Chat with us, powered by LiveChat

WATERFALL METHODOLOGY:
ALIVE OR DEAD?

Marketing Manager
Anastasia Shevchuk

INTRODUCTION

Managing a project requires a lot of hard work and dedication on the project manager's part. Documenting the requirements, communicating and coordinating with the team and external stakeholders, assigning tasks and responsibilities, keeping things under budget, and delivering the project on time are only several of the duties resting on the shoulders of a project manager.

Nowadays there are many project management techniques and methodologies to help guide project managers and support them in coping with the plethora of tasks. One of the commonly used project management techniques is the waterfall model that has appeared in almost every industry, from construction and engineering to software and media production.

However, most project managers consider Waterfall to be an outdated methodology and think that Waterfall model has already died.

In this article, we are going to uncover waterfall project management, find out its stages, and assure you the Waterfall model is still alive.

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 lifecycle by dividing the project into distinctive, separate, and exclusive parts.

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

At the beginning of the project, you create a detailed waterfall project plan that includes requirements and expectations, among other aspects. All the information must be thoroughly documented and then distributed to everyone on the project.

But how can companies benefit from this rigid waterfall methodology? Let's see.

WATERFALL METHODOLOGY STAGES

The specific phases of the waterfall model vary somewhat from source to source, but they generally include:
Before any work on the project can begin, you should start by gathering all the requirements from the customer and/or stakeholders. That 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 its features.

Requirement gathering and documentation stage has to cover the following points:

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

Stakeholder expectation: Detailed meeting with the stakeholders helps to ensure that the companies and their expectations from 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 all the similar products and services to find out the relevance and make 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 to start the project. This is where the project team starts the actual work for the project.

Requirement gathering and documentation

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

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

In the implementation stage, coding takes place in this phase. This is the phase in which the app will be built.

Assign Team Tasks: Team members will own their tasks and be responsible for completing them, and for collaborating with the rest of the team.

Monitor & Track: While the team is executing the tasks, monitor and track their progress to make sure that the project is moving forward per your schedule.

Report to Stakeholders: Throughout the project, stakeholders need updates to show the progress. Meet with them and discuss a regular 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 run into. In some cases, that may require repeating the coding phase to ensure all the bugs are addressed and fixed. After confirming that 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 the project.

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

Create a template: In case of another similar project, create and preserve the template.

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

Verification

In the maintenance stage, the customer is regularly using the product, discovering bugs and other errors that occurred 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.

Use Cases Where Waterfall Works Well

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

▪️ Can be planned from beginning to end before they start;
▪️ Don't require work on multiple phases at the same time;
▪️ Have a clearly defined product and process.

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

Here's a brief overview of how a waterfall model might go in a pharma context:

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

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

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

4.Testing. The scientists perform relevant testing to verify the drug efficiency. 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 document all these aspects to optimize their next drug development project.

Use Cases Where Waterfall Doesn't Work Well

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

▪️ Necessitate 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 a market demand);
▪️ Don't have a clear picture of how the final product should look like;

WATERFALL VS AGILE: WHICH ONE TO CHOOSE?

To waterfall or to agile? That is the question.

When starting new projects, companies face the decision of choosing the right project development methodology. The most common doubt is what to choose: an Agile approach or a Waterfall model. The focus of Waterfall is on the design phase of a project, whereas Agile concerns itself with very little in design. Waterfall requires a lengthier period of building and testing before delivering new software, while Agile constantly tests software as it is built, most often completed by the developer.

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 make this decision easier!
An agile methodology advantage over waterfall is that product requirements can be modified at any stage of the development process, even after the planning has been completed. In the waterfall model, the project requirements are defined right at the start. If your vision changes or market conditions alter, you'll have to start the entire process from scratch to account for the changes.

Imagine the 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 – this 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, such a turn of events would be impossible. You would have to strictly follow the documentation and stick with the more expensive option which you previously agreed on. The agile approach puts the client and user needs over documentation, as opposed to waterfall.

Product development planning and scope

Setting project requirements

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

Whereas agile product development is based around development cycles called sprints. Product changes can be implemented at any point during the product development process.

Waterfall follows a fixed time, price, and scope approach – everything is agreed upon before the project starts. Such an approach is designed for companies who know exactly what their expectations are and that they're not going to change during the development process. Agile usually relies on the time and materials model.
Another aspect worth mentioning in our agile vs. waterfall different approach 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. This results in faster product delivery and significant cost savings.

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

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

By choosing agile, customers actively participate in product development. Agile puts a strong emphasis on customer satisfaction; you take part in every stage of the development process.

Whereas, the Waterfall model limits client involvement. 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

Documentation is maintained and updated from the initial stages. The careful way of document preparation 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 helps stakeholders to receive more details 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 under strict deadlines.

Since the entire project is planned out in advance and all of the stages are clear and easy to understand by all members of the team, 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 positive waterfall points:

Budgeting and estimation

The team plans out each detail at the beginning. The team can estimate the resources, timing, and budget required. This makes the company, project team, and stakeholders aware of how much to invest in a project to 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 in 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 beginning. For small projects where goals are clear, this step makes your team aware of the overall goal from the beginning, 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 produce an end product, whether that be a new office building or a new mobile application. In worst-case scenarios, if you miss an important detail, you may be forced 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

Since waterfall requires that all project details are known upfront, you have to plan everything thoroughly. 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 later phases.

Plus, 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 to unpleasant waterfall points:

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 can't work simultaneously on different tasks. Since 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 get revealed relatively late in the process.

SUMMARY

The waterfall is still effective for certain projects that are set within a constrained timeline or budget. Managing projects using a waterfall philosophy ensures that you'll spend time designing your software and that the version that goes to your customer is the best your company can deliver. Agile philosophy encourages teams to fail fast; waterfall suggests that teams should avoid failing at all.

Delivering high-quality software is hard, but with attention to detail and hard work, it is possible, no matter the philosophy your team adheres to.
DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS?