Top 10 Software Development Models in a Nutshell


Top 10 Software Development Models in a Nutshell

Which model is best for you?

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SashaContent Manager

Sasha the Creator

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18 min read



Successful projects are thoroughly managed, it's a fact. Once you decide to develop a product, whether it's a simple MVP or a complex system, the question will arise: how to properly organize the development process? 

Every software has its journey in which it goes through several development steps - from an idea and design to release and support. This process is named the software development life cycle (SDLC), where a variety of software development models is available to choose from, and each organizes the process in its own way.

So, should you rigidly plan all development phases? Or is it much better to work in short iterations? Our article will tell you about the most widely used methodologies and share how to choose the one that's best for you. Let's go!

On the spot

Top 10 most popular and widely used software development models are:

⦿ Waterfall software development model
⦿ V-model (Validation and Verification software development model)
⦿ Incremental and Iterative software development model
⦿ Spiral software development model
⦿ RAD model (Rapid Application Development software development model)
⦿ RUP model (Rational Unified Process software development model)
⦿ The Agile Group
⦿ Scrum
⦿ Extreme Programming (XP)
⦿ Kanban

The choice of a development model is influenced in one way or another by the following factors:

⦿ Performer-client interaction model
⦿ Project specifics
⦿ Project focus
⦿ Project development stage
⦿ Customer requirements
⦿ Time for development
⦿ Project and team size
⦿ Project scope
⦿ Budget

Each of the mentioned above models has its perks, potential drawbacks, and is chosen for projects based on their type, size and domain.

If you want to learn more about each model, factors that affect the choice, see the real-life applications from our practice and overall dive deeper into the topic, we encourage you to read our article further!

What are Software Development Models?

Simply, software development models are various processes or methodologies that outline product life cycle stages, how to perform tasks, evaluate performance, and monitor development progress.

Each software development model:

  • establishes a particular interaction model between the vendor and the customer from the very beginning of cooperation;
  • helps organize all available resources to reach the goals in the most efficient fashion;
  • indicates which work is performed at each stage;
  • facilitates risk management and minimization.

Throughout development, a product goes through a series of steps in each model. Usually, these steps include preparation, design, engineering, and follow-up maintenance. They can be named differently and/or subdivided into smaller pieces depending on the model. All you have to do is to pick the one that will best suit your needs and we are here to assist you with this.

What Influences the Choice of a Specific Development Model?

It is no secret that the chosen approach determines either a tremendous success or a total failure of the project.

According to the PMI Global Project Management Survey, software development projects, in particular, are notorious for failing to deliver. 31% fail to meet their goals, about 43% are over budget, and 49% go beyond the agreed deadlines. As a result, only 15% of projects are on track. But don't stress out prematurely. We're here to tell you how the top 10 development models work to let you know which one you should pick to successfully complete your project as planned.

Generally, once you choose a model, it is advisable to follow it from the beginning to the end since, initially, the model sets a certain pace of work, task execution process and, as we mentioned earlier, communication between the team and the customer.

To choose among such a large variety of available models, you should know about all the subtleties that greatly influence the choice. Thus, you may ask what to pay attention to. Let us present to you the criteria which influence the choice:

  • Performer-client interaction model. This is one of the significant aspects, where an engagement model is determined before a cooperation begins.
  • Project specifics. The choice of one or another development model depends on the purpose of project creation, features of development, potential application, and domain.
  • Project focus - for example, whether you will market a product for a B2B or a B2C segment.
  • Project development stage. The customer may already have a development plan or be willing to discuss everything down to the last detail with the vendor.
  • Customer requirements. Is the goal to complete the project on time or to introduce the product to the market and then further refine and optimize it for the customers' needs?
  • Time for development. How soon the team should get the results and how much time is given to complete the project.
  • Project and team size. This usually implies the project's scale, the number of involved employees and their role in each part. 
  • Project scope. It defines the number of affected industries, the versatility of applications and the scalability of impact. 
  • Budget. A factor that the customer is primarily interested in. Changes in an already working product are much more expensive than modifications at the design or analysis stages.

Who Determines Which Methodology to Adopt in Development?

