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Understanding the Waterfall Methodology in project management

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Updated on:
July 7, 2024
July 7, 2024
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The Waterfall methodology in the management of a project is a linear project management approach where tasks follow a sequential project plan. What’s more, this method, known as the waterfall model, consists of several phases of management—including, but not limited to, conceptualizing, initiating, designing, executing, and testing—that must each be completed before moving on to the next. The stunning thing about this is it's often applied in waterfall SDLC (Software Development Lifecycle). 

It’s fascinating how the approach thrives when used for short-term projects where requirements are well understood! There is no denying that while it may seem rigid as changes can't be easily implemented mid-stream, its clear structure makes it a staple in many project management methodology portfolios. 

Introduction to Waterfall Methodology

Mostly this project management method involves a sequential project plan also known as waterfall SDLC, where progress flows steadily downwards through various phases of management.

The noticeable thing about this method is that the key features of the Waterfall include its structured sequential process, as well as distinct waterfall methodology stages. 

Definition of Waterfall Methodology

Notably, “The Waterfall Methodology is a linear project management approach which has been often used in software development.” It is also known as the waterfall model or the sequential project plan. As evident, this method of project management involves a sequence of phases of management.

Consequently the waterfall SDLC, an abbreviation for Software Development Lifecycle, comprises several distinct waterfall methodology stages. It's purported that each project phase must be completed before moving on to the next, in a cascading manner, much like a waterfall; hence the name.

Origins and history of Waterfall Methodology

It’s significant to highlight that this Methodology has originated from the manufacturing and construction industries. Another notable thing is the concept of the waterfall model was first introduced in a paper published by Winston W. Royce in 1970 as a project management method for software development.

Furthermore, what's cool is that the Waterfall methodology is the earliest Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) model. One interesting thing is it comprises various waterfall SDLC phases of management, and, generally, each phase is a sequential process that moves steadily downwards.

Simplifying your workflow with Bonsai project management

It’s widely recognised that Bonsai stands out as the premier tool for simplifying project management that offers a seamless blend of functionality and user-friendliness. Remarkably, it caters to the dynamic needs of modern businesses. 

With Bonsai, project management becomes an effortless endeavor, significantly allowing teams to focus on delivering top-notch work.

Here's how Bonsai helps you achieve this:

Streamlined task management

One of the important things to note is Bonsai's task management system is ingeniously designed to facilitate the creation, organization, and prioritization of tasks. The noticeable thing is it provides a clear view of project progression through its Kanban board view and integrated timers. As a result, this makes sure that every task is tracked.

  • Bonsai has an in-app timer to log hours and track progress.
  • Teams can estimate task time, set clear expectations, and schedule projects.
  • It lets you set project budgets and track them for financial control.
  • Bonsai turns billable hours into invoices quickly, improving cash flow.
  • You can share accurate timesheets with clients, building trust.
Link to Task Management

Integrated project collaboration

It’s a matter of fact that Collaboration is at the heart of Bonsai's design. The platform encourages teamwork by allowing collaborators to join projects, assign tasks, and exchange comments, and that too all within a centralized project hub! It’s astonishing how this fosters a cohesive work environment where everyone stays aligned and informed!

  • Complete CRM that automates client, project & finance management
  • Complete document management & e-signing
  • Team collaboration
  • Meeting scheduling & calendar management
  • Invoicing & payments, accounting, tax & banking

Holistic business solution

What’s remarkable is Bonsai offers a holistic solution that streamlines the entire business process. From initial proposals to final invoicing– agencies and consultancies can handle projects, tracking of time, and handle billing—all within Bonsai's integrated environment.

Enhanced efficiency and productivity

It’s beneficial to understand that by consolidating projects, clients, and teams into one platform, Bonsai significantly enhances efficiency and productivity. What’s worth noticing is it simplifies business operations, and, amazingly, this allows users to manage resources, track budgets, etc.

Link to Project Management

In conclusion, Bonsai is the best tool for simplifying project management, providing a powerful suite of features that enable businesses to streamline their operations. To be precise, whether it's managing tasks, collaborating with team members, or overseeing financials– Bonsai delivers a comprehensive and efficient project management experience.

Understanding the phases of Waterfall Methodology

One interesting thing is this method breaks down project activities into linear sequential phases, and, usually, where each phase depends on the deliverable of the previous one.

The noticeable thing about this sequence is it is often referred to as the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC), and involves phases likewise: 

  1. Initiation
  2. Analysis
  3. Design
  4. Construction
  5. Testing
  6. Implementation
  7. Maintenance

Requirement Gathering and Analysis

A notable thing to observe in the waterfall model is requirement gathering and analysis. Importantly, this step is crucial in the linear project management approach, wherein all the project requirements are defined in detail. What’s important to highlight is in this sequential project plan, the deliverables are clearly described at the beginning of the project phase, reducing ambiguity.

