Waterfall Project Management: An Overview

Waterfall project management uses a traditional approach towards managing projects. As the term suggests, the phases in a waterfall model flows logically from top to bottom, like a waterfall. This model is mostly used for software development; and involves a number of phases, such as conceptualization and requirements determination, designing, implementation, verification and maintenance. After identifying the goals of a project, tasks are allocated among team members. When managed through waterfall methodology, the success and failure of a project will directly depend on the performance of its team members. However, critics also claim that this methodology is not responsive to changes. In this article we will take a look at the different phases of the process to understand how this project management methodology works.

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Phases Involved in Waterfall Project Management

Depending on the framework and type of project there are any number of phases used.  In this explanation we are going to discuss six typical phases involved in waterfall project management. The methodology proceeds like a waterfall – once it moves on from the first step to the next, it can backtrack to the previous step, but in a stepped process from one to the next as shown in the diagram. Here’s an overview of the six phases of this project management methodology.

  1. Requirements Analysis – Analyzing the expectations of a project is the first important phase in the waterfall project management methodology. In order to recognize the goals of a project, it is important to gain an insight into the client’s business model as well. This requires an ability to communicate with clients and analyze potential risks involved with the project.
  2. Design – After identifying what the project needs to deliver, then you need to design a solution that delivers those requirements.  This can form any number of elements such as the software design including security, process design or product design.
  3. Development–The actual creation or building starts in this phase. Based on the design determined in the previous step the project manager delegate tasks among team members so that the end result can be achieved. Depending on the nature of the project, the entire team can be divided into several small units of work. Maintaining proper coordination between the several small units is essential for the desired outcome.
  4. Testing – After a product or service is developed according to the designed plans, tests are carried out to verify whether the final product is free from errors. It is also important to check whether the product or service has been made in compliance with client’s expectations, essentially, does it meet requirements?
  5. Implementation – After testing, the product or process is implemented. The implementation should be done in compliance with all prevalentindustry-specific guidelines and regulations and or organizational guidelines.  Post implementation verification and testing must be carried out to ensure the final implementation is successful.
  6. Maintenance – After the final product is delivered to the client, maintenance service is provided to make sure that the product or the service keeps on performing as expected. The maintenance period is usually for a specified and agreed period of time.

Throughout this whole process the Project Manager needs to plan, monitor and control the activities that make up each phase.  Waterfall management programs require proper documentation in each and every step. This makes it one of the most systematic methodologies used for project management.


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