Waterfall Project Management – The waterfall model arises from strict processes used in sectors such as construction and manufacturing. It focuses on creating the best possible end product, with little room for adjustments or updates after the project is complete.

What is Waterfall Project Management?

The waterfall idea is a project management methodology divided into different phases. Each phase begins only when the previous one has ended.

This approach to project management grew out of the manufacturing and construction industries, where every milestone must remain completed to move forward with the production process. For example, you cannot build the walls of a house without foundation.

Although it started in manufacturing, waterfall project management has adapted to the needs of many other different industries, including software development.

The waterfall methodology is usually visualized in a flowchart or Gantt chart. It is called a waterfall because each task cascades to the next step. In a Gantt chart, you can see how the previous phase cascades over the next.

The 6 steps of the Waterfall Project Management Methodology

Several teams can implement waterfall project management, but this methodology is most useful for processes that must occur sequentially. If the project you’re working on has responsibilities that can remain completed simultaneously, try a different scheme, such as some agile methodology.

Follow these six steps:

1. Requirements Phase

It is the initial planning process in which team members gather as much information as possible to ensure success. Since the tasks of the waterfall method depend on the previous steps, you have to plan everything in detail before you start. This planning process is a crucial stage of the waterfall model, and for this reason, most of the project time is spent on planning.

To make the method work for you, make a project plan that explains each phase. Include everything from what resources needed to which team members will work. This record is usually called a project requirements document.

At the end of the requirements phase, you should have a very clear outline of the project from start to finish that includes the following:

  • Every stage of the process
  • Who will work at each stage
  • key dependencies
  • the necessary resources
  • A timeline detailing how long each step will take

2. System Design Stage

System Design Stage

In a software development process, the design phase involves the team that will work on the project specifying what hardware they will use and any other details such as programming languages ​​and user interface.

There are two fundamental steps in the system design phase: the high-level design phase and the detailed design phase. In the high-level design phase, the team creates a skeleton of how the software will work and access the information. During the detailed design phase, the section defines the precise details of the software. If the high-level design phase is the skeleton, the detailed design phase refers to the organs of the project.

The members of the teams that carry out their developments applying the waterfall methodology must document each step so that the rest of the team can consult what has done as the project progresses.

3. Implementation Stage

It is the phase where everything kicks in. Based on the requirements documents from step one and the system design process from step two, the team begins a full development process to build the software envisioned in both the requirements and system design phases.

4. Test Stage

The Development team delivers the project to the Quality team to carry out the appropriate tests at this stage. The ‘QA testers’ look for any errors that need to remain fixed before implementing the project.

Testers document all issues they encounter while performing QA. If another developer runs into a similar error, you can refer to the documentation above to fix the error.

5. Development Phase

In development projects, this is the stage where the software is deployed to end-users. In other cases, it is the moment when the final deliverable is released to end customers.

6. Maintenance Phase

Once the project has released for deployment, there may remain instances where a new bug is discovered, or a software update is required. It is known as the maintenance phase, and it is very common for the work of this stage to remain continuous.

The Benefits of Waterfall Project Management

Consistent documentation facilitates retrospective analysis

When you implement the waterfall project management process, you document each step. So it can be beneficial to spot errors when the team needs to review procedures easily. As mentioned above, it’s also great for creating repetitive processes for new team members.

It’s very easy to Track Progress

When you build a waterfall project with a Gantt chart, you will find it very easy to track progress. The timeline itself serves as a progress bar, so it’s always clear what stage the project is.

Team members can manage time effectively

Since implementing the waterfall methodology involves a lot of planning during the requirements and design phases, it is easier to estimate how much time will need to remain spent on any specific part of the waterfall process.


The waterfall model is a successive methodology for project management divided into phases. Each phase begins only when the previous one has ended. This article explains the steps of waterfall project management and how they can help your team achieve goals.

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