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Software Development
13 minutes read

Which Software Development Methodologies are the Most Popular

By Jose Gomez
By Jose Gomez
Software Development
13 minutes read

Several software development methodologies are used by development teams to efficiently and accurately deliver software projects. If your organization has never participated in the software development process, you might wonder which methodology is best. 

While it is natural to seek information regarding which software development methodology is best, perhaps this is not the best manner to frame this query. After all, there are many different software development methodologies. Each method has its strengths and use cases.

Instead of asking which software development methodology is best, your organization should ask which one is best for our development team. 

This post will explore the most popular software development methodologies so your organization can determine which approach is best for its development team. 

The Top Software Development Methodologies 

While the software development life cycle is more or less the same for all successful software development projects, several software development methodologies can be used to complete a project. 

This list of software development methodologies is by no means exhaustive. However, while there are other software development methodologies, the most popular and widely used methodologies in software development include: 

  • Waterfall
  • Agile 
  • Scrum
  • Extreme programming 
  • Lean
  • Kanban
  • Rapid application development
  • Spiral
  • Big bang


The waterfall development methodology is one of the most popular software development approaches. Interestingly, the waterfall method is also the most traditional software development methodology in this list. 

The waterfall development methodology is easy for organizations to understand. The waterfall methodology is often a great choice, no matter what project you are working on. 

In the waterfall method, the software development life cycle moves in sequential order from step to step. Unlike many of the other software development methodologies included in this list, the waterfall method ensures each development process step is completed before moving on to the next.

The primary advantage of the waterfall method is that all specifications and deliverables are defined before the development process begins. In addition, the waterfall methodology reduces miscommunications because each step of the process must be completed in sequential order. 

The rigidity of the waterfall method, which can be a significant strength, especially for new developers, can also be a disadvantage. Software development often requires flexibility and iteration. In these situations, the waterfall approach might not be the best choice. 

The waterfall method is typically the right software development methodology for complex projects or large projects in industries with specific requirements like financial applications or healthcare apps. 


Besides the waterfall methodology, the Agile software development methodology is one of the most widely used methodologies. The Agile methodology is the hallmark of modern software development. 

The Agile software development methodology is great because it allows for flexibility and regular iteration while remaining disciplined. As a result, the Agile method has become a staple of the software development industry. 

The underlying philosophy of Agile software development is to reduce the risks posed by changing project requirements by developing software in short increments called iterations. These windows typically last a few weeks to a month.

The great strength of Agile software development is that it enables developers to pivot quickly and incorporate customer and user feedback as it is discovered. This approach is far more flexible than the traditional waterfall approach and prioritizes regular feedback.

Because Agile prioritizes customer feedback in the development process, this method gives development teams more confidence that they are meeting the project’s requirements and delivering the best possible software product. 

The biggest disadvantage of Agile software development is that it’s mainly focusing on producing working software. As a result, some projects may lack thorough documentation, which can cause further problems in the software development life cycle. 

In addition, Agile projects can quickly lose direction if the customer feedback the team is receiving lacks a clear focus. Finally, while Agile is a great approach, it probably is not suited for beginner teams or projects with significant complexity. 


The scrum software development methodology is a subtype of the Agile development method. Scrum is one of the most flexible software development methodologies, and it can be applied to almost any software development project. 

Like the Agile development method, scrum favors small iterative approaches to software development. The sprints in scrum might be smaller and faster than even the Agile development method. 

Scrum sprints last no more than four weeks, but in most cases, these sprints are even shorter than that and typically last a week or two. The scrum master leads the software development process and holds regular meetings with the entire development team to keep everyone focused and on the same page. 

The top advantage of scrum is the short iterations that lead to rapid resolutions of emerging issues and development problems. In addition, regular meetings are another significant advantage because they keep the project aligned through rapid changes and enable the team to feel valued. 

Scrum is an economical and efficient way to develop software. However, scrum is not well suited to large projects. In addition, daily meetings can be taxing on team members and lead to project delays if not executed efficiently. 

