The Top Software Development Methodologies

Not all software houses work the same way. The processes, tools, and workflows that go on behind the scenes can vary wildly - and a lot of that comes down to the software development methodology they practice. Agile, Waterfall, Spotify - they’re all different ways of working to build a piece of software, each with its own pros and cons, as well as best-fit projects.

In this article we take a closer look at some of the top software development methodologies and what’s involved in each.


We start with the Waterfall development methodology, because it is the first described software development lifecycle model, originating in the 1970s. You’ll remember that personal computing wasn’t around for most people until the mid 80s to early 90s - so it speaks to its age (and legacy) that this model still persists in many projects today.

The Waterfall model is a sort of left to right (or cascading, as speaking to the imagery of its name) process - starting at the Requirements phase, then moving through to Design, Implementation, Verification, and Maintenance. These distinct phases mean that, in theory, they can be separate, achieved by separate teams, with handoff between. However, with complex projects, the rigidity of this model can make it a poor performer.

Because of its shortcomings, new, modified models were developed to make the process more flexible.

Iterative Waterfall

The Iterative Waterfall model is simply the Waterfall model with feedback loops built in. If issues are found at a later stage they are then referred back to an earlier phase - and perhaps a different team. While this is a more flexible model, it can also lead to workflow issues - how many staff do you need working on each phase when you don’t know how flow is going to be affected by changes or issues later on down the line?


Agile has been touted as the “best” software development lifecycle model to follow for some years now. The allure of following the Agile methodology lies in the relative flexibility of the model to allow for changes and curveballs that occur throughout a software development project. And these changes and curveballs do always happen with any software project beyond trivial designs - they’re inevitable.

Instead of approaching the project from a holistic view, it’s broken down in parts, components, or smaller chunks of work, with small teams effectively working together, at once, on design, development, testing, and deployment of these small chunks in a rapid fashion.

The model also provides a better way to track developer progress along the way at both an individual and a team level - so everyone’s on the same page and pulling their weight.

The relative maturity of Agile has also brought about some offshoots (or forks, as software developers call them).

Spotify Model

The Spotify model is one of these Agile forks, created by Spotify to scale Agile to the enterprise. Because with very large software projects, how do you coordinate these small Agile teams and components to bring together a huge, cohesive project? It involves creating larger blocks of work or components and how to coordinate design, testing, etc. of these as a whole, beyond the small team level.

Another alternative scaled Agile model is Scaled Agile Framework - a similar take on the same issue.

Other methodologies

There are plenty of other methodologies and mutant versions of more popular methodologies floating around, such as Structured Systems Analysis And Design Method (utilizing a systems approach) and Rapid Application Development - although these are generally less popular and used in niche applications.

How do you choose the right software development lifecycle model for your project?

The size, complexity, resource distribution, timeframe and X other number of factors all have an impact on which will be the best software development lifecycle model for your project. There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to software development projects - and trust us, that’s a good thing!

One thing to remember is that many software houses work strictly within one or a limited number of software development methodologies. Learning different ways of working takes time to become familiar with. Asking a software developer only experienced in Waterfall development to use an Agile process will be like asking a child to draw a picture of a house rather than asking an experienced artist - it will end up being an approximation of how the process should be.

Why choose CodeFirst?

At CodeFirst, we are experienced in a few different software development methodologies, including Agile and Waterfall. If you are unsure which working method will be best for your project, and how we work together as a partnership, we can guide you through figuring out the best fit.

Our experienced developers can help turn your project into a tangible software product, ensuring you get the software you envisage, built to quality standards, with plenty of ongoing communication along the way. Contact us to learn more about getting that idea off the ground!