A Comprehensive Guide to Waterfall Methodology in Project Management

Waterfall Methodology is one of the most popular ‘System Development Life Cycle' or SDLC software projects. The linear approach of the Waterfall methodology makes it very easy to manage and track your projects' progress. Especially for software companies, waterfall methodology is still the first choice for most.

SDLC process lets you finish your projects with the best quality at the lowest cost and the shortest time.

According to PMI, 56% of projects used this traditional project management methodology- ‘Waterfall‘ during 2020. This is more than double if you compare it with the 22% projects share of the newer & increasingly popular methodology- ‘Agile.'

In this article, we will let you know how the waterfall methodology works, why and how you should use it, and the importance of project management software to implement them.

But first, let's take a step back and get to know what SDLC, Waterfall Methodology are before we dive deep into the details.

Introduction to SDLC and Waterfall Methodology

waterfall methodology in project management

SDLC or the System Development Life Cycle is a process that helps you complete a project with the best quality and lowest cost within the shortest time. SDLC is also known as the Software Development Life Cycle in the software industry.

However, regardless of the industry, SDLC helps to create well-structured phases of a project that help an organization to quickly produce well-tested, high-quality outcomes.

There are several methodologies or models of SDLC that one can use to manage their project efficiently. Some of the most commonly used methodologies include Waterfall, Agile, Lean, and Spiral. Waterfall Methodology is by far the most common SDLC model among all of these.

waterfall methodology in project management

Waterfall methodology is a linear and sequential project management approach to a system development life cycle. This method was originally defined by Winston W. Royce in 1970. The name waterfall methodology was coined because of the nature of this methodology. The model helps develop a project in sequential phases, which resembles a natural waterfall. This model is the perfect one if you want to release a product that is well-tested and ready for scale, right from day one of release.

Factors That Make Waterfall Methodology So Popular

waterfall methodology
Used percentage of SDLC Models. Image Source: PMI

Every result has reasoning. The fact that Waterfall Methodology is one of the most popular SDLC models despite being a traditional one, has to do more with its efficiency. If you know the outcome of a project before you start working on it, Waterfall Methodology will help make the process foolproof. Below are some more reasons for the popularity of waterfall methodology.

  • One of the most important reasons behind the popularity of waterfall methodology is that the project stays rigid, so determining accurate cost and timeline becomes much easier before the start of the project.
  • If the project stays stuck for more than the time needed, supervisors can always check the dependencies to get the process running again.
  • Manufacturing companies tend to like it more because the design of the project is done early in the project, so there are little to no changes to the project during the implementation, making the whole project smooth.
  • The whole process of waterfall methodology is structured. Thus everyone understands their role and when it should be done. This makes the project efficient and less time-consuming.
  • Even if the project loses some key individuals, the team can quickly replace them because the design of the process and all the roles are defined in detailed documentation when the project is initiated.

There are many other reasons that one might want to use this model for their project. Now after knowing the reasons for the popularity, you might be wondering how you can use this methodology for your project. Well, you're in the right place.

Is The Waterfall Methodology Perfect for Your Projects in 2021?

Advantage and Disadvantage of Waterfall Methodology

Like any other model. Waterfall Methodology also has its advantages and drawbacks. Here are the most notable ones. We will start with the advantages of Waterfall Methodology first.

Managing Project is Easy: Managing a project is no easy task. But since waterfall methodology is not very flexible, and because it follows a sequential process, this model is very easy to manage. Every step of this model is rigid, thus you can track the progress any time and get to know the exact process.

Predictability: Whether it is the project finish time, issues that might happen, project cost, what resource and tools will be needed, and when, all these data are highly predictable if you follow this acclaimed model.

Quality Assurance: A key advantage that makes waterfall methodology a popular SDLC model is the quality of the final product. Since every step of the project is tested thoroughly, the projects often produce the best quality products.

Now let's take a look at some of the disadvantages of using the Waterfall methodology.

Modification of a Part is Hard: Since waterfall methodology follows a rigidly linear process, you can not change a part of the project if that phase is already completed.  Thus, making changes or updates is very hard in this model.

Takes More Time: Unlike newer SDLC models, using waterfall methodology means you'll have to spend more time planning for the project. So, to see the project in action, you will have to wait till almost the last part of the life cycle.

Now, to get a more insightful look into the waterfall methodology, you need to know how another methodology compares to this. And up next, we will show you how it fares against another popular methodology, Agile.

How to Use Waterfall Methodology to Ensure Best Quality at Lowest Cost

How to Use Waterflow Methodology

As you already know, depending on the type of your business, different SDLC models are appropriate for you. But if you have decided that waterfall methodology is the most suited model for your business, you should know how to implement it. But for that, you should have clear ideas of the phases of the waterfall methodology and what each of them does.

Phases of Waterfall Methodology

As a sequential model, Waterfall Methodology has a number of phases. The phases are distributed in a linear way, and you can not skip one to start the next. Depending on the need of your business, the number of phases can vary from 5 to 7. The inventor of this model, Winston W. Royce, described 5 different phases. The phases of waterfall methodology are as follows –

  1. Requirements
  2. Design
  3. Implementation
  4. Verification
  5. Maintenance

We already know that with waterfall methodology you will only be able to begin a phase after the previous phase is completed and absolutely no update is required. In order to help you with the ideas of developing a project using this methodology, we will go through the phases in the proper order.

