a project management strategy that fits best depends on your team structure and experience, the project goals and requirements, budget, and many other factors.

If you are wondering which software development methodology is going to be right for you, feel free to contact our experts, and they will help you find a model that will work best for your needs.


1. What are software development methodologies?

Software development methodologies include all the processes used in software development while working on a project. Their main goal is to make the development process more systematic and efficient.

2. Which software development approach is the best?

Though there are a lot of different methodologies, there isn't a universal solution suitable for every project; each of them has its own pros and cons. Choosing a project management strategy that fits best depends on your team structure and experience, the project goals and requirements, budget, and many other factors.

3. What are the most common software development models?

According to statistics, the most popular software development methodologies are Agile (61.5%), Scrum (21.3%), and Waterfall (9.6%). Plus, 5.8% of companies use different models in order to achieve their goals.

4. Why is it necessary to use SDLC methodologies?

Because software development methodologies help to standardize and manage the project, keep things up to a certain standard, and see what is going on both from the client and the team perspective.

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