In my on-going quest to answer the question “What is agile development?”, here is a point-by-point comparison with traditional development.I’ll label the traditional approach with “T”, and the agile approach with “A”…

Iterative vs Waterfall

T: Serial (“waterfall”) development is best (or at least normal/acceptable)
A: Always use iterative development


T: Design, Build and Test follow each other, in that order
A: Design, Build and Test influence each other, so they should be concurrent and iterative

Requirements Quality

To ensure requirements are well-defined and well-understood:

T: document them thoroughly; users see the system when finished
A: document them concisely; users see the system early and often

Knowledge Transfer

To ensure everyone understands the system:

T: Place importance on written documentation
A: Place importance on frequent verbal communication; regular working releases; and clear, readable source code

Team Composition

T: Team members should be specialists (BA, Designer, Developer, Tester etc)
A: Team members should be generalists (each with their own particular strengths)

Team Size

A successful process is one that:

T: Organises a large team
A: Gets the same output from a small team


T: Make a Gantt Chart at the start; maintain it during the project
A: Make a Task/Feature List at the start; maintain it during the project


Measure progress:

T: against the Plan
A: against the Task/Feature List (tracking which ones are completed). But don’t just monitor your progress; also monitor the quality of that progress by testing and releasing regularly.

Managing Change

It’s hard to change software that’s already written, so:

T: Control or minimise change
A: Make change easier

Predicting Completion

Predict final completion date and cost using:

T: the updated Gantt Chart
A: the team’s progress to date

Process Definition

To help people successfully follow it, the development process should be:

T: thoroughly documented
A: concise and memorable

Process Improvement

Process improvement is best driven by:

T: metrics
A: the people involved


T: Software development is a construction process, so making detailed plans is advisable.
A: Software development is a creative process, so making detailed plans is unrealistic.

Instead, agile processes make less-detailed plans and manage risk through iteration, continuous quality control, and feedback.

Success is

T: Meeting the initial predictions of cost and schedule
A: Delivering value for money

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