12 Software Development Methodologies Successful Teams Use

Nikolay Tsonev

Nikolay Tsonev

Product Marketing | PMI Agile | SAFe Agilist certified

Table of Contents:

What's the trickiest part of the job for software development teams? It depends on the team. DevOps teams might struggle with maintaining end-to-end visibility, while Scrum teams often grapple with estimation issues or the inflexibility of the Waterfall approach.

Choosing the right development methodology can significantly ease these challenges. This concise guide delves into the top 12 software development methodologies, highlighting their key features, advantages, disadvantages, and underlying philosophies.

Let's dive in to find the best fit for your team and projects, simplifying your software development journey!

What Is a Software Development Methodology?

A software development methodology is a systematic approach to building software. Choosing a given methodology, method, or framework is important because it creates a standard for managing software projects and aligns teams with certain delivery policies.

Furthermore, it helps you create a shared project purpose and a better understanding of requirements so you can deliver stable systems and keep customers happy.

What Are the Top 12 Software Development Methodologies?

Software development methodologies define the ways of working when developing software solutions.

Waterfall Development

The waterfall development methodology originated in the manufacturing and construction industries. The model gained high popularity because these industries have linear production cycles, and the final product is known from the beginning of the production cycle.

This means that little to no changes are expected alongside the process. The "waterfall" model consists of strictly defined sequential phases where a stage can't begin before the previous one has finished.

The 5 basic software development phases consist of the following.

  1. Requirements
  2. Design
  3. Implementation
  4. Verification
  5. Maintenance

One of the major benefits of the waterfall model is that it's a risk-free approach, especially in industrial manufacturing. Executing the "Design" phase early in the process helps developers reduce the likelihood of changes in the "Implementation" phase.

Another benefit of waterfall development is that it's easier for project managers to plan milestones due to the clear project scope. Because of that, project costs can be more accurately estimated too.

waterfall software developement methodologyImage credit: "Managing the Development of Large Software Systems", Dr. Royce

While the waterfall methodology is the "go-to" approach in a stable environment such as manufacturing, it has become less popular in software development. That's because software development produces intangible goods where the final product is unknown until the later stages of the project.

Waterfall Development Pros and Cons


  • Simple and Easy to Understand: Waterfall follows a straightforward and linear approach, making it easy for team members to understand the process.
  • Well-Defined Stages: Each phase has specific deliverables and a review process, which helps in organization and meticulous planning.
  • Easy to Manage: Because it is sequential, it’s easier to manage by setting clear deadlines and milestones.
  • Early Identification of Project Scope: All requirements are defined at the beginning, allowing for a clear understanding of the scope and objectives.
  • Documentation Focus: This focus emphasizes thorough software development documentation, which can be beneficial for future reference and for new team members to get up to speed.


  • Inflexibility to Changes: Once a phase is completed, it's difficult to go back and make changes, making the model inflexible in accommodating project requirement changes.
  • Late Testing Phase: Testing only occurs after the development phase, which can lead to the discovery of issues late in the project, potentially increasing costs and delays.
  • Risk of Not Meeting End-User Expectations: Since there is little to no involvement of the client or end-user during the development phases, there’s a higher risk of the final product not meeting their expectations.
  • Poor Adaptability to Complex Projects: The Waterfall model is not well-suited for projects where requirements are not clear from the start or are expected to change.
  • Delayed Delivery: The product is only delivered at the end of the cycle, so clients must wait longer to see any working software or prototypes.

Agile Software Development

Agile software development is based on an iterative model where the work is executed in repeatable cycles. It consists of a group of Agile software development methods and frameworks that focus on gathering customer requirements alongside the project's lifecycle and continuously releasing solutions to the market.

The history of Agile software development goes back to the 1990s when there was a huge delay in software delivery. Companies were frustrated because their requirements were quickly changing. This led to the creation of the Agile Manifesto in 2001 that set forward theAgile ways of working.

agile software developement

The different Agile methodologies aim to embrace change at all project stages. To achieve that, instead of big phases, Agile software teams break down their projects into smaller chunks. They constantly deliver them for customer inspection to gain feedback and use them to plan new features, fix defects in existing ones, or altogether remove others.

Agile software development helps Agile teams deliver faster and more frequently, improve team collaboration, adapt to changing requirements, and meet customers' expectations.

