Waterfall Methodology: Complete Project Management Guide

Ayush Jangra

Ayush Jangra

Co-founder, Grabee

The waterfall methodology is as old as the dinosaurs. In a waterfall, one idea flows into another (like water in a waterfall).

On this page, you’ll learn everything you need to know about waterfall methodology: what it is, how it works, its pros and cons, the waterfall methodology stages and an example of a waterfall product management approach in action. Let’s dive right in!

Waterfall methodology is a type of project management that has been around since the 1960s.

It's been around so long, in fact, that you might be wondering: is waterfall methodology still relevant?

The answer is yes!

The waterfall methodology isn't going anywhere and it shouldn't.

Waterfall methodology is a project management approach that has been around since the 1960s, and it’s still used today. It’s one of the most popular approaches to project management because it reduces complexity by breaking down large projects into smaller phases and tasks, making them easier to manage.

Waterfall project management is a way of approaching projects where you start with the end goal in mind, take small steps toward achieving that goal, and evaluate how well you did as you go along. The idea is that if you do everything right up front (like planning), then things will go smoothly during the rest of the project and it's easier to see where things are going wrong when they do go wrong. This is because the entire project has already been broken down into smaller pieces.

The key to getting good results with this approach is making sure that everyone involved understands what they're supposed to be doing at every step along the way. If everyone knows what their role is and how each piece fits into the larger picture, then they'll have a better chance of coming together at the end to complete their work successfully.

What Is Waterfall Methodology?

The waterfall methodology is a project management approach that organizes tasks in a sequential manner, with each step dependent on the completion of the previous step.

It’s a linear approach to project management, so it’s easy to see why it is often confused with Agile. But Agile and waterfall are two very different ways of approaching projects and managing teams.

Here’s an overview of what waterfall methodology is all about, how it differs from Agile, and how you can use this method to improve your own projects.

The waterfall methodology is one of the most widely used approaches to project management today. It was first developed by Barry Boehm in 1968 as a way of managing complex projects that required multiple phases or tasks over time. Many other methodologies since then have been influenced by waterfall methodology, including agile software development methodologies like scrum or Kanban boards.

The basic idea behind the waterfall methodology is that each stage of the process should be completed before going on to the next one; this ensures that each phase has been fully tested before moving on to the next phase or task. This also makes it easy for stakeholders to see what has been done so far

The Difference Between Agile and Waterfall Project Management

The main difference between agile and waterfall project management is that agile projects are done in multiple phases, while the waterfall method is a single-phase process.

In agile projects, each phase has its own set of tasks that need to be completed before moving on to the next one. This makes it easier to see what has been done so far, and it allows stakeholders to provide feedback at any point in the process.

The waterfall method is a single-phase process that is often used in large projects that have many different stakeholders or where deadlines are very important.

Waterfall vs Agile Project Management Methodology
  Agile Project Management Waterfall Project Management
Process Type Multiple phase process Single phase process
Structure More flexible, allowing for changes in scope or direction throughout the project Rigid and structured
Timeline Requires more time spent on each stage of development Allows for more control over project timelines and costs
Adaptation Can adapt to changing circumstances Cannot adapt to changing circumstances
Focus Area Focuses on delivering results early Focuses on breaking down a project into small steps that are completed one at a time.

5 waterfall methodology stages

The Waterfall model is a sequential approach to software development. The idea behind it is that you need to complete one waterfall step before moving on to the next one. This can help you avoid having to go back later on and fix something, but it also means that if something goes wrong early on, it could be difficult or impossible to fix.

The waterfall method steps involve:

Step 1: Define the problem and develop a solution.

Step 2: Prepare the requirements for the system, including functional, performance, reliability and usability requirements.

Step 3: Design and develop the system.

Step 4: Test and evaluate the system against its requirements.

Step 5: Implement the system into production.

Grabee 5 Stages in a Waterfall Methodology

Explaining in detail the five common waterfall methodology stages:

1) Define requirements:

The first phase is figuring out what needs to be done and who should do it. This includes defining the scope of the project and getting buy-in from stakeholders. You can do this by creating a document that describes what your software needs to do and how it should work. This will help you understand what the user wants from their new app, as well as how much time and money it will take to develop it.

