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WATERFALL METHODOLOGY:
ALIVE OR DEAD?

Marketing Manager
Anastasia Shevchuk

INTRODUCTION

Successful project management requires a hard working and dedicated project manager. Their role includes vital duties like documenting the requirements of the project, communicating and coordinating with the team and external stakeholders, assigning tasks and responsibilities, ensuring things remain within the budget, and delivering the project on time.

Nowadays there are many project management techniques and methodologies to help guide project managers and support them in coping with their plethora of tasks. A commonly used project management technique is the waterfall model, which has made an appearance in almost every industry, from construction and engineering to software and media production.

However, most project managers consider the Waterfall to be an outdated methodology with little use in modern times.

In this article, we are going to look at waterfall project management in great detail and consider each of its stages in detail to prove to you that the Waterfall model is still alive and applicable today.


WHAT IS THE WATERFALL MODEL?

Waterfall project management is a linear process that requires a project to be completed in sequential steps. Waterfall focuses on planning the project life cycle in stages by dividing it into distinctive, separate, and exclusive parts.

In a Waterfall model, each phase must be completed before the next begins.

At the outset of the project, you create a detailed waterfall plan that includes all the requirements and expectations, in addition to several other aspects. All the information must be thoroughly documented before being distributed to everyone involved with the project.

But how can companies benefit from this rigid waterfall methodology?

Let's find out.

WATERFALL METHODOLOGY PHASES

The specific phases of the waterfall model vary somewhat from source to source, but generally include:
waterfall stages
Before any work on the project begins, you should always start by gathering all the requirements from the customer and/or stakeholders. This allows the organization to plan the entire project without any further client involvement.

Once gathered, the requirements must be thoroughly analyzed and properly documented. Documents should include information about the application's functionality and all its features.

The requirement gathering and documentation stage must cover the following points:

Scope: The Company calculates the outcome of the final product or service in this phase.

Stakeholder expectation: A detailed and honest meeting with the stakeholders helps to ensure the companies and their expectations of the results of these projects are on the same page. As a non-iterative process, the deliverables have to be well-visualized, detailed, and final.

Research: Do the market research on every similar product and service to find out the relevance and specify the clear Unique Selling Proposition of this project.

Kickoff: In a final meeting, the company and stakeholders finalize all the project specifications and assign the team members tasks to start the project. This is where the project team starts actually working on the project.

Requirement gathering and documentation

In the second phase, you should establish the project specifics. Outline all the actions you'll make to deliver the agreed-upon scope, and the order in which you'll make them. This is also where you document your expected timelines, budgets, etc.

Design is all about solidifying and documenting your decisions from the first phase. Think of the planning phase as the "what" and the designing phase as the "how".

For example, if you're managing a software development project, you would document the programming language you'll be using and any hardware requirements.

System design

Coding takes place in the implementation phase. This is also the phase in which the app will be built.

Assign Team Tasks: Team members will be given their tasks and be responsible for completing them. They will also collaborate with the rest of the team.

Monitor & Track: While the team is executing its tasks, it's a good idea to monitor and track their progress to make sure the project is moving forward per your schedule.

Report to Stakeholders: Stakeholders need regular updates on the project's progress throughout its duration. Meet with them and organize a schedule for presentations.

Implementation

After the code has been written, Quality Assurance, beta testers, and other testers thoroughly examine the software and report any faults, defects, and bugs they find. In some cases, this may require repeating the coding phase to ensure all the bugs are ironed out. After confirming the application works as intended, the project can move to the next stage.

Testing

Even after completion of the working part of the project, you have to deal with the paperwork before closing it.

Pay contracts: The management team checks and pays all the agreements for human resources and product components made over the course of the project.

Create a template: In case you ever plan to embark upon another similar project, create and preserve a template.

Closing paperwork: By meeting all the requirements, the team closes all the contracts and a final detailed report is submitted.

Verification

In the maintenance stage, the customer is regularly using the product and discovering bugs and other errors which arose during production. The production team fixes bugs until the customer is satisfied.

Maintenance

HAVE AN IDEA FOR A PROJECT?

WHERE AND WHEN TO USE THE WATERFALL MODEL?