Okay, we've discussed what influences the choice of a model. But who determines which development model will be used on a project? Mainly, a sales or pre-sales manager does it at the pre-sale stage. Alternatively, a project manager chooses it at the initial project stage.

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Software Development Models

There are more than 50 development models, and each of them is unique in its own way. Now we're going to talk about the ten most common and widely used.

Waterfall Model

The waterfall is the earliest approach for software development and has been used for several decades. About 56% of projects used waterfall in the last 12 months according to the PMI.

The main concept is that all development phases depend on each other. One stage should be fully completed before the next one begins to eliminate any overlaps. Thus a forward progression is formed, illustrated in a linear sequential flow.

Of course, this approach provides high predictability regarding the schedule and consumed resources but makes it impossible to account for new requirements that may appear during development. If you want to release an MVP with a minimal set of features for hypothesis testing, sadly, there's no way you'll be able to do that with waterfall. You cannot implement and test a new feature until the whole product is done.

Waterfall software development model


  • Detailed documentation of each stage. Voluminous documentation and initial planning provide a basis for the project and allow vendor to describe the process properly to the customer at any time.
  • Straightforward and transparent. The waterfall model is perfectly suited for managing the lifecycle of small projects where requirements are set and finalized in advance.
  • Process control and predictability. Project goals and objectives are usually clear to developers and don’t cause additional questions thanks to highly detailed documentation.
  • Costs and terms estimation before a project’s start . All requirements are clearly specified at the outset and do not change throughout the process. Predictability makes it possible to estimate future costs and meet predetermined deadlines.


  • Bugs are complicated to correct. Testing in the waterfall model takes place only at the latest stages of development, so possible defects must be foreseen in advance. And if errors do occur, their elimination is costly and can have a negative impact on the projected timeline. 
  • Lack of feedback from a customer throughout the project. Communication between a vendor and a customer is minimal. 
  • Requirements cannot be revised during the development process. Of course, the bigger the project, the harder it is to predict all software requirements in advance, but in this model, this is simply necessary since it is infeasible to change them during the process.


  • Projects with clearly defined unchangeable requirements, such as in healthcare, military, or aviation domains.
  • Projects with strict control, such as government programs.
  • Projects with fixed budgets or tight deadlines.
  • Startups or small businesses looking for developing simple high-quality solutions on a budget.

V Model

The V model (Validation and Verification model) is a more "advanced" version of the waterfall version and well knоwn аs the vеrification and vаlidation mоdel. Key difference with the waterfall model is that here testing takes place at each step from the beginning of a project, rather than at the end of the whole process. This approach enables feedback from the earliest development stages and improves the overall product quality.

However, like the waterfall, V-model’s requirements gathering also happens at the outset and cannot be changed throughout software development, which means that the V-model is also not flexible. Although all bugs in requirements and architecture can be detected early on, changes will still be expensive and tricky to implement.

V software development model


  • Easy to manage. The V-model is easy to manage because each stage of development has clearly defined goals.
  • Reduced risks. Continuous testing minimizes the appearance of costly bugs. This approach defines a higher chance of success through test plans throughout the lifecycle.
  • Cost savings. The costs of all project phases are easily predictable and do not change during the entire process (assuming there are no bugs).


  • Complicated fixing of fundamental bugs. There is no concrete mechanism for solving problems identified during the testing phase. Moreover, V-model is hardly even applicable for creating software that requires unforeseen changes or updates during its lifecycle.
  • Lack of development prосess flexibility. V-model development is a sequential process in which one phase should be completed first before the following one begins.


  • Projects with intolerable failures and downtime, such as medical software development.
  • Areas where product’s operation cannot stop. For example, in aviation, every operation is carefully prescribed, and errors are monitored.

Incremental and Iterative Models

Unlike waterfall, iterative and incremental software development models do not need to plan the entire project management process. Instead, the goal is to apply repetitive development cycles to move a product forward with each iteration. During the development process programmers can figure out what works and what fails and adjust subsequent iterations with gained insights. 