2) Design the solution:

Once you know what needs doing and why you can start thinking about how you're going to do it and what resources will be needed. How will this product fit into other products already being used? What tools will make this process easier? What kinds of training will your team need? These are all questions that fall under design.

3) Implementation or Build the solution:

Once you have your design set up, implementation begins! This involves building out the product by using the tools or other resources chosen during the design phase. It can also include creating any manuals or documentation necessary for using the product once it’s completed.

4) Test the solution and fix bugs (quality assurance):

It's important that you test your product as you build it! This will help ensure that what you're making is actually solving the problem and accomplishing what you set out to do. You may also want to hire a third party to do this for you. It's important to find someone who will be able to objectively look at your product and give feedback on how it can be improved.

5) Deployment and Maintenance:

Once you've completed your product, you'll need to deploy it and make sure that it’s working properly. It's important that you do this in a way that's sustainable so that people will continue using your solution. This can include things like customer support and updates to the product itself as needed over time.

Waterfall methodology advantages

The main advantage of using waterfall methodologies is that they are considered more thorough than other processes because they ensure that all requirements have been met before moving on to subsequent stages in development.

  1. It's easy to understand and use.

  2. It's simple, so it doesn't require much training or education to get started using it.

  3. Teams can work independently on each step without worrying about what other teams are doing or how their work is going to impact another team's work in later steps.

  4. There are no surprises you know exactly what you're getting when you start working on your project. You know exactly what you need to do, so there aren't any surprises along the way (good or bad).

  5. It provides clear accountability if something goes wrong at any point in the process, you'll know exactly who's responsible for fixing it (and they'll have no one else to blame).

  6. Because of its structure, the waterfall methodology can be used by small companies with limited resources and large companies with huge teams of developers working on multiple projects at once.

In a nutshell, waterfall methodology gives you a clear vision of your project's requirements. You know exactly what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. You also have a clear path for how each step can be completed, so there isn't much room for error!

The waterfall methodology works best when you have a lot of resources available since you don't want to waste time trying out different options before settling on one that works well for your project or product.

Waterfall methodology disadvantages

The Waterfall methodology has many advantages, but it also has some drawbacks.

Waterfall methodologies tend not to be as flexible as other methods and they may take longer than expected due to their strict adherence to procedures

Cons and reasons the waterfall method is falling out of favor:

  1. Doesn't allow for changes in scope or direction during the project (you can't pivot!)

  2. Lacks flexibility, which means that it's not ideal for projects that require multiple iterations or changes in direction

  3. Can be difficult to scale up

  4. Doesn't lend itself well to distributed teams

  5. Can be difficult to estimate and track progress

  6. Doesn't provide a clear path for testing and integration

In a nutshell, waterfall methodology can lead to missed deadlines and unrealistic expectations from leadership teams who are used to seeing projects completed on time every time (this will not always be the case with waterfall methodology).

The waterfall methodology doesn't allow room for change or flexibility once things get rolling down the pipeline; if something goes wrong during any phase of development then everything else has to wait until

Who uses the waterfall model?

The Waterfall model is used by many companies to manage their software development projects. It's a way of breaking down the phases of a project from conception to completion and making sure that each phase is completed before moving on to the next phase. This can be useful for companies that need to keep track of their progress and make sure everyone is working towards the same goal.

The Waterfall model works well when you have an idea of what your final product will look like before you start building it. The Waterfall model is also good for projects that need to be completed by a deadline.

If you're looking for a simple, straightforward methodology for building software, the Waterfall model is a good choice. It's also one of the most commonly used models in the industry today.

But if you're working on something where there are many unknowns, or if you need to be able to pivot quickly and change direction mid-stream, then this model may not be right for you.

When to use the waterfall model?

The Waterfall Model is used when you need to complete a project in stages, and you want to make sure that each stage is completed before moving on to the next one. The Waterfall Model is also called the "linear" or "sequential" model because it follows a linear path from beginning to end.

This model works well when you have a large project with several stages, each of which has its own set of tasks and deadlines. It's also good for projects with many different stakeholders who will be involved throughout the process. This model can help keep everyone on track with their responsibilities and ensure that no one misses any steps along the way.