Waterfall methodology is ideal for projects with clearly understood, fixed, and documented requirements, well-defined technical tools, architectures and infrastructures, and a short life cycle. Choosing the right project management methodology is a huge factor in determining whether or not it will ultimately be successful.


Use Cases In Which Waterfall Model Works Well

In general, traditional waterfall project management is a good fit for projects which:

▪️ Can be planned from beginning to end before they start
▪️ Don't require work on multiple phases simultaneously
▪️ Have a clearly defined product and process

The waterfall methodology is a great choice for the Healthcare industry. Scientific research is naturally an orderly practice with a clearly defined end product. To develop a new drug, scientists form hypotheses and proceed through a rigorous set of steps. Each time they fail, they start over, formulating adjusted hypotheses to explore.

Here's a brief overview of how managing a project with waterfall methodology might look in the context of the pharmaceutical industry:

1.Planning. Scientists research the disease they're trying to cure, which includes studying it in a lab and interviewing patients affected by it. They form a hypothesis for a potential cure.

2.Designing. The scientists develop a waterfall project plan for how they will explore the hypothesis and what resources they need.

3.Implementation. The scientists follow their plan and develop a drug that can potentially cure the disease.

4.Testing. The scientists perform relevant testing to verify the efficacy and efficiency of the drug. If it doesn't work, they start over.

5.Maintenance. The scientists reflect on the process, identify lessons learned, make changes to their hypotheses and development process, and meticulously document everything in order to optimize their next drug development project.


Use Cases In Which Waterfall Model Doesn't Work Well

In general, traditional waterfall project management would not be a good fit for projects that:

▪️ Require different phases or tasks be worked on simultaneously
▪️ Require feedback at multiple points throughout the project
▪️ A working prototype is more important than quality (eg. you first need to test if there's market demand)
▪️ Don't have a clear picture of what the final product should look like

WATERFALL VS AGILE: WHICH ONE TO CHOOSE?

To waterfall or to agile? That is the ultimate question. Waterfall vs Agile has been an ongoing battle in the world of project management for some time now.

At the beginning of any new project, companies must decide which development methodology they are going to use. The most common choice is between an Agile approach or a Waterfall model. The focus of Waterfall is on the design phase of a project, whereas the Agile approach has little focus on design. Waterfall methodology requires a lengthier building and testing period before the delivery of new software, while Agile constantly tests software as it is built, most often by the developer themselves.

Both methods of development projects are widely used, but have completely different approaches to the product development lifecycle.

Here is a quick comparison of both methodologies to help you make this decision!


AGILE vs Waterfall
The advantage an agile methodology has over waterfall is that product requirements can be modified at any stage of the development process, even after planning has been completed. With the waterfall model, the project requirements are defined from the very beginning. If your vision changes or market conditions shift, you'll have to start the entire process from scratch to account for the alterations.

Let's look at a hypothetical situation in agile project development. During product development, they discover that the feature they've worked on relies on an external service, and its price has gone up drastically, which is something they have no control over. Teams working in agile would run a pivot to identify an alternative solution; be it a custom-made or ready-made solution bought from a different provider.

In a waterfall model, a turn of events like this is impossible. You would have to strictly follow the documentation and stick with the more expensive option you originally agreed on. The agile approach puts the needs of the user and client over documentation, as opposed to the waterfall.


Product development planning and scope

Setting project requirements

In a waterfall methodology, a new phase cannot start until the previous one is completed and no phase can be revisited; the only way to return to a phase is by starting from the very beginning.

Agile product development on the other hand, is based around development cycles called "sprints". Product changes can be implemented at any point during the product development process.

Waterfall project management methodology follows a fixed time, price, and scope approach – everything is agreed upon before the project begins. This approach is particularly effective for companies who know exactly what their expectations are, and are completely sure that they're not going to change during the development process.

The agile approach usually relies on the time and materials model.
Another aspect worth mentioning in the waterfall vs agile debate is their different approaches to testing. In agile, the product is tested during every sprint as it's created, which allows developers to quickly spot and fix any bugs they find. This results in faster product delivery and significant monetary savings.