System Design

It's no secret that in the waterfall SDLC the software development lifecycle is split into distinct phases of management that form a sequential project plan. The amazing thing about this characteristic of the waterfall model is it propels each project phase to flow steadily and predictably downwards, and, definitely much like a waterfall.

Frequently, from analysis and design to implementation and testing, all waterfall methodology stages are completed one after another. It’s interesting to point out that this ensures a systematic, linear approach to software development. Among the beneficial things of doing this is it makes project management straightforward yet robust.


You should know that this stages-based process is often used in software development, and it's detailed in the waterfall methodology stages. The cool thing about this is it introduces a well-structured sequence to the SDLC.

It's imperative to note that every phase of the project follows a sequential process and is completed one at a time until the project is finished. Being a traditional project management method, the outstanding thing about this waterfall model is it has been instrumental in reducing chaos by clearly defining phases of management.

System Testing

It should be noted that System Testing– an integral phase in the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC), falls under the sequential project plan. Remember, this linear project management approach follows distinct phases of management, ensuring the successful completion of the project phase.

One thing is for sure: Implemented in the waterfall methodology stages, this project management method ensures that the software functionality aligns with the specified requirements. 


It goes without saying that the waterfall SDLC deployment refers to the final stage of the linear project management approach characterized by the delivery of the product to the client. This is a crucial part of the waterfall methodology stages, and, what’s crucial to mention is it trails the maintenance phase as per the sequential project plan. It’s staggering how the software development is considered fully completed at the deployment stage!

Among the notable things about the phases of management in the waterfall model is it ensures a strict linear approach. And, it’s obvious that this means progression through the project phase only occurs when the previous step results are reviewed and approved.  


What’s worth mentioning is that the maintenance phase of the waterfall model is the final sequential process in this linear project management approach. It's beyond question that this phase is an essential step in the SDLC where the project outcomes are monitored along with any necessary adjustments.

This project phase often involves tasks such as:

  1. Fixing of bugs or issues,
  2. Implementing necessary updates, and
  3. Ensuring the software continues to meet its requirements
  4. Stay up-to-date with evolving technologies

Impressively the waterfall SDLC sees the maintenance phase as one that lasts beyond project completion, and the fantastic thing is it carries on for as long as the software is in use.

Advantages of using Waterfall Methodology

What’s important to highlight is the Waterfall model makes the process as easy as pie! It’s beyond dispute that this structured project management method allows each project phase to be completed before the next one begins, and, amazingly, this reduces uncertainty.

Followed as a sequential process, the amazing thing is the waterfall model improves the quality of software by emphasizing documentation and design in the early phases of software development. Another fascinating thing is the waterfall SDLC ensures clear and precise objectives are defined in advance. As a consequence, it reduces the risk of scope creep and overruns. 

The best thing about this project management methodology is it ensures that there are no surprises in cost or schedule.

Clarity and simplicity

It's noteworthy to mention that it follows a sequential project plan, moving through distinct phases. Plus, it completes each one before moving on to the next.

Predictably, in the realm of software development, the waterfall model has been employed as the standard project management methodology. It forms the basis for the Software Development Lifecycle, and it's important to emphasize that it flows steadily downward in phases of management.

Defined stages and deadlines

One usual thing is a typical waterfall model in the Software Development Lifecycle involves a set of straightforward phases. Don’t forget that these steps are characteristic phases of management, and, surprisingly, they adhere to a stringent sequential process integral to a well-structured project management method.

An important aspect of this project management methodology involves setting clear deadlines at each project phase. The fantastic thing about this linear approach is it ensures that there is no overlap of tasks and encourages efficient software development within the stipulated timeline.

Documentation and design stability

The great news is this project management method is known for its distinct project phases which ensure documentation and design stability throughout the ‘SDLC.’

Fundamentally, the waterfall SDLC is a sequential process that follows waterfall methodology stages strictly. What's worth noticing is this linear project management approach ensures that design errors are recognized and corrected, and that too during the early phases of management.

It will not be an overstatement to say, “This kind of project management methodology is touted for its assurance of documentation rigor and design stability, thus making it a favored approach in the realm of the development of software.”

Disadvantages and limitations of Waterfall Methodology

It’s crucial to consider that the waterfall methodology stages follow a linear project management approach, and the sad thing about this is it can be a disadvantage when flexibility is needed. Unlike agile methods, once a project phase is completed in the waterfall model, it is difficult to go back and make changes. Certainly this rigid sequential project plan may not be suitable for projects that are complex and variable.

What’s sorrowful is the waterfall SDLC is also criticized for its lack of customer participation during the software development process. Plus customers are only involved at the beginning and end. As a negative output of that, it minimizes their ability to provide feedback during a necessary project phase. Unfortunately, this project management methodology can lead to delays and dissatisfaction.

Another worrying thing is the linear approach makes it hard to predict issues or challenges that might arise in the earlier stages.