In iterative and incremental models, each iteration can run in parallel to each other or sequentially, and software changes can be implemented at any time. Note, however, that changes cannot be radical. The initial requirements provide a framework that can be adjusted but still ensures a rigid structure for development.

Iterative software development model
Incremental software development model


  • Increased flexibility. Minor changes can be made at any stage throughout the process, and not all requirements can be set at the first stage. 
  • Continuous testing. In incremental and iterative models, testing is done at every stage, so bugs are easier to detect and patches are smoother to implement.
  • Transparent workflow. A customer can discuss details with a vendor in phases and get specific results that can be analyzed at each phase. Plus, it is convenient to evaluate the project's progress without needing a lot of rigorous documentation.


  • Higher costs. These models also requires more human resources, time, and money. Continuous improvements can affect the overall cost and project timeline.
  • Not suitable for continuous development. These models are not perfectly fitting continuous software development since the following sequence can begin only once the previous one is fully completed.
  • Pricey changes. Implementing significant modifications to the product will take time and effort.


  • Enterprise applications that consist of loosely linked parts, like microservices or web services.
  • Projects with manageable deadlines and budgets.
  • Applications with brоаd user bases and where custоmer satisfaction аnd feedback are significantly valuаblе.

Spiral Model

The spiral model combines an iterative process and a sequential linear development model with a very high emphasis on risk analysis, which allows incremental product releases or incremental refinement through each iteration in the spiral.

In essence, the spiral model is a variant of the iterative one. Each spiral loop corresponds to one stage (iteration) of the software creation process and is broken down into four parts: planning, risk analysis, development & testing, and evaluation.

Spiral software development model


  • Improved communication. The spiral model involves regular evaluations of progress, which can improve the quality of work and communication between the customer and the development team.
  • Convenient for risk analysis. This practice is critical as it provides a thorough assessment of potential risks and helps eliminate them early in the project. 
  • Improved quality. The spiral model organizes software development in several iterations, which improves the quality and reliability of a product.
  • Flexibility at all development stages. It’s possible to make changes throughout a project. Therefore, you can add extra features to software or modify it even at the late stages of development.


  • Prolonged and expensive development. The spiral model requires a lot of time and investment to hire qualified specialists and implement features.
  • Time-consuming. The spiral model can take a lot of time because it requires multiple project assessments and reviews.


  • Projects where risk analysis is crucial, e.g., in the development of satellite software.
  • Projects with generic requirements or unclear business needs.

RAD Model

The rapid application development model (RAD) uses minimal planning in favor of rapid prototyping, ensuring quick results in a short timeframe. A team develops components in parallel, releases core features, and subsequent cycles allow adding modifications. The process fully ends only when software is fully implemented. Since there is no detailed pre-planning, the model makes it fairly easy to incorporate changes into the development process. 

RAD software development model


  • Cost minimization. Product elements are developed and implemented separately which reduces the risk of error.
  • Customer involvement. A customer is actively involved in the project’s creation at the early stages of development.
  • Constant user feedback. The RAD model focuses on end-user feedback. This helps ensure that prototypes are refined based on user needs and requirements.
  • High quality. Continual end-user engagement with upcoming product prototypes in the RAD model assures high quality standards.


  • Small to medium-sized projects. RAD is hard to apply to large projects where much control is required, and there is no way to split the process into smaller parts.
  • Increased technical risk. RAD projects contain a large number of code changes, which leads to increased technical risk.


  • Projects with clear requirements.
  • When a project requires the creation of a modular system in a short period.
  • Projects with tight deadlines.
  • Projects where budgets permit using automated code generation tools.

RUP Model

Rational Unified Process (RUP) is a software design and development model focused on using the Unified Modeling Language (UML). 

RUP follows an iterative development process. At the end of each iteration, which on average lasts from 2 to 4 weeks, a team must achieve the goals planned for that iteration, create or refine features and produce an intermediate, yet functional, version of the final product. The lеvеl of customer involvement, dоcumentation depth аnd iteration length varies according to specific project gоаls.