In waterfall, testing is performed after the implementation phase, which can result in serious issues, especially for larger-scale projects. Errors made at an early stage of product development will not be found until the product is finished, which will negatively impact its quality.

Choosing the right project management methodology is incredibly important, so if your product is complicated or you're unsure of what features it should have, choose agile. It will be a much safer option.

Customer involvement in product development

Approach to testing

Customers actively participate in product development with the agile method. Agile puts a strong emphasis on customer satisfaction and you will take part in every stage of the development process.

The Waterfall model limits client involvement however. The customer is responsible for providing detailed project documentation, and this is where his role ends. This frequently results in miscommunication and harms product quality.

BENEFITS & DRAWBACKS OF WATERFALL PROJECT MANAGEMENT METHODOLOGY

When managing a project with waterfall technology, documentation is constantly maintained and updated from the initial stages. This careful way of preparing documentation ensures that there is a complete understanding between the team and the client as to what will be delivered. This not only makes planning and designing more straightforward, but also keeps stakeholders in the loop about a certain phase.

Suitable for Milestone-Oriented Teams

Quality and Detailed Documentation

The Waterfall model is an excellent choice for teams that focus on milestones and work to strict deadlines.

The entire project is planned out in advance and all of the stages are clear and easy to understand for all members of the team, so creating a timeline and assigning markers and milestones is relatively simple. Clearly defined goals and milestones enable the developers to measure progress accurately.
Firstly, let's cover the positive waterfall points:

Budgeting and estimation

The team plans out each detail before embarking upon the project. The team can estimate the resources, timing, and budget required, which makes the company, project team, and stakeholders aware of how much to invest in a project, so they can calculate its ROI and profit margin.

Ideal for small projects

Waterfall project management works well for small projects as there are limited risks and the timeline required is not that big. The technology, deliverables, and market remain comparatively stable within the small time frame, and there is hardly any chance of a redo.

End goal determination

One of the defining steps of Waterfall is committing to an end product, goal, or deliverable at the very beginning. For small projects where goals are clear, this step makes your team aware of the overall goal from the offset, with less potential for getting lost in the details as the project moves forward.

Unlike Scrum, which divides projects up into individual sprints, Waterfall keeps the focus on the end goal at all times. Undoubtedly, scrum is good at dividing projects up into individual sprints, however, there are situations where scrum methodology is not a good choice.

NEED A MILESTONE-ORIENTED TEAM?
Flexibility is the key difference between waterfall and agile methodologies. Waterfall takes a highly structured approach to producing an end product, whether it's a new office building or a new mobile application. In worst-case scenarios, missing an important detail may force you to start the entire project over from stage one. This can be quite costly in terms of budget, client satisfaction, and employee morale.

Meticulous planning

Extremely restrictive

Waterfall requires all project details to be known upfront, so you have to plan everything thoroughly in advance. From in-depth interviews to multiple brainstorming sessions, you have to get as much information out of as many people as possible to avoid missing any details that could impact the project in it's later phases.

In addition, if you're looking to get a project up and running quickly, you'll probably be out of luck unless it's a similar project that calls for many of the same requirements, which would reduce planning time.
Now, let's move on to the unpleasant aspects of waterfall methodology phases:

Working only on one phase

Agile allows you to move between phases as you learn more about what you're working on. Waterfall is not so forgiving. In most cases you won't be able to work simultaneously on different tasks. As there are so many dependent relationships between tasks, you're forced to complete each one individually before starting the next.

Delayed Testing

Unlike modern SDLC models, where testing is an ever-present process throughout the development, the Waterfall methodology pushes it near the end of the life cycle. As a result, most bugs and design issues are revealed relatively late in the process.

SUMMARY

The waterfall is still effective for certain projects that are set within a constrained timeline or budget, and knowing when to use waterfall is an important skill for any project manager. Managing projects using a waterfall philosophy will ensure that you spend efficient time designing your software and that the version which goes to your customer is the best your company can possibly deliver. An agile philosophy encourages teams to fail fast, whereas waterfall suggests teams should avoid failing in the first place.

Delivering high-quality software is hard, but with attention to detail and hard work it is certainly possible, no matter the philosophy your team adopts.


DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS?