Waterfall methodology is a linear, sequential approach to project management in which progress flows in a single direction, like a waterfall.
It is often used in software development and other technical fields.
Phases Of Waterfall Methodology
The waterfall process typically consists of several distinct phases. An example of waterfall phases might look like:
- Requirements gathering and analysis
- Implementation or construction
- Testing and quality assurance
- Deployment and maintenance
Each phase must be completed in its entirety before the next one can begin, and there is little overlap or iteration between phases.
The process is heavily reliant on detailed documentation and planning, and changes to the project scope are often difficult to incorporate once a phase has been completed.
When To Use Waterfall Methodology vs. Agile
Waterfall methodology is most suitable for projects where the requirements are well understood and don’t change much, and the product is clearly defined.
Consider waterfall when your project:
- Has well-defined, clear and non-changing requirements
- Has a well-defined and clear product or outcome
- Has a specific schedule and budget
- Has a defined process that can be followed
- Has a predictable outcome
Waterfall methodology works best for projects that have a clear beginning and end, with a defined scope and deliverables that can be planned and executed in a linear and sequential manner.
It is also suitable for projects where the requirements are well understood and don’t change much, and the product is clearly defined.
It’s less suitable for projects that are difficult to specify in advance, have a lot of unknowns, or are likely to change a lot over time.
In those cases, Agile is likely a much more effective approach.
Agile focuses on delivering small, incremental changes to the product through rapid iterations and regular feedback from stakeholders.
It is more flexible and adaptive to change, and it is better suited for projects where the outcome is not entirely predictable.
Determining whether to use waterfall or agile should come down to the specific characteristics of the project, the needs of the stakeholders, and the project team’s skillset.