Agile Software Development Pros and Cons


  • Flexibility and Adaptability: Agile allows for changes in project requirements even in late development stages, making it highly adaptable to evolving client needs.
  • Faster Time to Market: With its iterative nature, parts of the project can be developed and delivered faster, reducing time to market.
  • Continuous Improvement: Regular reviews and iterations allow for continuous improvement of the product, process, and team performance.
  • Increased Customer Satisfaction: Customer involvement throughout the process ensures the final product is more closely aligned with their expectations.
  • Better Product Quality: Regular testing during iterations helps identify and fix defects early, leading to better overall product quality.


  • Higher Demand for Customer Involvement: Agile requires continuous customer or stakeholder involvement, which can be challenging if they are not available or committed.
  • Risk of Scope Creep: With ongoing changes, there's a risk of the project's scope expanding beyond initial estimates, affecting deadlines and budgets.
  • Documentation Can Be Neglected: The focus on working software over comprehensive documentation can sometimes lead to insufficient documentation, making it harder for new team members to catch up.


Kanban is a workflow management method that helps you optimize service delivery processes and improve continuously. While not a software development methodology, kanban has been adopted by many development teams looking to visualize their workflows and achieve predictability in software delivery.

The method gained prominence in the late 1940s as a scheduling system for Lean manufacturing, developed in Toyota's production factories. Later, at the beginning of the 21st century, kanban's visualization practices were successfully applied in software development. This led to the creation of the Kanban method for knowledge work in 2007.

Kanban represents a tailor-made approach that doesn't require big revolutions to existing processes. Instead, it emphasizes visualizing your current workflows on kanban boards to unveil bottlenecks and then gradually looking to apply improvements based on your scenario. Besides visualization, some of the main practices of Kanban include limiting work in progress, managing flow, and introducing feedback loops.

kanban software development

The main idea is to optimize entire value streams in the company, improve the flow of feedback across all levels, and build more predictable service delivery processes that satisfy customers' needs.

Kanban Method for Software Development Pros and Cons


  • Flexibility in Prioritization: Kanban allows teams to change priorities as new information comes in without disrupting the current workflow.
  • Visual Management: Kanban boards make it easier to identify bottlenecks and track progress.
  • Continuous Delivery: Emphasizes continuous work flow, enabling faster delivery of features and improvements.
  • Reduced Wastes: Kanban helps reduce waste and increase productivity by focusing on current workloads and limiting work in progress (WIP).
  • Improved Team Collaboration: Kanban promotes transparency and communication within teams, helping to address issues promptly and collaboratively.


  • Overemphasis on Current Work: While focusing on current tasks can improve efficiency, it might lead to neglecting long-term planning and strategy.
  • Risk of Overwork: Without strict WIP limits, teams can take on too much work at once, leading to burnout and decreased productivity.
  • Requires Discipline: Kanban's effectiveness relies heavily on the team's discipline to stick to WIP limits and continuously update the kanban board.

DevOps Methodology

The DevOps software development methodology refers to the intersection between software development (Dev) and IT operations (Ops) in a project. It is about bringing those two functions together to promote higher transparency in code repositories and automate integration processes to release software solutions with greater efficiency.

Building on Agile software development, the DevOps movement started back in 2007/2008. The goal of the movement was to solve the huge delay that the constant switching between the two functions was causing once a problem in the code arose.

To achieve this, DevOps relies on automation practices such as continuous integration, continuous delivery, and deployment.

Some of the benefits of the DevOps software methodology include rapid software delivery, decreased downtime as well as greater code reliability.

DevOps Methodology Pros and Cons


  • Increased Deployment Frequency: DevOps practices enable more frequent code updates, leading to faster time to market.
  • Improved Collaboration and Culture: DevOps fosters teamwork and productivity by breaking down silos between teams.
  • Enhanced Quality and Reliability: Continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) practices ensure that code is tested thoroughly, improving the quality of software and user satisfaction.
  • Efficient Problem Solving: The collaborative nature of DevOps and its emphasis on automation streamline the problem-solving process, reducing downtime and operational issues.
  • Faster Recovery Times: DevOps practices like continuous monitoring and immediate feedback loops allow teams to detect and correct issues quickly, reducing recovery time.


  • Implementation Complexity: Transitioning to a DevOps culture requires significant changes in processes and mindset, which can be challenging for some organizations.
  • Skill Set Requirements: From coding to operations, DevOps requires a wide range of skills, which requires hiring new talent or training existing staff.
  • Increased Initial Costs: Implementing DevOps tools and practices can involve upfront costs, including training, tooling, and potentially hiring.
  • Security Risks: The focus on speed and frequent deployments might lead to security being overlooked, though practices like DevSecOps aim to integrate security from the start.
  • Resistance to Change: Some team members may resist the cultural shift required for DevOps, preferring traditional separation of duties between development and operations.

