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Waterfall Methodology | 2024 Comprehensive Handbook

Waterfall Methodology | 2024 Comprehensive Handbook


Jane Ng 25 Dec 2023 7 min read

When it comes to project management, choosing the right methodology can have a huge impact on your success. That’s why we’re here to explore the Waterfall Methodology in detail.

In this article, we’ll dive deep into the Waterfall Methodology, uncovering its definition, breaking down its distinct phases, and examining both the advantages and disadvantages it brings. Furthermore, we’ll discuss the industries and project scenarios where the Waterfall Methodology shines, helping you determine if it’s the right fit for your next venture.

So, let’s jump right in and uncover the secrets of the Waterfall Methodology!

Table of Contents


Who Created Waterfall Methodology?Dr. Winston W. Royce
When was Waterfall Methodology created?1970
What is the best use case for waterfall methodology?Software engineering and Product development
Overview of Waterfall Methodology

About Waterfall Methodology

Waterfall Methodology DefinitionIt is a sequential and structured approach to project management. It follows a linear progression from one phase to another, with each phase building upon the previous one.
6 Phases of Waterfall MethodologyRequirements Gathering, Design, Implementation, Testing, Deployment, and Maintenance.
Benefits Of Waterfall MethodologyProvides a clear structure, emphasizes documentation, establishes well-defined requirements, and offers project control.
Drawbacks Of Waterfall MethodologyLimited flexibility, lack of stakeholder involvement, higher risk of costly changes, and limited adaptability to uncertainty.
When to Apply Waterfall MethodologyIt is typically applied in projects with well-defined and stable requirements, where the project has clear goals and scope.
Where to Apply Waterfall MethodologyThis model is common in industries such as construction, engineering, manufacturing, and software development.
Overview – Waterfall Methodology

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Waterfall Methodology Definition

Waterfall methodology (or waterfall model) in project management is a sequential and linear approach used to manage projects. It follows a structured process where each phase of the project is completed before moving on to the next. The methodology is called “waterfall” because progress flows steadily downward, similar to a waterfall.

The Waterfall model can be used in various domains, including software development, engineering, and construction. It is often employed in projects with a strict deadline, limited budget, and fixed scope.

6 Phases Of Waterfall Methodology

The Waterfall Methodology follows a sequential approach to project management, consisting of distinct phases. Let’s explore these phases in a simplified manner:

Image: Testbytes

1/ Requirements Gathering:

In this phase, project requirements are identified and documented. Project stakeholders participate to ensure that their requirements and expectations are well understood. The phase’s goal is to establish a solid foundation for the project by defining what needs to be achieved.

For example, you have a software development project for a new e-commerce website. In this phase, your project team would:

  • Engage with various stakeholders, such as business owners, marketing experts, and potential end-users, to gather their input and requirements. 
  • Conduct interviews, meetings, and workshops to understand the goals, functionalities, and expectations for the website.

2/ Design: 

Once the requirements are gathered, the design phase begins. Here, the project team creates a project’s detailed plan or blueprint. It includes defining the structure, components, and user experiences. 

The Design phase aims to ensure that everyone involved, including developers, designers, and all stakeholders, has a clear vision of the project’s structure and appearance.

3/ Implementation:

In the implementation phase, the actual development work takes place. The project team starts building the project deliverables according to the design specifications. 

Think of it like constructing a house. The Implementation phase is when the builders start working on the foundation, walls, roof, plumbing, and electrical systems. They follow architectural plans and turn them into tangible structures.

Similarly, in this phase, the developers follow the design plans created in the previous and write the code needed to make the project work. They bring together different pieces of the project, like the features, functionalities, and interfaces, and connect them in a way that they function together smoothly.

4/ Testing: 

After the implementation phase, rigorous testing is carried out to ensure the quality and functionality of the project. Various types of testing, such as unit testing, integration testing, and system testing, are performed to identify any defects or issues. 

The testing phase aims to validate that the project meets the specified requirements and performs as expected.

5/ Deployment: 

Deployment is the phase where the project is ready to be released and used. It happens after the testing phase is completed. 

In the Deployment phase, the project deliverables, such as the software or website, are released and implemented in the real world. They are either installed in the production environment, where everything is set up for actual use, or delivered to the client who requested the project.

  • For example, if it’s a website, the project team would set up the web servers, databases, and any other required infrastructure. They would ensure that everything is properly configured and working smoothly.

6/ Maintenance:

During the Maintenance phase, the project team provides ongoing support to address any problems that may come up. The main goal of the Maintenance phase is to ensure that the project keeps functioning well and meets the expectations of the users. 

  • If any bugs or issues are discovered in the project, the team works on fixing them.
  • The team also looks into making necessary changes or improvements to the project based on user feedback or new requirements. It’s similar to when you suggest adding a new feature to your favorite app, and the developers listen and make it happen.