However, this method may not be ideal for everyone or every project! Because there are no opportunities for feedback during each stage of development (except at the very end), it can make people feel like they're not contributing until everything is finished and that might not be until after they've already left their job!

How we can improve the waterfall model?

By making it more flexible. A good way to do this would be to allow for small changes or updates between stages of development so that stakeholders can get immediate feedback and make sure they're still on track with the project's goals.

Another way to improve the waterfall model is by adding milestones. By having clearly defined checkpoints throughout the project, you'll be able to ensure that everyone knows where they stand and if anything needs to change, it can be done before it's too late.

In summary, tips to improve the waterfall model are:

  • Encourage more feedback loops to keep the project on track
  • Allow cross-functional teams to work together and share responsibilities
  • Use Agile practices instead of Waterfall for small projects or prototypes
  • Keep the focus on business value.
  • Make sure your requirements are well understood before development begins.

Conclusion

To summarize, waterfall methodology is one of the most widely used project management methods, and is effective for a wide range of both simple and complex projects. Its main advantages are its simplicity and low cost, both of which allow for more cost-efficient execution for projects that require only a few steps.

While it does have its drawbacks, such as its inflexibility at later stages or a tendency toward delay in reporting, there are also ways to overcome these issues through additional project management tools.

Overall, the waterfall approach for all its flaws still remains popular among project managers and organizations alike.

It may not be without its shortcomings, but then again, no system is. When paired with agile methodologies, where teams can adjust and adapt to changing project requirements, the waterfall method can still be a useful tool for businesses to consider.

FAQ

Why companies do not want to move away from the waterfall method?

There are many reasons why companies do not want to move away from the waterfall methodology. One of the most common reasons is that it is easier for them to understand and implement.

Another reason is that it provides a structure for most projects which can help with planning and managing time. However, there are also several disadvantages to using this project management method.

The main disadvantage is that changes cannot be made easily once the project has started because all work must be done in one go at the end of each phase, rather than being able to make changes along the way as issues arise (e.g., if there is an issue with one feature then it cannot be changed).

Why waterfall methodology doesn't work?

  • The waterfall methodology is not friendly for a change
  • Responsibilities are sequential and isolated
  • Deadlines are a moving target
  • There's an inherent lack of communication between project team members
  • It's not flexible enough to reflect changes in schedule, scope, or requirements during the course of the project

How does waterfall methodology work?

In a waterfall model, each phase must be completed before moving on to the next phase until all phases have been completed and evaluated as either "success" or "failure." This means that once you've finished one phase, you don't go back and change anything from that phase you just move on to the next step in the process until all steps are complete!

What are some examples of a waterfall model project?

The waterfall model is known for its linear progress and rigid scheduling, which makes it great for projects that have a clear start and end (like developing a website). But it can also be used in situations where you need to follow a set order of tasks to reach your goal.

Let's take a look at some examples of how this could be applied in practice:

Developing an app or website:

Requirements Gathering: In this stage, you would gather all of the requirements for your project from stakeholders and team members. This could include things like a needs assessment or market research. If you have multiple stakeholders involved in your project then this stage may end up being iterative where each stakeholder gives feedback about their needs before moving on to the next phase.

Designing: In this phase, you would create functional specifications based on what was gathered in the previous phase(s). This would include creating user stories for each feature or requirement that was identified during requirements gathering. If there were any changes made from one iteration to another then those changes would also be reflected here (for example if an idea was added or removed).

Coding: In this phase, developers will code the software based on the functional specifications that were created in the previous phase.

Testing: Once the code has been written, it needs to be tested for bugs and functionality. This can be done by both developers and non-developers alike as long as they have been trained on how to test (which should be done before beginning this stage).

What is waterfall methodology vs agile methodology?

Waterfall methodology is a linear approach that starts with requirements, moves on to design, then to development, then testing, and finally deployment.

Agile methodology is a more flexible approach that allows teams to move back and forth between steps in order to meet the needs of the project.

The reason why people choose one over another depends on their needs. If you're working on a small project where you know exactly what you want to do from start to finish, waterfall might be better for you. However, if you need more flexibility because there are many unknowns or risks involved in your project, agile might be better suited for your needs because it allows teams to adapt as they go along.

Author

More posts

Articles on user feedback, and product management for SaaS founders and product managers