Rapid Application Development (RAD)

The Rapid Application Development software methodology (RAD) is an iterative development process that focuses on building prototypes and involving the end-users in the project design stage.

The origins of RAD can be traced back to 1991 when the technology consultant James Martin introduced the methodology to address the pressure to release working products faster. Even though it preceded the "official" birth of Agile software development, the RAD methodology also welcomes changing requirements late in the process and emphasizes having the customer actively involved throughout the development cycle.

The main idea of RAD is to reduce the planning efforts of development teams and turn their attention to continuous prototyping. The initial "low-fidelity" models are then evaluated by the customers before the actual development work begins. This reduces the risk of rework in the development process, lowering costs and speeding up time to market.

RAD Methodology Pros and Cons


  • Fast Delivery: RAD enables rapid development and delivery of software, thanks to its focus on minimizing planning in favor of prototyping.
  • Increased Flexibility: Changes can be made quickly at any stage of development, making it easier to adapt to new requirements or changes.
  • Enhanced Customer Satisfaction: User feedback ensures the final product meets the needs and expectations of customers.
  • Improved Quality: Regular testing during the development process helps in identifying and fixing issues early, leading to a higher quality product.
  • Resource Efficiency: By focusing on the key features and using prototyping, RAD can make efficient use of time and resources.


  • Dependence on Strong Team Collaboration: RAD requires a high level of collaboration between developers, customers, and stakeholders, which can be challenging to maintain.
  • Not Suitable for Large Projects: The RAD approach can be difficult to apply effectively to projects of a larger scale due to its focus on speed and flexibility.
  • Requires Skilled Teams: Successful RAD implementation requires a broad range of skills in rapid development techniques.
  • Potential for Incomplete Documentation: The rapid pace of development might result in insufficient documentation, making future maintenance and scalability challenging.
  • Risk of Scope Creep: Without careful management, the continuous feedback and change cycles can lead to scope creep, extending timelines and increasing costs.

Lean Development

The Lean software development methodology refers to the application of Lean principles in software development. The concept was introduced in the book "Lean software development" written by Mary and TomPoppendieckin 2003, and adapts various Lean manufacturing practices to knowledge work.

The main objective behind the Lean software development methodology is to remove the wasteful activities across the development cycle and maximize customer value. In software development, waste can be classified as:

  • Partially Done Work
  • Extra Processes
  • Extra Features
  • Context Switching (Multitasking)
  • Waiting
  • Work Handoffs
  • Defects

To achieve the main objective of lean development, Lean focuses on mapping value streams, building flow within processes, and establishing pull systems.

lean software developement

Furthermore, the Lean approach to building new software products promotes the release of an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) before the actual solution is ready. The idea is to gather user feedback in a production-like environment and, based on it, deliver the complete product version. This approach helps companies deliver superior customer value and increase ROI.

Lean Development Pros and Cons


  • Waste Reduction: Lean is focused on identifying and eliminating non-value-adding activities, which leads to more efficient resource use and reduced costs.
  • Improved Quality: The Lean approach helps maintain high quality in software development by continuously addressing the root causes of defects.
  • Faster Delivery: Lean principles promote the acceleration of the entire development process, enabling faster delivery of features and products to customers.
  • Increased Flexibility: Lean's emphasis on adaptability allows teams to respond more quickly to changes in customer needs or market conditions.
  • Enhanced Customer Satisfaction: Focusing on delivering value from the customer's perspective leads to products that better meet customer needs and expectations.


  • Cultural Shift Required: Adopting Lean principles involves significant changes in organizational culture and mindset, which can be challenging to implement.
  • Difficulty in Large-Scale Application: Due to coordination and communication complexities, applying Lean principles effectively in large, complex projects or organizations can be challenging.
  • Risk of Misinterpretation: Without a deep understanding of Lean principles, techniques can be misapplied, leading to suboptimal outcomes.

Dynamic System Development

The dynamic system development method (DSDM) can be classified as an Agile framework that aims to align projects to strategic goals and improve stakeholder engagement. It can be thought of as a "scale-up" approach to other Agile methods as it focuses on business objectives and prioritizes them for execution.

The method was created in 1994 to counter the long lead times created by the waterfall model, but it also lacked control in the RAD methodology. While features were being delivered more quickly with RAD, there was no view of the bigger picture.

That's why the main objective of DSDM is to bring the best of both worlds. This happens by ensuring businesses better understand the scope of projects but still retain the flexibility to embrace new customer requirements as they emerge throughout the production cycle.