Furthermore, for a scrum to be effective, all team members must be on the same level of development skills. Mixing beginners and experienced developers in a scrum will lead to poor results. 

Extreme Programming 

Extreme programming, also known as XP, is another subtype of Agile development. Typically, extreme programming is utilized in very unstable development environments when flexibility is at a premium. 

The primary reason developers use extreme programming is to lower the costs of software requirements. However, changing requirements at later stages of development can lead to higher costs. 

Extreme programming can significantly reduce the time and cost necessary to realize a software development project when utilized effectively. Time and costs are saved by focusing on delivering a final product without heavy documentation. 

XP emphasizes customer involvement to ensure that requirements and expectations are met throughout the process. The primary issue with extreme programming is that it requires a skilled development team that is in sync with one another. 

In addition, many critics argue that this approach prioritizes code over design since the team is trying to deliver a final product quickly. Many argue that design is as important as the underlying code to a product’s success. 

If you have a design-intensive project or an inexperienced development team, extreme programming is not the route you should take. 


The lean software development methodology was born out of the lean manufacturing practices pioneered by Toyota. The lean methodology emphasizes reducing waste while increasing productivity

The lean development methodology utilizes strong guiding principles to empower developers to avoid non-productive tasks and activities while focusing on the quality of their software. The lean methodology also prioritizes continuous learning and deferment of decisions. 

Developers are empowered to keep an open mind and look for issues that could hamper development. The primary goal of lean is to establish a development process that works seamlessly. 

The major advantages of lean development are that it cuts down waste, reduces costs, and gets a product to market faster. This methodology is all about efficiency. 

However, there are still disadvantages associated with lean development, too. For example, lean requires a highly skilled development team and detailed documentation. This method can be overwhelming for unskilled developers.


Kanban is a popular project management methodology that utilizes visual boards to organize tasks and track progress. Kanban can be used to great effect in software development, especially in larger projects with a lot of subtasks. 

Since Kanban is not strictly a development methodology, it can be used with any other software development methodologies listed in this blog post. However, Kanban would not be a great fit in rapidly changing environments where requirements change with little notice. 

Kanban is a great organizational approach in more established and defined software development projects and can be used to great effect. 

Rapid Application Development 

The primary objective of the Rapid Application Development methodology is to accelerate the entire software development process. Rapid Application Development (RAD) is built to finish projects faster without compromising quality. 

Rapid Application Development emphasizes prototyping and testing with the customer. This development approach relies on multiple iterations of prototyping and testing to deliver quality software products that meet customer expectations. 

Since customers rigorously test the products created using Rapid Application Development, much of the inherent product risk is eliminated. Developers often utilize automation and other time-saving tools when pursuing Rapid Application Development. 

The major advantage of RAD is that it reduces a product’s time to market. In addition, it almost always leads to high customer satisfaction since they can test it thoroughly throughout the development process. 

This software development methodology is great for small and medium-sized development projects. 

Rapid Application Development’s major issue is that it depends on a responsive customer. Without a responsive and engaged customer, this model fails pretty spectacularly. In addition, Rapid Application Development is not a great option for projects with tight budget constraints. 


The spiral lifecycle model is a sophisticated approach to development that focuses on the early identification and reduction of a project’s risks. The spiral model involves a development team analyzing a project on a small scale, assessing the risks involved, planning to handle these risks, and then moving out to the next step. 

The success of this development methodology greatly depends on the attentive qualities and technical knowledge possessed by the development team. If your team is skilled and detailed, the spiral model can greatly reduce risks. 

The spiral model is perfect for large projects with great complexity. It works well for critical projects where attention to detail is a significant asset. The primary advantage of this model is that it helps drastically reduce the risk of any development project. 

The disadvantage of the spiral model is that it can be costly due to the great attention to detail that must be taken at every step of the development process. In addition, the success of spiral projects depends on the risk analysis phase. Failing in this phase can harm the entire project.

The spiral method is not for low-cost or low-risk projects. This model is best suited for large, complex projects with much risk. 

