The steps of Waterfall Project Management

by Jones David

One of the more traditional methodologies for structuring an assignment is waterfall project management. Its phases were first defined by software engineers Felix Lorenzo Torres and Herbert D. Benington during a 1956 symposium, although the term by which it is now known was coined fourteen years later by American computer scientist Winston W. Royce.

The origins of the technique in the computer science world hint at some of its characteristics. Its logic is very linear, with a well-defined sequence of dependent steps – one step must be fully completed before we can move on to the next. That concept of cascading stages gave it the name by which it is still known to this day. 

Due to its rigid system, the approach may not be the best option depending on the project you have on your hands, especially if it is malleable and likely to change. If you need to work on different parts of the job simultaneously, then we advise you look elsewhere. 

What is Waterfall Project Management for?

Despite being an old and limited strategy, it has stood the test of time, and can offer significant benefits in certain settings. 

It can be very useful for creating software – the intent which first gave name to the technique – and in other areas where the final vision of the product is defined from the very start, and can be easily replicated. Building a house’s structure, managing a big company’s monthly bills, and developing medicine for a specific disease are all good examples.

Since it requires a lot of planning and documenting, this strategy can benefit new team members, by providing a concise path of action for work to be done, and accelerating familiarization with their tasks. 

The straightforward nature of the procedure also makes it easier to manage a team during the job, since  the phases occur in an exact sequence, keeping everybody on the same page at all times.

The linear disposition of the technique makes it very easy to visualize and keep track of progress. This in turn serves as a motivational stimulus, so the assignment should be completed faster. If these are some of the characteristics you’re looking for when organizing a system, here are the steps to follow with waterfall project management:

1) Requirements

The first step is to assemble all the information you need to build an extensive plan, covering everything that should be accomplished throughout all stages. Depending on the nature of the project, there are several ways to do this – set up interviews with potential users of the product you are developing, gather data, meet with the team to address their expectations, hold brainstorming sessions, etc. Bear in mind that this step will define everything that comes next. 

Once you’ve compiled all the information, goals and opinions you need, it’s time to structure them into a plan. Every job phase should be defined, so people know what to do and which sequence of actions they will carry out. The process must be as detailed as possible and shouldn’t leave any room for doubts or changes along the way, including the roles assigned to each member. 

2) Designing

During this step, make a flowchart documenting all the procedures ahead so everything is clear: the timeline of tasks, necessary instructions, resources required, deadlines, and so on. This will set in stone everything discussed during the first step.

3) Implementation

The third step is where the main action takes place, putting into motion the activities defined by the document from the previous phase. Make sure to keep detailed notes of all the difficulties, efforts, and solutions discovered during the project’s execution. 

As we saw earlier, this method thoroughly explains how to carry out a task, which is helpful for anyone doing it for the first time. An elaborate memo collection is crucial for achieving this goal, and also makes feedback easier for both coworkers and clients. 

4) Testing

When everyone has completed their tasks, it’s time to test the final product, check for mistakes and ensure that everything is running as it should. If the previous steps of the methodology were well structured and carried out, chances are that there is little to do here. You should make a note of any inconsistencies, and move on to the fifth and final step.

5) Maintenance

The last stage of waterfall project management involves correcting mistakes found in the previous phase, and enhancing as required so the product is finally ready. It’s also a good idea to produce a report on the development as a whole, in collaboration with all team members, to facilitate its replication in the future. 

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