DSDM Pros and Cons


  • Stakeholder Engagement: DSDM ensures active involvement of stakeholders throughout the development process, leading to greater satisfaction and products that better meet user needs.
  • Predictable Delivery Times: By fixing time, quality, and cost at the outset, DSDM provides a clear framework for delivering projects on schedule.
  • Flexibility within Structure: While offering a structured development environment, DSDM allows for flexibility in terms of project features, prioritizing the most critical functionalities first.


  • Resource Intensity: The need for ongoing stakeholder involvement and frequent iterations can demand a significant amount of time and resources.
  • Complexity in Large-Scale Implementations: Applying DSDM principles effectively in very large or complex projects can be challenging due to its requirements for close collaboration and rapid iterations.
  • Learning Curve: Organizations new to DSDM may face a steep learning curve, as adopting its comprehensive set of principles and practices involves significant change management and training.

Feature Driven Development

Feature Driven Development (FDD) is an adaptive software development methodology that organizes the development work around features. It focuses on breaking down large software projects into separate features and then planning them. FDD is an iterative approach that aims to make the project batch size small enough to continuously release working features within 2-10 days (2 weeks max) to the market.

The first mention of the Feature Driven Development methodology is in a book called "Java Modelling in Color with UVM" in 1999. The idea of the methodology was inspired by the experience of industry experts who worked on a large software development project in Singapore in 1997. To manage the complexities of the project, they approached its development in five steps:

  1. Develop overall model
  2. Plan by feature
  3. Build by feature
  4. Design by feature
  5. Build feature list

Nowadays, those activities constitute the FDD project lifecycle.

FDD Pros and Cons


  • Customer-Centric Focus: FDD prioritizes delivering tangible, client-valued features quickly, ensuring that the development process closely aligns with customer needs.
  • Clear Progress Tracking: With its feature-based structure, FDD allows for easy tracking of progress and achievements, providing clear milestones and deliverables.
  • Enhanced Team Coordination: By breaking down development into specific, manageable features, FDD promotes better understanding and collaboration among team members, leading to efficient execution.


  • Requires Detailed Planning Upfront: FDD necessitates a comprehensive planning phase to define and list all the features, which can be time-consuming and challenging for projects with uncertain requirements.
  • Less Flexibility for Changes: Once features are defined and the project is underway, making significant changes to features can disrupt the workflow and timelines.
  • Potential for Overlooked Non-functional Requirements: The strong focus on specific features might result in less attention being paid to non-functional requirements like security, performance, and scalability until later in the project.

Scrum Framework

Scrum is the most popular Agile framework, which focuses on 2-4 week sprints to deliver working software iteratively. The Scrum framework was coined and first used by Jeff Sutherland on a project in 1993.

The process of software development under Scrum works through a product backlog where a product owner (PO) collects customer requirements in the form of Agile epics, user stories, or features. Once the PO prioritizes them, the development team starts planning what work they can deliver in a single iteration. The chosen user stories enter a sprint backlog, and developers need to define a sprint goal. Then, depending on the sprint's length, those stories should be released for customer inspection within 2-4 weeks.

scrum software developement

The idea is to iteratively release working software, gather customer feedback, and adapt to changing requirements. The framework helps teams decrease time to market, increase ROI, meet customers' expectations, etc.

Scrum Development Pros and Cons


  • Flexibility and Adaptability: Scrum allows teams to adapt to changes quickly and efficiently, making it ideal for projects with evolving requirements.
  • Increased Productivity and Quality: By focusing on delivering small increments of work and continuously gathering feedback, Scrum helps improve the quality of the final product and boosts team productivity.
  • Enhanced Team Collaboration and Ownership: Scrum fosters a collaborative environment where team members take ownership of tasks and work together towards common goals, enhancing team dynamics and morale.


  • Requires High Level of Commitment: Scrum demands significant time and involvement from all team members, including daily meetings and regular reviews, which can be challenging for some teams.
  • Potential for Scope Creep: Scrum's flexibility can lead to scope creep without careful backlog management and discipline.
  • Dependent on Team Dynamics: Scrum's success heavily relies on the ability of team members to work closely and effectively together, making it less suitable for teams that lack experience or have poor dynamics.

Extreme Programming (XP)

The extreme programming methodology in software development is another popular Agile approach that emphasizes teamwork and aims to deliver high-quality software while retaining flexibility for changing customer requirements.

Kent Beck introduced the iterative methodology in 1996. It is built around the values of communication, simplicity, feedback, courage, and respect.

XP has given birth to main Agile software practices, including pair programming, continuous integration, test-first development, refactoring, etc. The main benefits of XP are improved team collaboration and decreased risk of rework due to mistakes.

