A software development model is a specific set of processes that are used to develop a product. Learn more about what development methodology is best for your project based on its aims and goals.
The best software development model for your project depends on a number of factors, including its size, nature, and level of complexity.
At BairesDev, we specialize in software outsourcing. We employ the top 1% of IT talent in Latin America, so we’re well-placed to discuss the pros and cons of each approach.
To determine the best model for your product, we’ll look at five of the most popular: Waterfall, Kanban, Scrum, Lean, and DevOps.
Waterfall Provides a Step-by-Step Methodology
The Waterfall development model typically lends itself well to small or ‘one-off’ projects.
Likewise, if your venture is a long-term development that adheres to strict guidelines, Waterfall’s ‘stage-by-stage’ process can be very convenient. If your project deals with sensitive data, where human error can have serious consequences, then choosing Waterfall as your model would be a safe bet.
The following graphic shows each stage in the Waterfall development process:
This visual representation shows how a project progresses from the top to the bottom, like a cascading waterfall. It’s the oldest and most trusted software development model and follows a straightforward process:
- Requirements: Product requirements document
- Design: Software architecture
- Implementation: Software
Waterfall is very functional and enables projects to be completed quickly, and for smaller projects that require attention to detail, it provides a straightforward model.
On the other hand, adjustments and testing can’t be carried out mid-development, so everything needs to be precisely pre-planned. Because of these testing limitations, Waterfall is beginning to lose out to more ‘agile’ frameworks.
Kanban Is Adaptable
Kanban is an effective software methodology for products that require ongoing maintenance and improvement. Like Waterfall, it’s well-suited for small delivery teams and has the added benefit of working over the top of other software development models.
Kanban is concerned with the important features of a project and helps identify ways to improve functionality.
Rik Higham, principal product manager at Skyscanner, shared his experience of using Kanban via this Medium post. He said:
"We decided to give Kanban a shot. The reduction of meetings provided immediate relief. It freed up the engineers to do what they do best and what they enjoy most.
Kanban put the focus back on delivering quality software. Not planning and project management. The biggest benefit to me, though, was the flexibility and the ability to adapt to changing requirements and priorities."
By focusing on improving essential areas, Kanban can speed up the development process. Developers don’t need any additional training to use the methodology, and there’s no upfront investment to use the software.
Kanban's visual interface uses a whiteboard and sticky notes, making it intuitive and easy to use.
The following example board from workflow visualization company Kanban Tool shows what a Kanban interface looks like:
This particular whiteboard demonstrates how a project might be developed by a small team, with buffer columns signaling that tasks are ready to progress to the next workflow stage.
Kanban does have its drawbacks, however. It isn’t well-suited to products that have a lengthy development process, as sticky notes can’t predict timescales. In turn, the methodology doesn’t handle project planning very well.
For projects on a budget that require regular updates and improvements, Kanban could provide the adaptability you need.
Scrum Provides Flexibility
Scrum enables products to be fully functional throughout the development process, so testing and adjustments can be made at any time.
This methodology is well-suited to projects that require smaller delivery teams where continuous development and implementation is required. Scrum’s testing functionality is thorough, and adjustments can be made quickly.
It’s an agile methodology that approaches projects from a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) viewpoint, testing and improving on an ongoing basis. Scrum offers flexibility and ensures that project managers are in constant contact with the development team.
Although fixes and adjustments can be carried out quickly, changes aren’t always documented, so precise planning is required before the project begins.
Scrum’s methodology requires a high level of management, so senior developers often need to be assigned the role of manager, overseeing progress.
For projects that require continuous testing from the ground up, Scrum can offer great flexibility.
Lean Works for Existing Projects
Lean software development is particularly well-suited to existing products that have been around for a long time and require renovation. Lean development originated in Japan in the mid-20th century and was invented by employees of Toyota Corporation.
Projects that require an overhaul to align with modern technological standards will greatly benefit from this methodology.
