In IT and software development, teams often have to choose between two project management methods: the V-cycle, a so-called traditional method, or the agile method.
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V-cycle vs agile method
The main difference between the V-cycle and the agile method is based on the notion of adaptability and responsiveness to changes. One puts the project at the center while the other focuses on the product. Each of these methods, however, has its strengths and weaknesses.
The traditional V-cycle method involves strict planning of the project flow to aim for a single and complete delivery of the final product. The customer will therefore not be able to change his request during the project. The agile method places customer demand and continuous improvement at the heart of the project. Planning is intended to be more flexible and provides for the co-construction of functionalities by drawing on user feedback.
Developed during the 1980s in industry, the V-cycle method then took an important place in IT and software development projects. Derived from the waterfall model, or waterfall, this method of organizing and progressing activities has a descending phase and an ascending phase, represented in the form of V. The first, descending, corresponds to the design phase and the ascending phase, to that of verification and validation. The V-cycle method thus encompasses all the elements of the realization of a project from the beginning of its conception until the moment of its delivery.
In recent years, the agile method has taken precedence over the V-cycle in the IT field. This is another way of approaching project management and implementation. In reality, there is not just one agile method, but several like Scrum, Kanban or Extreme Programming. These different agile methods stem from the ” Agile manifesto “ written in 2001 by 17 experts in the development of IT projects. This document specifies 12 universal principles defining the notion of agility and brings together four main values: people and interactions, operational functionalities, the work of development teams in collaboration with customers and adjustment to change.
The differences between the V-cycle method and the agile method
The project life cycle
The V-cycle consists of sequential and linear phases for the design, realization and validation of the project. These are characterized by different stages: needs analysis, specifications, architectural design, detailed design, realization, as well as unit, integration and acceptance tests. The method is based on a non-iterative project principle, which requires a very clear and detailed vision from the client on the project to be carried out. In the event of a change during development, it is difficult, if not impossible, to go back since each phase of progress must be validated before moving on to the next.
The agile method allows you to develop software with an iterative process. This consists of dividing the realization of the project into different stages called iterations, or sprints, giving rise to the repetition of a series of operations. The product will thus be developed gradually, step by step. In the event of a change in functionality or a request for changes to the project, the production team will have more possibilities to intervene.
The V-cycle method requires planning all stages of production and validation upstream of project launch. It is essential to identify from the start the needs and requirements of the client, his budget and the expected result. It is therefore essential to write detailed specifications.
With an agile method, project planning is carried out in stages, called iteration, where the participation of all stakeholders is mandatory. The client and the project team therefore meet regularly. The production steps are then adapted according to new demands or potential adjustments thanks to the tests and validation processes carried out throughout the production.
The project team
The V-cycle method does not require any additional training from the team, which significantly facilitates its implementation. All the elements being defined at the start of the project, this method requires only a few points of monitoring and control and the team must above all take into account the linear nature of the V-cycle.
Applying an agile method requires greater involvement from team members. The latter collectively follow and apply the decisions validated by the project manager while discussing the problems encountered. The agile method assumes a decompartmentalization of missions, which reinforces the productivity and cohesion of the team.
The V-cycle involves the production of important and detailed documentation upstream of the project, in particular the collection of needs, the specifications or the recipe. The more detailed this documentation, the less risk the company will take on the production and validation processes. These documents remain theoretical and conceptual until the installation of the product and until the moment of its validation in real conditions.
Writing documentation in the agile method comes down to what is strictly necessary and is often built as the project progresses. The start of production is therefore faster than with the V-cycle method.
As for the V-cycle method, delivery only takes place at the end of the project development cycle. It is therefore carried out late, since all functionalities must be carried out and tested before the final delivery of the product.
Using an agile method results in split delivery. The functionalities are developed one after the other, according to a prioritization established at the start of the project. These different iteration phases allow the customer to receive an unfinished product fairly quickly. Early use, even partial, allows the product to be tested in a real situation.
Teams using the V-cycle check the quality of the software at the time of delivery, at the end of the production cycle. The linearity of the steps also implies a lack of communication between the different stakeholders. This method therefore generates a tunnel effect with a lack of visibility and quality control throughout the construction phase.
Agile methods like Scrum allow early quality control at each partial delivery. The customer can thus visualize and test the product early enough. An agile method also makes it possible to have a system continuously tested by end users. It is therefore easier to identify any modifications to be made to the software while enhancing its stability.
The V-cycle method only allows risks to be detected late since it is necessary to wait until the end of development to implement the product test phase.
The flexibility allowed by the agile method guarantees better responsiveness and reduced risk.
Visibility on the progress of the project
The tunnel effect of the V-cycle does not make it possible to visualize the progress of the work carried out on the development of the software. The customer will therefore have to wait for the final delivery of the product to test it, without any possibility of requesting improvement.
Conversely, the agile method provides better visibility on the evolution of the project. The regular phases of validation, improvement and exchanges with customers and within the team allow planning to be adjusted.
Questions to ask yourself to choose the right method
Now that the difference between the V-cycle and the agile method is established, the agile method can seem more attractive and more efficient. The V-cycle is resistant, however, and may however be preferred for certain projects. It is then necessary to ask the right questions.
Does the customer have a very precise idea of the product to be delivered? If so, it will be easy to write specifications and specifications so that development teams can work on the shelf. If the client leaves the field free for ideas and innovation, the agile method will be more interesting.
Are the users able to invest their time in the development of the project? If so, the agile method seems to be the right choice. Time will be allocated to exchanges and testing phases of each product functionality, as it is developed. If the client does not have enough availability to follow the progress of the project, then it will be necessary to choose the V-cycle and start on detailed documentation from the start to carry out the project until its final delivery.
Does the client have confidence in the work of the development teams? If this is not the case, he will prefer a V-cycle project management. The level of detail of the preliminary documentation will reassure him and allow all the desired characteristics to be set upstream.
What is the product launch time? If the deadlines are short enough, the agile method is essential. Iterations allow you to quickly test product functionality and adjust it just as quickly. The V-cycle implies a fairly intense project launch phase, in particular with the drafting of detailed documentation and a lack of responsiveness in the event of a change request. The product may even be already obsolete at the time of delivery.
In summary, the V-cycle method would therefore be better suited to projects without technological complexity and for which the client has a very precise vision of his needs. More flexible, an agile method offers many advantages in terms of adaptability to change, risk management and visibility on the final product. It will be privileged on more complex projects, without detailed documentation.
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