XP Software Development Pros and Cons


  • High Customer Involvement: XP involves customers throughout the development process, ensuring that the final product closely aligns with their needs and expectations.
  • Improved Product Quality: Frequent testing and continuous feedback loops are integral to XP, leading to early defect detection and a higher-quality end product.
  • Adaptability to Changes: XP's iterative nature allows teams to adapt more easily to changes in requirements, even late in the development cycle.


  • Intensive for Developers: The demands of frequent iterations and continuous collaboration can be taxing on developers, potentially leading to burnout.
  • Requires Close Collaboration: XP's effectiveness is heavily dependent on the ability of customers and developers to work closely together, which can be challenging if customers are not available or if the team is distributed.
  • Not Suitable for All Project Types: The XP methodology may not be well-suited to projects with fixed requirements or large and complex requirements due to its emphasis on flexibility and constant change.

Spiral Model

The spiral model in software engineering combines iterative and sequential development. Just like waterfall development, the spiral model has strictly defined phases. The difference is that the batch size of a project is reduced so the project phases are iterated until the final product is completed.

This happens because each phase of the spiral starts with designing some form of a solution and finishes with the customer reviewing it. In the earlier stages of a software project, that might mean releasing a basic wireframe or another prototype form.

The phases that every cycle in the spiral is divided into are the following.

  1. Setting Objectives
  2. Development & Validation
  3. Project Review & Planning Next Iteration
  4. Risk Identification & Mitigation

The most important benefit of the spiral model is the ability to significantly reduce risks due to the iterative risk analysis stage.

Spiral Model Pros and Cons


  • Emphasis on Risk Management: The spiral model allows for early identification and mitigation of risks, making it particularly suitable for large and complex projects with significant uncertainties.
  • Flexibility in Requirements: By incorporating iterative refinement, the model accommodates changes in requirements even at later stages of the project, enhancing adaptability to evolving client needs.
  • Incremental Delivery: The model supports the development of prototypes and incremental releases, enabling early feedback from users and ensuring that the final product is more closely aligned with user expectations.


  • Complexity: The spiral model can be complex to implement due to its focus on risk analysis and iterative development, requiring significant expertise in project management and risk assessment.
  • Potentially High Costs: The extensive risk analysis and iterative nature of the model can lead to higher costs compared to more straightforward development approaches, especially in projects where risks are minimal.
  • Requires Significant Documentation: Each phase of the spiral model involves detailed documentation to track risks, iterations, and changes, which can be time-consuming and may slow down the development process.

Joint Application Development Methodology

Joint application development methodology in software engineering centers around involving end-users in designing and development processes. It emphasizes collaborative workshop (JAD) sessions to gather clearer specifications and improve user involvement in the project's lifecycle.

Chris Morris and Tony Crawford developed the model in the late 1970s to boost development times and customer satisfaction.

JAD Pros and Cons


  • Enhanced Stakeholder Collaboration: JAD fosters a cooperative environment where developers and clients work closely together, enhancing understanding and alignment on project goals.
  • Faster Decision Making: By involving key stakeholders in the decision-making process early and frequently, JAD can significantly reduce the time needed for approvals and revisions.
  • Increased Quality and Satisfaction: Direct involvement of the client or end-user ensures that the final product is more closely aligned with their needs, leading to higher satisfaction and quality.


  • High Demand on Participant Time: The success of JAD sessions relies on the active participation of all key stakeholders, which can be time-consuming and difficult to schedule.
  • Risk of Dominance by Strong Personalities: The dynamics of JAD sessions can lead to dominance by individuals with strong personalities, potentially overshadowing quieter participants and skewing the development process.
  • Potential for Scope Creep: With clients and end-users actively involved, there's a risk of continuous requests for changes and additional features, which can lead to scope creep and project delays.


Selecting the right software development methodology is crucial for the success of any project, balancing the team's workflow, project requirements, and stakeholder expectations. By understanding the strengths and limitations of these top 12 methodologies, teams can navigate the complexities of software development with greater confidence and efficiency, ultimately delivering high-quality software that meets or exceeds user expectations.

You should know that there isn't a single best approach you can choose. It's all about assessing your needs to make the right choice.


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Nikolay Tsonev

Nikolay Tsonev

Product Marketing | PMI Agile | SAFe Agilist certified

Nick is passionate about product marketing and business development and is a subject matter expert at Businessmap. With expertise in OKRs, strategy execution, Agile, and Kanban, he continues to drive his interest in continuous improvement. Nick is a PMI Agile and SAFe Agilist certified practitioner.