The project team continues to provide support, fix any issues, and make necessary updates or changes as long as the project is on. This helps to keep the project reliable, secure, and up-to-date.

Image: freepik

Benefits and Drawbacks Of Waterfall Methodology

Benefits Of Waterfall Methodology

  • Clear and Structured Approach: The Methodology offers a clear and organized way to manage projects. It follows a step-by-step process, making it easier for teams to plan and execute their work.
  • Detailed Documentation: This model emphasizes the importance of documentation at every stage. It means that project requirements, design plans, and implementation details are well-documented. This documentation is useful for future reference and helps keep knowledge intact within the organization.
  • Early Identification of Requirements: This methodology focuses on identifying and defining project requirements early on. By doing this, you can minimize potential misunderstandings or changes in scope. It provides a solid foundation for the project right from the start.
  • Clear Milestones and Deliverables: This methodology allows for the setting of clear milestones and deliverables at each phase of the project. This helps project managers track progress and measure success against predefined goals. It provides a sense of accomplishment as the team completes each milestone.

Drawbacks Of Waterfall Methodology

  • Limited Flexibility: The methodology has the downside of being inflexible. Once a phase is completed, it becomes challenging to make changes. This limitation can cause difficulties in adapting to evolving requirements or incorporating feedback later in the project. It may restrict the project’s ability to be flexible and responsive to changing needs.
  • Lack of Stakeholder Involvement: In this model, stakeholders may have limited involvement and provide feedback only in the later stages of the project. This delayed engagement can lead to surprises or disappointment if the final result does not meet stakeholder expectations. 
  • Higher Risk of Costly Changes: Due to the sequential nature of the methodology, making changes or addressing issues discovered in later stages can be time-consuming and expensive. Modifying the project requires going back to previous phases, which can disrupt the project’s timeline and budget. These changes may lead to additional costs and delays.
  • Limited Adaptability to Uncertainty: This model assumes that project requirements can be fully understood and defined at the beginning. However, in complex projects or uncertain environments, it may be challenging to have a complete understanding upfront. This restriction can result in difficulties in delivering the desired outcome when faced with unexpected situations or evolving circumstances.

Different methods may be more appropriate for the specific requirements of the project and organizational context. So, let’s go to the next section to know when you should apply the waterfall model!

When and Where Should Apply The Waterfall Methodology?

This methodology is typically applied in projects with well-defined and stable requirements, where the project has clear goals and scope. This model is common in industries such as construction, engineering, manufacturing, and software development.

Image: freepik

Here are some scenarios where the Waterfall Methodology can be applied effectively:

  1. Sequential and Predictable Projects: It works well for projects with a clear sequence of tasks and predictable flow, like constructing a building.
  2. Small Projects with Clear Objectives: It is effective for small projects with well-defined objectives, such as developing a simple mobile app.
  3. Stable Requirements and Limited Changes: When project requirements are stable and not likely to change significantly, Waterfall Methodology is suitable. 
  4. Compliance and Documentation Requirements: It is beneficial for projects that require thorough documentation and compliance with regulations, like in healthcare or aerospace industries.
  5. Projects with Well-Defined User Needs: It is applicable when user requirements are clearly understood from the beginning, like building a website according to specific client specifications.

It’s important to remember that Waterfall Methodology may not be suitable for projects requiring adaptability, frequent stakeholder involvement, or responsiveness to changing requirements. In such cases, Agile methodologies are often preferred.

Key Takeaways

The Waterfall Methodology works well for projects with sequential and predictable tasks, small projects with clear objectives, or well-defined user projects. However, it may not be suitable for projects requiring adaptability and frequent stakeholder involvement.

And by utilizing tools like AhaSlides, you can enhance the implementation of the Waterfall Methodology. AhaSlides provides valuable templates and interactive features that streamline project planning, design, and communication. With AhaSlides, teams can create engaging presentations, track progress effectively, and improve overall project outcomes.

FAQs About Waterfall Methodology

What is the waterfall model?

Waterfall methodology (or waterfall model) in project management is a sequential and linear approach used to manage projects. It follows a structured process where each phase of the project is completed before moving on to the next.

What are the 5 stages of the waterfall model?

Here are 5 stages of the waterfall model:

  • Requirements Gathering 
  • Design
  • Implementation
  • Testing
  • Deployment and Maintenance

What are the advantage and disadvantage of waterfall model?

The Advantages Of Waterfall Methodology: 

  • It has a Clear and Structured Approach
  • It provides Detailed Documentation
  • It has Early Identification of Requirements
  • It offers Clear Milestones and Deliverables

The Disadvantages Of Waterfall Methodology

  • It has Limited Flexibility
  • It Lacks Stakeholder Involvement
  • It has a Higher Risk of Costly Changes
  • It has Limited Adaptability to Uncertainty

Ref: Forbes | Adobe