Based on my experience, no one really follows a specific methodology exactly as it is formally designed. In fact, the key concepts of a few methodologies are usually combined to form a hybrid methodology for each project based on the current organizational makeup and the project need/requirements to be accomplished.
Organizational characteristics that impact the selection of methodology concepts applied to a project.
Prior subject knowledge pertaining to a project can be critical when deciding on what methodology or combination of methodologies to apply to a project. For example, if a project is very straight forward, and the development staff has experience in developing that are similar, then the waterfall method could possibly be the best choice because little to no research is needed in order to complete the project tasks and there is very little need for changes to occur. On the other hand, if the development staff has limited subject knowledge or the requirements/specification of the project could possibly change as the project progresses then the use of spiral, iterative, incremental, agile, or any combination would be preferred.
The previous methodologies used by an organization typically do not change much from project to project unless the needs of a project dictate differently. For example, if the waterfall method is the preferred development methodology then most projects will be developed by the waterfall method.
Depending on the time allotted to a project each day can impact the selection of a development methodology. In one example, if the staff can only devote a few hours a day to a project then the incremental methodology might be ideal because modules can be added to the final project as they are developed. On the other hand, if daily time allocation is not an issue, then a multitude of methodologies could work well for a project.
Project characteristics that impact the selection of methodology concepts applied to a project.
The type of project being developed can often dictate the type of methodology used for the project. Based on my experience, projects that tend to have a lot of user interaction, follow a more iterative, incremental, or agile approach typically using a prototype that develops into a final project. These methodologies desire back and forth communication between users, clients, and developers to allow for requirements to change and functionality to be enhanced. Conversely, limited interaction applications or automated services can still sometimes get away with using the waterfall or transactional approach.
The timeline of a project can also force an organization to prefer a particular methodology over the rest. For instance, if the project must be completed within 24 hours, then there is very little time for discussions back and forth between clients, users and the development team. In this scenario, the waterfall method would be perfect because the only interaction with the client occurs prior to a development project to outline the system requirements, and the development team can quickly move through the software development stages in order to complete the project within the deadline. If the team had more time, then the other methodologies could also be considered because there is more time for client and users to review the project and make changes as they see fit, and/or allow for more time to review the project in order to enhance the business performance and functionality.
Sometimes the client and or user involvement can dictate the selection of methodologies applied to a project. One example of this is if a client is highly motivated to get a project completed and desires to play an active part in the development process then the agile development approach would work perfectly with this client because it allows for frequent interaction between clients, users and the development team. The inverse of this situation is a client that just wants to provide the project requirements and only wants to get involved when the project is to be delivered. In this case the waterfall method would work well because there is no room for changes and no back and forth between the users, clients or the development team.