The aim of this approach is to improve projects three times quicker than other models by focusing on the elements that add the most value. By focusing on the essentials, developers can take the time to perfect each feature to a high standard. This methodology is ideal for projects with a limited budget and a lesser workflow.
The company first launched in 2007 with a simple 3-minute video, narrated by the company’s founder, Drew Houston. The video is still available on YouTube today:
Since its launch, Dropbox has used lean software development to enable collaboration, integration with Microsoft Office, and the creation of Dropbox for Business.
As precision is at the forefront of this model, documentation needs to be detailed, as developers need a deep understanding of the requirements.
Only the most highly skilled developers can implement lean development, as the approach requires expert knowledge and experience.
For existing projects that require an overhaul, lean can provide great value.
DevOps Can Deliver Your Project Quickly
Development and Operations (DevOps) is best-suited to products where the delivery team is open to collaboration.
DevOps works particularly well where the culture surrounding the project is open to sharing and working together.
The aim of this methodology is to ensure that the project is carried out as efficiently as possible with minimal problems.
The model is focused on delivering projects quickly through efficient workflows. It can implement features promptly and detect and correct any development issues as they occur, without disrupting other services.
At BairesDev, we use DevOps practices to ensure smooth collaboration and to reduce the level of risk as projects develop. Specifically, we focus on telemetry and alerting, automated testing, and continuous deployment.
However, DevOps often requires companies to re-think their culture. Implementing the methodology isn’t always straightforward and may not be a good fit for certain working environments.
DevOps experts are also in high demand so aren’t easy to source. For this reason, they can also be expensive to hire.
For projects that would benefit from an open, collaborative approach, DevOps can provide efficiency and high performance.
Software Development Delivery: In-House, Extended, or Outsourced?
Once you know what software development methodology is right for your project, the next step is to explore the delivery options.
How you choose to have your project delivered will largely depend on your budget, the need for efficiency, how quickly you need the project completed, and what access you have to talent.
Essentially, there are three project delivery options:
- Delivery Team: For projects that require developers to start work immediately, a delivery team can free up internal resources. Developers work autonomously and rely on clear communication and feedback during testing. Delivery teams work quickly yet maintain the flexibility to re-prioritize when necessary.
- Extended Team: This is a good option for companies that already have a small team of software developers but lack the expertise to see the project through to completion. Contracting skilled developers to work in an integrated manner until the project is completed can ensure that any talent shortages are met.
- Software Outsourcing: Companies that don’t have a software development team or the in-house expertise to deliver the project can benefit from software outsourcing. This method enables pre-developed platforms to be customized. It’s a reliable and cost-effective software development methodology. Of all the delivery options available, software outsourcing provides the best value in terms of performance output and capital investment.
Software Development Models at a Glance
The best software development model for your venture depends on its size, level of complexity, and specific requirements. At BairesDev, we specialize in software outsourcing at every level, so we have a good understanding of the pros and cons of each development model.
If your product deals with sensitive data where human error could have consequences, then Waterfall provides a simple and straightforward ‘step-by-step’ methodology.
For projects on a budget that require frequent updates fast, Kanban is a very adaptable model.
Products that require continuous testing can benefit from the flexibility Scrum provides.
Existing projects that require an overhaul to align with modern technological standards will benefit from Lean.
And if your company has a collaborative culture, DevOps can deliver your project quickly with minimal disruption.
The best delivery method for your venture depends on your budget, goals, needs, and access to the appropriate talent. In most cases, partnering with a software outsourcing company will ensure you get the best value.
About the Author
Nacho is Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer at BairesDev. Responsible for defining and implementing long and short-term plans, ensuring the successful management of the company, and setting future strategy aimed at positioning BairesDev as the #1 Technology Services company in the region.
He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Systems Engineering as well as a Master of Business Administration and is fluent in English, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese. A native of Argentina, he now calls San Francisco home. Nacho is the author of "IT Outsourcing to Latin America", an Amazon-exclusive book that analyzes the Software Development market in Latam. He is also a Forbes Technology Council member and a thought leader in the Software Outsourcing industry.