Big Bang

The Big Bang model follows no specific process; the development process just begins. This is a chaotic way to approach software development. However, this type of approach can have its benefits for certain projects.

The Big Bang model is appropriate for small-scale projects where customers are unsure of what they want. Requirements in the big bang model are implemented on the fly as they come up. 

Typically, this model is only suitable for very small development teams and projects with little risk. It is often used in academic settings or on personal projects. The distinct issue with this model is the lack of focus and direction.

Requirements added on the fly can require the project’s code base to be completely changed. This approach to development is not great for businesses with specific software development needs. 

Additional Software Development Methodologies 

There are other approaches besides the software development methodologies listed above. We included some of the most popular development methodologies, but there are a few others that might be right for your business, including:

  • Feature-driven development
  • Dynamic systems development
  • Prototype methodology 
  • Joint application development 

Approaches feature-driven development and the dynamic systems model are more traditional in how they address development. They are similar to other methodologies listed in this post.

Frequently Asked Questions

Still curious about software development methodologies? Here are some frequently asked questions that can help your business determine the best approach for its development needs. 

What Is a Software Development Methodology?

A software development methodology is a structured approach to planning, designing, building, testing, and deploying software. It provides guidelines and best practices for teams to follow throughout the software development lifecycle.

Why are Software Development Methodologies Important?

Software development methodologies help ensure project success by providing a systematic way to manage tasks, resources, and timelines. They enhance communication, reduce risks, and improve the overall quality of the software.

How does DevOps fit Into Software Development Methodologies?

DevOps is a culture and set of practices that emphasize collaboration between development and operations teams to automate and streamline the software delivery process.

Which methodology Is the Best for my Project?

The best methodology depends on your project’s specific requirements, team dynamics, and customer expectations. Agile methodologies like Scrum or XP are often a good choice for projects with changing requirements, while Waterfall may suit projects with well-defined, stable requirements.

What Is the Role of a Project Manager in Software Development?

The role of a Project Manager varies depending on the methodology but generally involves planning, coordinating resources, tracking progress, and ensuring that the project stays on schedule and within budget.

Can You Combine Different Methodologies in One Project?

Yes, it’s possible to combine elements of different methodologies to create a hybrid approach that suits your project’s unique needs. This is known as “mixing and matching” methodologies.

What are Some Challenges in Adopting Agile Methodologies?

Common challenges include resistance to change, difficulties in estimating project timelines, and the need for strong collaboration and communication within the team.

How does DevOps Improve Software Development and Deployment?

DevOps streamlines and automates the software development and deployment process, leading to faster releases, fewer errors, and improved collaboration between development and operations teams.

What Is the Difference Between a Framework and a Methodology?

A methodology is a comprehensive approach to software development, while a framework is a specific set of practices and tools that can be used within a methodology. For example, scrum is a framework used within the Agile methodology.

Can Small Teams Benefit from Software Development Methodologies?

Yes, even small teams can benefit from using software development methodologies. Agile methodologies like Scrum and XP are adaptable and can be scaled down to suit the size and needs of small teams.

Are there Software Development Methodologies for Specific Industries?

Yes, there are industry-specific methodologies, such as the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI), for software development in highly regulated industries like aerospace and healthcare.

Are There Resources or Certifications Available for Software Development Methodologies?

Yes, there are various certifications available for different methodologies, such as Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) for Scrum and Certified Lean Six Sigma for Lean methodologies.

Can These Methodologies Be Applied to Non-Software Projects?

Yes, many principles and practices from software development methodologies can be adapted for use in non-software projects, such as product development, marketing campaigns, and construction.

How do You Handle Distributed or Remote Teams with Software Development Methodologies?

Agile methodologies often accommodate remote teams through virtual meetings, collaboration tools, and clear communication channels. DevOps practices also facilitate remote collaboration by automating many aspects of software development and deployment.

Final Thoughts

There is a lot of information to process when it comes to software development methodologies. Choosing the right approach for your development project can be difficult. If you need help choosing the right methodology or want to learn more about development best practices, contact an app development partner who is experienced with many of the top software development methodologies like Koombea.

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