RUP software development model


  • Thorough documentation. RUP requires in-depth documentation, which can be really helpful for collaborative projects.
  • Risk management. RUP helps software professionals proactively respond to potential software issues, improving risk management and troubleshooting efforts. 
  • Adaptation. The model enables adaptation to changing requirements throughout the development lifecycle.
  • Regular customer feedback. Part of the RUP process is providing ongoing updates about project for interested parties by the development team.


  • Time and cost. Development can be time-consuming and pricey. Software development team with a smaller budget can benefit by choosing a more cost-effective approach.
  • Development team. The RUP model requires experts who will distribute the work among individual developers to achieve pre-planned results.


  • When a project needs certain integrations throughout the software development process.
  • Projects with constant requirements changes.
  • Large-scale software development.

The Agile Group

Agile is not a model itself, but a bundle of concepts and ideas for agile development. The movement appeared in 2001 in the Agile Manifesto - the outcome of development methodologies generalization.

Each Agile iteration commonly takes about a few weeks and delivers a completely operating software version. As a result, Agile models focus more on the rapid delivery of a functioning app part and testing and are less burdened by rigorous software documentation.

Agile is about teamwork and close collaboration with clients. At the end of each iteration, they analyze the development progress and can reassess priorities for future milestones to ensure full alignment with end-user demands and business targets. Thus, Agile models tend to be characterized by regular releases and continuous software improvement through quick fixes, updates, and feature enhancements.

Agile software development model


  • Constant interaction with a product owner. The person can track whether a product suits the market and what needs to be changed to immediately make necessary corrections and additions.
  • Flexibility. No need to properly plan requirements at the very beginning — the product can be adapted to modifications and changing specifications. 
  • Transparency. In Agile, both potential problems and process improvements become transparent with each cycle. This allows developers to improve the workflow and fix bugs quickly.
  • Work efficiency. Documents do not define a team's work, and all processes and structures are maximally simplified. The team concentrates only on the most urgent priorities in project development.


  • Budgeting complexity. Because a project can keep changing during development, it's almost impossible to predict the final cost.
  • Risk of stalling deadlines. Constant feedback can delay project completion - changes need to be taken into account, and deadlines need to be adapted to new tasks.
  • Lengthy process. Without an initial, concrete idea of the final product, the development process can drag on for a long time.


  • Startups that want to gather end-user feedback at the earliest.
  • Projects without clearly defined scope of work. 
  • Projects that can be split into small functional parts and developed gradually through each iteration.


Scrum software development model

Sсrum is one of the commonly used agile methodologiеs. The workflow here is divided into sprints with 2-4 weeks duration. About 84% of respondents in the KPMG survey said their organization used either Sсrum or Kanban.

Before each new sprint, a team discusses the results of the previous one's, formulates tasks, identifies problems and possible solutions. After the goals are set, a new sprint starts. As a result, performed sprints are easy to compare with the previous ones, thereby managing the effectiveness of development. 

Scrum work empowers the team to analyze the process and see the opportunities for improvement they could use in the next sprint. 

Extreme Programming (XP)

XP software development model

Extreme Programming (XP) is another Agile model that favors frequent releases in short development cycles. The main difference with other Agile group models is that еxtreme рrogramming forces developers to create features only if they are truly needed. XP admits changes even after an iteration has begun.

XP's flexibility is somewhere in the middle between Scrum and Kanban: not аs structured as the former, but not as loose as the latter. Adjustments can be mаdе after each iteration, and еxtreme рrogramming teams usе test-driven development, paired progrаmming and continuous integration practices to guarantee product performanсе.


Kanban software development model

Kanban is based on visualizing a team's task completion process, and the aim is to reduce the number of unfinished tasks. The key distinguishing feature is that there are no pronounced iterations - the team performs individually created tasks. Furthermore, the tasks go through all stages on the board independently of the others. This ensures project progress transparency, showing the organization of tasks, and helps evaluate and point out the most urgent ones.

The Bottom Line

Summing up, the choice of an appropriate software development model depends on a set of factors and nuances that all together may seem like a nightmare to account for at once. 

Whether you are facing the dilemma of choosing the most efficient software development model, want to know more about them or just have an idea and want to implement it, contact us and we will be happy to assist you!


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