Developing a Project with Waterfall Methodology

Waterfall Methodology Phases
Image: A Software Development Life Cycle using Waterfall Methodology

Collecting the Requirements: The first phase of this methodology starts by meeting with clients or customers to determine the objectives of the project. The nature of the methodology is that you won't be able to get any more client feedback during the process. So you need to get as much data as you can during the initial meeting.

Designing the Product: The phase where you finalize the design of the product looks different from industry to industry. For software development companies, this is the phase where you choose the programming language, finish creating a design prototype of the product (not the actual product). For most other industries, it is the phase where you decide the design of the working process and lists out the tools & resources needed for that.

Implementing the Project: This is the phase where actual work is done. With the help of early requirements and the provided design, the final product should be developed.

Testing the Product: The verification phase starts as soon as the product is developed. While the product shall be tested many times during the development process, the final verification is a must. Apart from finding issues or bugs, in this phase, you will also compare the final product against the client's requirements. When you finally submit or share the project with the customer, make sure it is tested to the core and is ready to be used.

Maintenance: While you will have to scrutinize the project during the verification process, problems will arise. Even if new problems don't arise after you hand over the project, demand for new features will surely arise. In this phase, you will deal with such maintenance tasks.

Waterfall Methodology vs Agile Methodology- Which One to Go for

Waterflow vs Agile Methodology

Waterfall vs Agile? Which is the best methodology? This is a question that you will surely have once you start finding a suitable methodology for your project. Now there is no straight answer to this since both these methodologies are good and best at different aspects. But just to make it more clear for you to decide, here's a comparison of the waterfall and agile methodology.

  • The waterfall is a linear and sequential approach to project management while Agile offers a more flexible incremental and iterative approach.
  • Waterfall models accomplish the project by dividing them into several phases and breaking down the works. Agile get a project done by dividing them into sprints.
  • Agile Project Management introduces a product mindset with a focus on customer satisfaction; Waterfall focuses on successful project delivery.
  • Project requirements are gathered at the start of the life cycle in Waterfall. However, they are prepared in every sprint in Agile.
  • Agile allows the change on a certain requirement at any time; once the project starts Waterfall does not allow any changes.
  • Agile is best suited for projects where changes are needed frequently and clients don't always have a clear vision of the final product. The waterfall model is perfect for industries where the final product is fixed and predictable before the project is completed.

From the comparison above you can choose your preferred methodology. However, if you have a software project agile is perhaps the better choice for you. For industries like manufacturing, the waterfall is the better choice, because in those cases you will know all the requirements of the project upfront. But in the end, it all depends on the demands of your project, so make your decision according to that.

WP Project Manager: A Reliable Tool to Perfectly Implement Waterfall Methodology

WP Project Manager

If you have a small to medium-scale business, then there's a perfect project management tool for you. Yes, we are talking about WP Project Manager (WP PM).

WP Project Manager is a WordPress-based project management tool that has all the features to streamline your SDLC. If you are planning a project that you want to accomplish using waterfall methodology, then WP PM has all the features equipped. The key features include –

Creating Multiple Projects: Does your company have multiple projects at a time? WP PM lets you create unlimited projects and task lists.

Setting up User Roles: You can set the user roles for each user of a project while creating. With WP PM you have the ability to give each user a specific set of custom access permissions.

Gantt Chart: To create a sequential work process, the Gantt Chart is a must. WP PM's Gantt Chart feature lets you plan, schedule a project and create a project flow with ease. Which perfectly complements the Waterflow methodology.

Dashboard: Do you need a birds-eye view of the whole project? Like where the project is waiting right now, the current progress, and calendar-based visualization of your overall project.

Overall Progress Report: If you want a much detailed report, you can always go for the overall progress report, which is pretty comprehensive.

Apart from these, there are lots of other features that will come in handy if you want to manage your project following waterfall methodology. What's more, the price of the WP PM is very affordable. There is also a free version, which you can find on the WordPress repository. However, to get all the advanced features, you need to have the premium version that starts at just $79/year!

wp project manager

Wrapping Up

To run a project smoothly, you must follow organized ways. The common term for these organized ways is “SDLC” or “System Development Life Cycle”. There are quite a few SDLC methodologies that exist. Depending on the type of project (software, machinery, food processing, etc.) you might need to choose your preferred SDL methodologies.

Waterfall methodology is one of the most popular SDLC models that is used in a range of industries. Developing a project using Waterfall methodology takes multiple steps, the flow of the project almost seems like a natural waterfall. We have shown you the ways to develop a project using waterfall methodologies. We have also let you know how using WP Project Manager, you can efficiently implement a project using waterfall methodologies.

Waterfall methodology can be implemented perfectly if you use project management software. Project management software helps keep track of the progress of your project at any time. With the help of the Kanban Board, Gantt Chart, supervisors can also find the progress and dependencies for each and every task. WP Project manager can be the right partner to ease your workflow.

If you still have any questions regarding waterfall methodologies, don't forget to comment down below.

Faisal Sarker
Written by

Faisal Sarker

Faisal is a tech blogger who excels at WordPress Content Writing. Apart from sharing useful info pieces that helps people around the world, he also likes to travel and read books of all genres in his leisure time.

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