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Planning, executing and closing a project requires a variety of skills, but it also necessitates a standard model of practice. Project management methodologies run the gamut but one of the most successful models is known as waterfall project management. In terms of broader project management methodologies, the waterfall method stands out as it is characteristically liner and sequential, meaning it outlines a clear goal for each individual development phase of a project.

What is Waterfall?

The waterfall methodology is a design process built in a sequential order. It has also been referred to as the “linear-sequential life cycle model” for the way in which it is formatted. Much like the way a waterfall trickles and flows down, this type of project management involves a set of steps that feed into each other. Much like an actual waterfall, there’s no turning back once one phase of development is completed– the project immediately moves on to the next phase.

The success of this model is based on pursuing these steps through the flow of progress. Waterfall project management should adhere to the following phases:

  • Requirements: what is needed for the project, including any hardware/software.
  • Analysis: building models, schemas and business rules.
  • Design: developing the architecture it takes to complete the project.
  • Coding: the integration and development of any software needed for the task.
  • Testing: using the interface to identify any bugs or defects.
  • Operations: the implementation, support and maintenance of the system.

These delineated steps are always meant to be followed in sequential order. There are also some variations on the waterfall methodology that can include steps like moving to the previous cycle when bugs are detected, and returning to phase one if the project is not working.

Understanding how project management methodologies work is half the battle. You should also understand the advantages to the model you choose and how to apply it accordingly.

Why Waterfall?

Although there are a variety of project management methodologies on the market, waterfall stands out for a multitude of reasons.

Easy to Follow

Much like a map or a set system, the waterfall method is successful because it’s easy to follow. Knowing exactly where you are in the life cycle of the project at all times helps project managers stay organized and keep the process flowing.

Minimal Management

Since the rules in a waterfall model are so clearly defined, these types of projects are somewhat easy to manage. You simply follow the steps one-by-one until completion. Waterfall works best for projects where the requirements are easily understood and the order is clearly defined.

No Overlapping

Unlike other project management methods, the phases in this type of system never overlap. Design cannot happen until analysis is complete, coding cannot happen until design is complete…and so on and so forth. This makes it easy to follow along through the phases of the project without getting lost in two separate steps.

Final Product

Since the waterfall model is so thorough, chances are your final product will be much more fully formed and complete than other project management methods, like the business agile model. This is because there is an entire step in the process solely committed to finding bugs and errors within the newly designed system. Therefore, products that run through the waterfall method are typically fully debugged when finally released.

Choosing the right type of model to manage a task is really the universal first step to planning a successful project. The waterfall methodology was developed years ago with a clear set of steps and rules to run the tightest ship possible. Understanding the advantages of this type of system and applying the standards accordingly will ensure you develop a successful product every step of the way.