Lack of flexibility

It comes as no surprise that this project management method follows a strict sequential project plan, meaning the waterfall methodology stages cannot be altered or revisited once they are completed.

The worrying thing about this is the waterfall SDLC follows a rigid project phase structure. One thing is for certain: Unlike other project management methodologies, any deviation or change in the sequential process cannot be accommodated easily. Obviously, this is seen as a major disadvantage, especially, in projects where flexibility and adaptation are key.

Difficulty in accommodating changes

It’s vital to note that the waterfall model has significant difficulty in the accommodation of changes. This is because the sequential project plan within the waterfall methodology stages doesn't allow for easy alterations once a project phase is completed. 

Consequently, changes may disrupt the SDLC, and, sadly, it will make this project management method less flexible compared to other models. 

Risk and uncertainty

What’s obvious is as a linear approach to software development, each project phase of this model must be completed before the next begins. The disappointing thing about this is it increases the potential for project timeline and scope changes, thus carrying the risk of delaying the sequential process essential to project management. There is no doubt that this is primarily due to the rigid structure of the waterfall model within the software development lifecycle.

Comparing Waterfall Methodology with other project management methodologies

It’s a well-established fact that the Waterfall model moves through defined stages. In contrast to many project management methodologies, this model features a sequential project plan that progresses only after the preceding phase is complete. What’s evident is this forms the waterfall model, a distinct contrast to the cyclical, iterative processes seen in other project management techniques. 

However, the waterfall SDLC does not incorporate feedback until after the product is complete and changes are more costly to implement.

One obvious thing is SDLC models, such as Agile or Scrum, function in iterative cycles, allowing for feedback and modifications throughout the project phase. 

Waterfall vs. Agile

Interestingly the stages of the waterfall model are rigid and don’t allow for much flexibility. 

In contrast, Agile is a project management method that divides a project into several small increments. One of the important things to note is it focuses on enhancing flexibility and responds to challenges quickly. Remember, unlike the sequential process witnessed in the waterfall, Agile involves continuous collaboration and improvement. As evident, Agile proves more adaptable in software development scenarios.

Waterfall vs. Scrum

It deserves to be highlighted that this waterfall SDLC involves a sequential project plan. Particularly phases must be completed in a specific order.

You should know that Scrum, on the other hand, is a project management method that shuns the sequential process. Instead, it forms part of Agile project management methodologies, which adopt an iterative approach. Rather than working through linear stages of development, teams work on different parts concurrently, and, generally, it increases flexibility and response to change.

Waterfall vs. Lean

What’s worth mentioning is the key features of the Waterfall mode include:

  1. Stages of waterfall methodology stages
  2. The linear project management approach

The outstanding thing about this method is it allows for careful planning, but changes are difficult to implement once a project phase begins.

On the contrary, the Lean method minimizes waste and focuses on delivering value to the customer. It’s reasonable to conclude that despite its flexibility, the lack of a precise plan as in the Waterfall model can lead to scope creep. In the end, it’s obvious that the choice between these two project management methodologies depends on the specific needs of the software development project.

Real-world applications of Waterfall Methodology

It’s fascinating how organizations– which are implementing long-term projects with clear objectives often employ this linear project management approach! 

For instance, construction and manufacturing industries predominantly utilize this sequential project plan because of their straightforward, non-iterative processes.

Obviously, this project management method is particularly beneficial when requirements and scope are fixed, frequently seen in government and aerospace projects under stringent regulatory controls. 

Waterfall Methodology in construction projects

It’s interesting to point out that The Waterfall Methodology in construction project management is a linear project management approach and it divides project activities into sequential project plans. 

Commonly it is a structured method that incorporates various waterfall methodology stages. What's fantastic is this project management methodology is beneficial for software development projects utilizing the Waterfall SDLC due to its emphasis on detailed documentation as well as adherence to the phase of the project. 

Waterfall Methodology in software development: Microsoft's use case

It’s a super cool thing that ‘Microsoft’ has extensively used the waterfall methodology in software development. Among the notable things about Microsoft is it implements the waterfall model by following the typical waterfall methodology stages: defining requirements, system design, etc. This ensures a robust and methodical project phase execution.

It’s purported that adopting this project management method has been key for Microsoft to systematically develop and improve its products. 

Conclusion: Is Waterfall Methodology right for your agency?

Determining if the waterfall methodology is right for your agency depends largely on the nature of your projects. Fortunately, if your agency primarily manages linear and sequential projects that follow the waterfall SDLC, it may be beneficial. 

What’s fantastic is the waterfall model, with its defined phases of management and sequential process, can assist with predictability and precision. However, the sad thing about this model is it has been less flexible than other project management methodologies and may not support rapidly changing project phases. One thing is proven: Adopting a waterfall methodology or a more dynamic project management method should be a carefully considered decision.

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