What is Waterfall project management?

What is Waterfall project management?


Whether you have been working in project management for a while or have just recently gained your project management qualifications you will know that there are a number of different ways in which you can manage a project. The most straightforward way, however, is waterfall project management.

What is Waterfall project management?

When you use waterfall project management, you map out your entire project into individual and completely separate phases. Each new phase begins when the previous one has been finished. If you are looking for the most traditional project management method around, then the Waterfall system is the one. The members of your teamwork in a logical manner towards and end goal that has been set. 

Each team member has a role that is clearly defined, and it is not expected that any of the goals or phases will change. If your project has a detailed or long plan that needs a single timeline then the waterfall project management system works best. Any changes can be costly and are usually discouraged. Agile project management on the other hand is better for shorter project cycles, adaptation, constant testing, and allows for the overlapping of work that can occur due to their being multiple teams and contributors involved.

The stages of Waterfall project management

This system of project management follows a specific set of stages in a very logical order, making it easier to track exactly what is happening.
  • Requirements – the project managers analyse and collect all the necessary requirements and documentation pertaining to the project
  • System design – the project manager designs the workflow model for the project
  • Implementation – the waterfall system is actioned, and the members of the team get to work 
  • Testing – every stage and element is tested to make sure that it is working as it should be and that it meets all the necessary requirements 
  • Deployment / delivery – the launch of the service or product goes ahead 
  • Maintenance - this is the final stage, and the team will be involved with the upkeep and maintenance of the service or product.
By following this logical method, it is very easy for the project manager to put all their project management skills to use and ensure that no step of the project is missed out. Whilst this may seem like the ideal system to follow for any project unfortunately it isn’t. As with any project management system Waterfall project management has its pros and cons.

The pros and cons
Because each stage is already laid out in a sequence that is linear, Waterfall project management is unfortunately not very flexible. If any changes in the priorities or needs of the stakeholder occur this will have the effect of disrupting this existing order and will need a revision to be put in place. In more extreme circumstances, it may be that a new blueprint is required. 

For projects that are knowledge based, such as computer programming, Waterfall is less effective. What it is missing however in flexibility it more than makes up for in duplication possibilities. The workflows that are used for Waterfall can easily be copied and used for similar tasks in the future.

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