Everyone is looking for a win-win methodology for both providers and clients when it comes to software development. After all, software development isn't going away any time soon. Agile software development is the latest methodology for creating quality, customized software in less time. And while it makes the project less cumbersome and more transparent, it does come with a massive downside.

What is agile software development?

This methodology was first introduced in 2001, when 17 people gathered at Snowbird Ski Resort in Utah and came up with the "Agile Manifesto." This outlined 12 of the most important principles of development. They included communication, collaboration, open-mindedness, flexibility, and the importance of software. It is a type of incremental software development that moves along in rapid cycles--much like sprints. The results are small product releases, with each building on the previous product. Ideally, teams get more work done in less time. This method proved best for time-critical applications where the customer is available and willing to communicate throughout the entire lifecycle of development. It requires an adaptive team willing to respond and change based on product tests and reviews.

Advantages of agile development.

The benefits of agile development principles are compelling. Here are just a few reasons so many apply these principles.

The trade-offs of agile software development.

With the advantages of agile software development, there are come some drawbacks. With agile software development, it is easy to lose all sense of balance. "There is no magic bullet, or free lunch in software development. If you want to adopt agile principles, you need to be sure the product management and the project team all understand the requirements. They must also recognize how the demands can quickly become massive pitfalls," says Brian Lawley, CEO of the 280Group.

Demands and drawbacks of agile methodologies.

Here are five leading disadvantages of agile software development.

1. Less predictability.

For some software deliverables, developers cannot quantify the full extent of required efforts. This is especially true in the beginning of the development life cycle on larger products. Teams new to the agile methodology fear these unknowns. This fear drives frustration, poor practices, and often poor decisions. The more regimented, waterfall process makes it easy to quantify the effort, time, and cost of delivering the final product.

2. More time and commitment.

Testers, customers, and developers must constantly interact with each other. This involves numerous face-to-face conversations, as they are the best form of communication. All involved in the project must have close cooperation. Daily users need to be available for prompt testing and sign off on each phase so developers can mark it off as complete before moving on to the next feature. This might ensure the product meets user expectations, but is onerous and time-consuming. This demands more time and energy of everyone involved.

3. Greater demands on developers and clients.

These principles require close collaboration and extensive user involvement. Though it is an engaging and rewarding system, it demands a big commitment for the entirety of the project to ensure success. Clients must go through training to aid in product development. Any lack of client participation will impact software quality and success. It also reflects poorly on the development company.

4. Lack of necessary documentation.

Because requirements for software are clarified just in time for development, documentation is less detailed. This means that when new members join the team, they do not know the details about certain features or how they need to perform. This creates misunderstandings and difficulties.

5. Project easily falls off track.

This method requires very little planning to get started, and assumes the consumer's needs are ever changing. With so little to go on, you can see how this could limit the agile model. Then, if a consumer's feedback or communications are not clear, a developer might focus on the wrong areas of development. It also has the potential for scope creep, and an ever-changing product becomes an ever-lasting one.

Most common mistakes of new agile development teams.

Agile development also tends to open the door for more mistakes. These are some of the most common:

When to avoid agile methodologies.

Many teams regard agile software development as simply a way to deliver software faster. Agile software development mimics the actions of daily stand ups, breaking work down into sprints, and compiling user stories. However, they fail to fully commit to agile development. So while they say they are "doing agile," they are in fact keeping with the traditional mentality that has worked in the past. This method is not beneficial when the client must work on a specified budget or schedule. You should also avoid it when clients cannot change the scope of the project once it starts.

Published on: May 6, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.