Software development models and methodologies were created to simplify software engineering. Over two decades of building websites, mobile applications, games, and other software products, Onix-Systems has tried and gained experience with each software model out there. Here’s our review of the 7 most popular ones based on our experience.

These models are also known as Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) models/methodologies. Each has its own distinctions, pros, and cons, but their common purpose is to organize project management and enable teams to produce high-quality software as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.


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This review of the most popular SDLC methodologies may help you decide which model is best for your software development process.


Read also: How to Scale a Software Development Team


1. Waterfall Model

The Waterfall model follows a linear sequential flow, where each stage is completed before moving on to the next, resembling the cascading nature of a waterfall. 




  • It’s well-structured, easy to understand, and simple to manage.
  • It defines goals and deadlines clearly and facilitates planning. 




  • Inflexibility. With minimal room for review and revisions, the developers won’t be able to solve issues until the product is in the maintenance stage.
  • An early delay can cause the project duration to exceed the planned time frame with detrimental consequences.


Learn more: How to avoid project delays: practical tips and tricks


For these reasons, the Waterfall doesn’t work well for long-term and ongoing projects that require flexibility. However, it works well for smaller projects with set requirements



2. Agile Software Development

Often praised as the best model for software development, Agile has been with us for over two decades. Some businesses are so appreciative of the Agile approach that they use it for non-tech projects.


The Agile methodology helps teams spot and tackle issues arising during software development before they morph into serious problems. The Agile method creates continuous release cycles where tiny incremental changes from the previous release are implemented. Each iteration includes software testing. Business stakeholders’ involvement and feedback are welcome and appreciated during the development process.

which model is best in software engineering: Waterfall vs Agile

You can try several Agile frameworks. For example, Scrum facilitates the development of software products or the provision of services with special attention to continual delivery without overstraining the development team.


The Scrum Agile model introduced the concept of the minimum viable product (MVP). This software product version has just enough features to satisfy the early users’ needs and quickly receive their feedback directing further product development.


Read also: How to Build a Successful MVP


The Kanban system and task boards are Agile project management tools for coordinating project teams’ tasks that help decrease friction and increase effectiveness. A Kanban board helps visualize work at various phases of the work process at a personal and organizational level.

agile software development


Learn more: How to create a roadmap for a project


Agile processes work for any type of project, but you may give a closer look to Scrum or Kanban if you prioritize the following.




  • Lower cost
  • Fast releases
  • Spotting defects and making changes fast throughout the development process
  • Improving the software product according to the stakeholders’ early and consistent feedback and decisions throughout the process
  • Greater project transparency and more effective communication between the teams and stakeholders


Like anything else, Agile processes also come with some drawbacks.




  • Lack of comprehensive documentation that may cause confusion and issues in the future
  • Risk of goal focus shifting
  • Less predictability and clarity regarding issues, deadlines, costs, and profits
  • Risk of slow development due to stakeholders’ reluctance to provide timely feedback 


Learn more: How to optimize your offshore team communication in Agile projects


3. Lean Model

Toyota first used Lean production practices and principles to reduce waste and inefficiency in the production area. Any Lean transformation aims to improve the entire organization’s health by optimizing its people, effort, resources, and energy toward creating value for the customer.


The seven Lean principles are:


  1. eliminate waste (the non-value-added components in any process)
  2. emphasize constant learning
  3. decide as late as possible
  4. deliver as fast as possible
  5. empower the team
  6. build up integrity
  7. see the whole picture


The Lean methodology is focused on continuous improvement and respect for people. All employees are called on to improve services and provide value with less effort continually. It also means optimizing operations and supporting processes for all critical applications and services.


The Lean software model has also embraced the idea of stream maps to eliminate waste due to duplicate effort and inefficient processes. Lean value stream mapping enables companies to see how their value flows in various functions and then decide on what brings most customer satisfaction.

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  • A streamlined approach allows for faster delivery and improvements, shorter time-to-market, and cost reduction.
  • Eliminating waste minimizes the risk of developing superfluous features and improves quality.
  • Increased team flexibility, efficient communication, collaboration, and decision-making result in better quality.




  • Comprehensive documentation is required, while its excessive flexibility may lead to the team losing track of the initial goal.
  • Heavily dependent on the team’s cohesion and individual members’ contributions, the Lean process is less scalable than other methodologies.


4. DevOps Model

The DevOps methodology emerged from two trends: the application of Agile and Lean methodologies by operations teams. The emphasis here is on valuing the cooperation between the development and operations personnel throughout the SDLC.


In a DevOps model, the developers and operations teams collaborate closely — sometimes as one team — to hasten innovation and the delivery of higher-quality and more reliable software products and functionalities. DevOps automation follows CI (continuous integration) and CD (continuous delivery) principles. There are small but frequent updates to the product. The hallmarks are discipline, continuous feedback, and process enhancement.




