The 4 Most Popular Software Development Methodologies

Michael Sols

The 4 Most Popular Software Development Methodologies

Development frameworks are like a GPS route. While the end-goal is to deliver reliable software, the travel plan must work for professionals of many departments. The methodology sets the game-plan: daily rules; work structure; timing for deliverables; and management philosophy. Discover which software development life cycle methodologies are in demand today.

Types of software development methodologies

1. Waterfall

The first frameworks appeared in the product-oriented 50s, where time to market mattered more than user experience.

Development followed a linear pattern — often referred to as “waterfall” — with a stage progression that allowed no modifications or tests until the software was complete.

With each decade, user testing became more critical for development. Now, adaptation to change is the no. 1 business challenge for any software project. Because of this, in-demand methodologies are iterative (or “agile”). The product team develops applications in cycles to test them against fluid business and market expectations.

Project teams of 15+ people adopt this traditional framework to deploy functional software under a fixed deadline. The Waterfall model follows a manageable, factory-like process of assembly that maximizes progress.

Here, the project lead must register all requirements correctly, because the blueprint shouldn’t change during work. This contractual approach to development ensures the client gets the exact software they require while eliminating overtime for developers.

Development of the product’s core functions has the highest priority, so that the software can be monetized promptly. The team must complete each stage in 100% before continuing, providing extensive code documentation for future reference.


  • The outcome is exactly what’s agreed in requirements
  • Management follows a logical plan
  • Extensive documentation
  • Avoids consuming revisions
  • Personnel changes are simple


  • The project must have defined parameters
  • Changes aren’t welcome after development starts
  • Bugs are fixed after deployment
  • The framework discourages client communication after planning
  • Re-working a stage is not allowed

2. Scrum

The Project Management Institute recorded that in 2018, 47% of over 5550 professionals worldwide still developed software under this method.

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Scrum is used by self-organized teams of 5 to 10 working in sprints. Programmers deliver a functional build every two-weeks on the grounds of user stories, which define how people interact with the software.

It’s a practical implementation of the transformational agile philosophy that centers software creation around shifting business requirements. Agile defined principles that provided businesses with development flexibility unattainable under the Waterfall approach. Programmers who believed in these principles turned them into the Scrum methodology that applies the Agile model in daily work.

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With every Scrum planning meeting, the Scrum Master delivers business requests. Then, the entire development team filters essential and non-essential tasks, which encourages collaboration and growth. Ad-hocs must wait until the next session.

After the sprint, the project manager verifies the outcome with stakeholders who can shift development priorities. A stakeholder review is welcome after the two-week sprint. This ensures that the entire organization can direct the process. As Scrum favors deployment speed, unnecessary documentation is avoided to cut down on tasks.


  • Quick delivery
  • Gives the freedom to change the delivery time
  • The framework fits most goal-driven projects
  • Development can easily change in time
  • Iterative feedback helps with delivering quality software
  • Kanban principles cut down work overload
  • Stakeholders can understand the progress
  • New tasks flow in if there’s enough capacity
  • Unlike Scrum, it promotes continuous development


  • Team lead must ensure members follow Scrum principles
  • Works best with experienced talent
  • KPIs are harder to measure
  • The PM sets the deadline per task, which lead to irregular deployment

3. Kanban

kanban board

Source: OICR

When multiple parties collaborate, Kanban lets everyone preview work status at a glance on a visual board. It is one of the most responsive methodologies that strengthens cross-department work, regardless of the team size.

There are no sprints in Kanban, as requests come in continuously. Still, a modified board can represent other methodologies such as Scrum (there’s even “Scrumban”, but it’s challenging). Projects move in stages from planning on the left towards completion to the right. Developers accept tasks when they’re ready (that’s the “pull system”), centering on feature development and bug removal to provide high usability. Incoming requests land in a to-do list called the backlog that’s sorted by priority. That ensures the team always focuses on delivering necessary work.


  • Kanban principles cut down work overload
  • Stakeholders can understand the progress
  • New tasks flow in if there’s enough capacity
  • Unlike Scrum, it promotes continuous development


  • KPIs are harder to measure
  • The PM sets the deadline per task, which lead to irregular deployment

What about efficiency? You got it. Professionals using Kanban praise it for improving software workflow, as it's easy to identify work obstacles on board.

4. Rapid Application Development (RAD)

Rapid application development scheme

Source: Plutora

RAD developers believe that end-users should drive the build process, because they know how the software should work. The product team races to deliver several bare-bone app prototypes for their feedback to establish what needs to be built next. It’s a strict-deadline framework for 3-9 member teams assigned to small and medium projects.

In RAD, parties agree that minimal software requirements should be there, but they must match what the customer wants. The focus in development is on designing functions layer by layer in iterations. If time allows for it, they continue until the client is satisfied with the product. Then, developers rewrite the original requirements accordingly to finalize the approved prototype.


  • RAD embraces change
  • As the client is a co-designer, the final product is better for business
  • The team builds core features only, minimizing deployment time


  • Designers must stay on the line for the product team
  • Ongoing client involvement makes management heavy
  • Works with software that can be build in modules
  • Scaling might be hard

Rapid prototyping philosophy is effective with product and feature launches, as it minimizes risk of product abandonment.

No Gut Decisions - The Framework Must Work for People

Cross-industry research suggests that a software development methodology matched to employee work preferences enhances business performance in product deployment, culture, and talent management.

Ask seniors of your product team how software development should be managed. Your CTO or a development partner should be well-equipped to decide on a productive software development life cycle. Here are the factors to consider:

1. Project Length

Short-term: Waterfall, Scrum, Rapid Application Development

Long-term: Scrum, Kanban

2. Requirements

Clear: Waterfall,, Rapid Application Development

Unclear: Scrum, Kanban

3. Deployment

Results first: Scrum, Rapid Application Development

Quality first: Kanban, Waterfall

4. Resources

Fixed: Waterfall, Rapid Application Development

Flexible: Scrum

5. Talent availability

Limited: Rapid Application Development

Vast: Waterfall, Scrum, Kanban

Unsure which methodology you should choose? Email us to hear which frameworks Monterail used to develop hundreds of successful projects (some of which you can examine here).


Michael Sols avatar
Michael Sols