Using The Waterfall Model in Project Management

Simple Waterfall Project Management Template

In project management, some strange terms appear when you are looking for a methodology suitable for your team: critical path, Scrum, PMBOK, Six Sigma etc. Besides all these terms, you have certainly heard of the waterfall project management method.

In this guide you will learn how the waterfall method uses a sequential process to simplify project management and how you can implement aspects of this method in your own work.

What Is The Waterfall Model in Project Management?

The basic concept behind the waterfall model is made clear by its name. Simply put, the waterfall methodology is a sequential, linear process of project management. It consists of several independent phases. A project runs one after the other, each completed phase initiates a new phase.

The waterfall model originates from the construction and production process, where highly structured procedures must be followed, as late changes are expensive or even impossible. This approach focuses on producing the best possible end product with little flexibility for changes when the product is finished.

A house construction is a practical example of such a waterfall model. The floors must be built one after the other - first the basement, then the floors and finally the roof. You cannot cover the roof without first building the house yourself.

Single Family Home - Project Plan as Waterfall Model

Project Phases in The Waterfall Model

In the waterfall model, the individual phases of a development process follow each other in a cascade. Each phase concludes with an intermediate result (milestone) - for example with a catalogue of requirements in the form of a specification sheet, with the specification of a software architecture or with an application in alpha or beta stage.

  1. Waterfall project management begins with the requirement phase or the definition of the system's anticipated functions and features.
  2. In the design phase, the developers create the software architecture.
  3. This is followed by the Implementation phase where the software is developed and integrated.
  4. During the review phase, the team tests the software, errors are found and eliminated.
  5. Next comes the commissioning when the product is implemented.
  6. The last phase is the maintenance, which includes product support and ensures that the customer has no problems with the product.

As modern technology today enables us to use more flexible methods, other, more agile methods are now widely used for the development of software and other products, but the waterfall method still exerts a great influence.

Advantages and Disadvantages of The Waterfall Model


  • Simple structure through clearly defined project phases.
  • Good documentation of the development process through clearly defined milestones.
  • Costs and workload can be estimated at the beginning of the project.
  • Projects that are structured according to the waterfall model can be well mapped on the time axis.


  • Complex or multi-layered projects can rarely be divided into clearly defined project phases.
  • Little leeway for adjustments to the project schedule due to changing requirements.
  • The end user is only integrated into the production process after programming.
  • Errors are sometimes only detected at the end of the development process.

For Which Projects is The Waterfall Model Suitable?

Waterfall models are mainly used for projects where requirements and processes can be precisely described in the planning phase and where it can be assumed that the assumptions will change only slightly during the course of the project. Strictly linear process models are therefore suitable primarily for small, simple and clearly structured software projects.

If you suspect that requirements might change during production or that a revision is necessary, an agile approach is more suitable for your project. Realistically, most software developments fall into this category. Late stage testing makes any revision a serious undertaking. In fact, staunch supporters of the waterfall system would argue that a need for revision means that the requirements for the product were not clear and the project must therefore return to the first phase.

Agile Waterfall Is No Swearword - Thanks to Merlin Project

Project management couldn't be simpler than in the Kanban view : Collect your tasks in the left column as cards. As the project progresses, move them to the right until they finally end up in the Completed column. If you switch between the kanban board and the work breakdown view Merlin Project, you experience the magic effect: The Gantt bars fill automatically. This is hybrid project management.

Posted by Stefanie Blome on January 4th, 2018 under Project Management
Tags: waterfall-model

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