  • Shorter development cycles, rapid adjustments, and automation significantly speed up product delivery.
  • Close collaboration of development and operations teams and testing automation help enhance the software quality.
  • Automation also helps reduce the expenses.




  • DevOps implementation requires integrating various tools and techniques, which requires significant budget allocation, complicates management and troubleshooting, and creates confusion.
  • Recruiting experienced DevOps professionals may be challenging.


DevOps is also criticized for prioritizing speed over security and regarding security for CI/CD as a separate affair. DevSecOps, an augmentation of DevOps, takes a more holistic approach, allowing for security practices integration into every phase of the software development process. 


These are the most popular software development models and methodologies currently. The graph below shows that software engineers tend to mix and combine them.

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Let us suggest three more favorites.


5. Iterative and Incremental Method

The Iterative model is based on repetitions. Without a full specifications document, project teams work on implementing a set of known software requirements in 2- to 4-week sprints. After that, they perform testing and evaluation and then pinpoint further requirements. Each iteration or phase produces a new version of the software. There’s plenty of enhancing and repeating until the final product is ready. 




  • You can have a working version of the product early on in the process.
  • Higher flexibility, continuous flow of feedback and collaboration, faster problem identification, and better alignment with customer needs improve output. 
  • Data from multiple past development cycles helps plan future cycles and use resources more efficiently.
  • It’s less expensive to implement changes.
  • Reduced risk of project failure.




  • Increased risk of scope creep.
  • Frequent repetitions take up resources quickly.
  • Tech debt may be overlooked and build up until it becomes a problem.
  • Lack of documentation through iterations may cause issues afterward. 


Read also: Top 10 Java Machine Learning Tools and Libraries 


6. Prototyping

A prototype is a version of a system developed quickly to see if the customer is happy with it. The stakeholders’ involvement in the development process increases the chances that they will accept the final product earlier.


Learn more: A step-by-step guide on developing an idea into a prototype


Prototyping is helpful when the customer or software developers are not 100% sure about a design’s feasibility, product requirements, algorithms, business rules, etc.


The following phases of a prototyping process are distinguished:

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Learn more: The meaning and methods of PoC in software development




  • Prototyping helps eliminate misunderstandings and miscommunications, improves product specifications, and increases project predictability.
  • It helps improve product quality, save costs, and reduce the risk of project failure.



Focusing on a limited prototype, developers risk overlooking better solutions.


7.Spiral Method

The Spiral model is more complex than other flexible SDLC methodologies. It takes its cue from the repetitions inherent in the Iterative software model. The project goes through four stages:


  1. planning
  2. risk analysis
  3. engineering
  4. evaluation


These phases are repeated over and over in a “spiral,” making room for multiple rounds of improvement.


Learn more: How Onix assists customers with product improvement


Being expensive, the Spiral model is unsuitable for small projects and mainly applies to large, complex, high-risk projects. It allows development teams to include user feedback early on and create a highly customized product.




  • You can have a working product early in the software life cycle.
  • The model facilitates risk analysis and risk handling at every iteration.
  • Flexibility in requirements is combined with solid approval and documentation control.




  • The process is highly dependable on risk analysis and requires excessive documentation.
  • The unlimited number of phases makes time estimation, defining realistic milestones, and release planning very difficult.



There is no such thing as “the best model in software engineering” that suits everyone. This post covers only seven common software development models, and each comes with its benefits and disadvantages.


It’s up to your product development team to decide which software model is best for your project, depending on your unique needs and goals. 


Here at Onix, we use several SDLC methodologies, but most often, projects are completed by means of more flexible models (i.e., Agile-based Scrum and Kanban and Lean development).


Gathering a good team of professionals who will propel your project through every iteration is equally important. We are here to offer you the best IT engineers to realize your ideas. Contact us today — we’ll be happy to help!

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Which software model is most popular?

In 2022, nearly 47% of surveyed software developers reported using a DevOps or DevSecOps method for software development. 86% of software development teams reportedly used Agile in 2021. 


Which SDLC model is best suited to large and complex projects? 

The Spiral model is a good choice for long-term projects where large systems and innovative solutions are developed. 


Which software model is the best choice for fixed-price projects?

The Waterfall model is most suitable for contracts with precise specifications, timelines, deliverables, and budgets.


Can I mix and match different software development models and methodologies?

Yes. Some models are hybrids, like the Spiral model combining the Waterfall and Prototyping methods. There’s also a way to apply the Waterfall model and Agile to the same projects. Developers basically go through a Waterfall phase until they get to coding using Scrum and then apply the Waterfall principles to infrequent releases. This controversial method, called hybrid Agile or Water-Scrum-Fall, is practiced by 28% of software engineers.

Written by:
Serhii  Kholin
Serhii Kholin

CEO at Onix-Systems

Effective product management and development. Aligning an organization's technologies to the needs of the business.

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Mila  Slesar
Mila Slesar