Waterfall Project Management: A Simple Overview

6 Oct, 2022 | Read in 5 minutes

This article talks about the overview of Waterfall Project Management from the phases, the pros and cons, to the comparison with Agile.


Waterfall project management is one of the oldest and most widely used methodologies. Winston W. Royce formally introduced this method in 1970, however, at first its name was not Waterfall. Until 1976, T.E. Bell and T.A. Thayer used the word “Waterfall” in their paper.

The linear approach of the Waterfall makes it easy to track and manage the progress of projects. Especially for startups that focus on software development, this method is still the first option for most.

In this article, we will discuss the five phases of the Waterfall method, their benefits, and when is the best time to use them. But first, let's take a step back and get to know this method.


The Waterfall methodology is a sequential development process that flows like a waterfall through all stages (analysis, design, development, testing, and maintenance). The process will not move to the next step until the previous is complete.

Like the proverb says, measure twice, cut once, the success of the Waterfall method depends on the quality of the first phase. Including UI & UX, the user flow and features variations must be accurate. When the first stage is precise, it will result in the exact release date.

The most noticeable weakness is that it is difficult to switch strategies when the parameters change along the way. The only way to fix it is to start over at stage one.

Proper planning is a must, requirements should be clear up front, and everyone involved must know their role well.

Five Phases of Waterfall Project Management

Waterfall project management has five distinct phases to reach the end. You should carefully consider executing each stage in detail before moving on to the next.

1. Planning

The planning phase, often known as the beginning, involves identifying all project needs. This phase determines whether the rest of the project will go well or fail. At this stage, discuss with your team, which includes:

  • Customer requirements. PM (Project Manager) conducts interviews and questionnaires to understand consumer essentials.
  • Define project objectives. The outcomes of the customer essentials define the project's short-term and long-term goals.
  • Identify stakeholder expectations. PM aligns stakeholder expectations with possible project outcomes.
  • Research everything. Conduct market research to identify additional goals.
  • Identify the roles of team members. All team members need to be aware of their roles and responsibilities.
  • Schedule meetings with the entire team and stakeholders. This meeting aims to socialise the project to be carried out.

2. Designing

This phase comprises two parts which are logical and physical design. During the logical stage, the team brainstorms creative ideas, maybe it is just a concept and not specific. Then in the physical stage, the team will convert the concept into detailed steps. This phase includes creating a task list and setting workflow and schedule.

3. Implementation

In this phase, teams execute what they have planned and documented. Implementation will take the majority of your time. Assuming your company produces software, this phase involves coding and designing UI and UX.

As in the previous phase, don't forget to document the activity. Save well. Activities in this phase are:

  • Tracking project progress
  • Identifying obstacles
  • Presenting the project

4. Testing

Testing, often known as verification, is the fourth stage of the Waterfall method. QA will test the product and note any issues. Users can also participate in testing the product to find errors from their point of view. The testing stage includes Project Review and Documents Management.

5. Maintenance

This phase focuses on tying up loose strings and minor modifications such as speed improvements or bug fixes. The PM can prepare the team for discussions related to the previous project. Document everything you discuss and keep them neat. You may need them to start your next project.

Pros and Cons

We all understand that each methodology has pros and cons. The Waterfall method also has both. Here are the strengths and weaknesses of this framework:


  • It has a clear and proven track record. Requirements need to be clearly defined and precise so the team understands the responsibilities.
  • This method can estimate the total cost and time of the project accurately.
  • Structured approach, making it easier to track according to clear milestones.
  • There are no sudden incremental requirements on ongoing projects.
  • The structure is simple, so it is easy to implement.


  • Less flexibility because when there is a revision in one phase, the team has to start improving from the first.
  • Projects take longer because each process must be detailed and documented.
  • Deadline creep-delays in one phase affect all phases.
  • There is no room for innovation, so products often do not satisfy expectations.

When to Use?

Not all projects are suitable for using this method for execution. One of the criteria that do not match Waterfall is a project with unclear essentials.

The Waterfall is suitable for projects with these conditions:

  • The scope, budget, and requirements are clear, so there is no ambiguity.
  • Projects that have been done before so you can accurately estimate the work.
  • A low-risk project in which there is already a benchmark of the product, so the team only builds a clone.
  • No ongoing product updates or support which is not applicable to website applications.

You shouldn't use this method when:

  • Not having a clear view of what the final product will look like.
  • Clients do not understand what they need and want.
  • Products need flexibility.
  • Product development requires massive user feedback.

Agile vs. Waterfall

Almost everyone always mentioned that Waterfall is the antithesis of Agile, which makes sense. This framework will have difficulty dealing with change, while Agile welcomes changes well.

Agile phases

Actually, no matter what framework you use, sudden changes indicate unpreparedness in the planning cycle. Agile is better at minimising the effects of changes, but they still happen. So which is the best of the two?

Let's dive deeper into both methods through the table below:

You can choose the methodology that suits your needs through the comparison above. However, a little suggestion, if your project is software, Agile might be a better fit. On the other hand, if the project is in manufacturing, Waterfall is better.

Key Takeaways

Like any other methodology, Waterfall has its principles and techniques. We cannot judge that this method is worse than the others. Just adjust it to your needs. Consider whether the work meets the criteria described above. If appropriate, choose Waterfall, but Agile is a better option if you need flexibility.

Decided to use the Waterfall methodology? Now that you see how necessary documentation is in this method, you know the first step is to find a platform to track all tasks and documentation. VirtualSpace provides the platform to help you do documentation and manage all your projects until you reach the finish line on time and within budget.

Ready to grow your business with VirtualSpace?

One platform to manage and organise your teams, tasks, projects, and more.


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