What is the “Waterfall Model” of Project Management?

‘’It helps teams stay focused on the big picture and break down a project into a series of smaller tasks’’.

Every project has its unique set of challenges, but it doesn’t mean that all projects are created equal. Some projects are much easier to manage than others. If you’ve ever worked with a team on a project that fell short of expectations, you know how frustrating it can be. You might have spent days or even weeks trying to address the problems with little progress. Adopting a new approach and working smarter, not harder, is beneficial in such situations. Fortunately, there is a better way—and no better alternative than the waterfall model.

The waterfall model is one of the most commonly used project management techniques. This method is also known as the sequential approach or sequential process. The waterfall model is often used to plan, organize and execute software projects, including web apps, e-commerce sites, mobile apps and so on. In a nutshell, the waterfall model involves breaking down a project into smaller tasks that are then executed one after the other in sequence. While this approach has many benefits, it can also have some drawbacks if not used carefully. Let’s take a closer look at what this means for you as a project manager and how you can put it to good use in your workday.

What is the Waterfall Model?

The waterfall model is a project management technique that involves breaking down a project into smaller tasks that are then executed one after the other in sequence. Using this method, the project manager creates a list of functions and then sequentially assigns resources to each. To keep everyone on the project on track, they then manage the timeline and any risks that may arise.

Although the waterfall model is still used today, it has many drawbacks. For example, it can lead to costly delays because of its reliance on the traditional and rigid roles of business analyst, project manager and programmer. The model’s focus on the sequential nature of tasks can also lead teams to miss valuable opportunities to combine similar jobs or even to skip some steps altogether.

Why is the Waterfall Model Used in Project Management?

As mentioned above, the waterfall model is a sequential approach to planning, organizing and executing software projects. It is also used to plan and execute any business project, from software development to manufacturing. The waterfall model exists for good reasons. It helps teams stay focused on the big picture and break down a project into a series of smaller tasks. This method allows them to estimate the time required to complete specific actions and review progress throughout the project.

Moreover, it also helps project managers manage the risks and timeline of a project. They can track the progress of each task and estimate when each one will be completed. The waterfall model also has its advantages. It is an effective way to plan and execute projects, especially as it is quick and straightforward to learn. For example, it is easy to understand and use in daily work situations. It is also easy to break down a large project into several manageable tasks.

How to Use the Waterfall Model Effectively?

To get the most out of the waterfall model, you must know how to use it properly. Here are some tips for making the model work for you and your team.

  • Define the business case: This is the beginning of the project and the team determines the project purpose, the reason for undertaking the project, and the return on investment. This is also when the team determines what will be the success criteria for the project.
  • Establish the project scope: The project scope defines the features and functionality of the project. It will be the initial project deliverables including the features, functionality, and dates.
  • Establish the project requirements and dependencies: Requirements are specifications of what the project will deliver. They are the detailed specifications of what needs to be included in the project. After then work on dependencies.Dependencies are other projects and activities related to your own. You should establish the relationships for each project and learn about potential dependencies before you begin the project to avoid delays.
  • Pick the right approach for your project: The waterfall model is adequate for software projects. However, it should not be used to plan and execute tasks such as manufacturing or construction. For these types of projects, alternative project management methods, like the agile or hybrid models, are more effective.
  • Follow the Roles: The waterfall model relies on the traditional roles of business analyst, project manager and programmer. While it is still used today, the world has moved beyond this approach. In fact, it is now outdated. Teams should be breaking down projects into tasks executed by multiple roles. Consider using a hybrid approach for specific projects.
  • Use the Waterfall Model for Planning: The waterfall model is linear. It is best suited for planning because it focuses on bringing tasks from the beginning to the end of a project. It is important to remember that a model is a planning tool; it is not meant for executing tasks.
  • Break Down Your Tasks: When planning your project, break down the various tasks into their smallest possible pieces. This will help you better estimate the time it will take to complete each action.
  • Keep Risk Management in Mind: Just like the timeline of a project, the waterfall model includes risks. To help manage these risks, the project manager should clearly define the objectives of each task, assign resources and follow a schedule.
  • Evaluate Your Results: The best way to evaluate whether the waterfall model works for you is to track the results. This might sound backward, but keeping track of your goals and accomplishments throughout the project is essential. You might be surprised by how different your results look when you look at them this way.

Advantages of the Waterfall Model

The following are the advantages of using the Waterfall Project Management approach to your project:

  • Quickly Understands the Project: The waterfall model is easy to understand and is based on commonly accepted project management principles. It is also a straightforward way to break down a project into various components.
  • Effortlessly Defines the Project Objectives: The waterfall model allows you to define a project’s objectives clearly. You can then break down the project into smaller tasks and assign resources for each. This way, you have a better understanding of the project’s goals and will be able to hit deadlines.
  • Minimizes Risk: The waterfall model relies on the sequential nature of tasks. This means there is no guesswork involved. With this method, you can easily map out the timeline and risks associated with each.
  • Calculates the Duration of a Project: The waterfall model allows you to calculate the duration of a project efficiently. You can use predefined formulas to estimate the time it will take to complete each task.
  • Allows You to Break Down Your Workload: One of the most significant advantages of the waterfall model is how it enables you to break down your workload. You can work on several tasks simultaneously when you break down your work into smaller, more manageable tasks.
  • Minimal Role Confusion: The waterfall model is based on roles such as business analyst, project manager and programmer. This makes it easier to understand and less likely to lead to role confusion.

Disadvantages of the Waterfall Model

While the waterfall model is effective for certain projects, it is generally not recommended as a general project management method. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • It has a high start-up cost: During the resource planning and role assigning, you will understand how many resources and man labor you need. You might have to hire more people or buy extra resources. Thus, it can be super costly initially.
  • Project Compatibility: There is more than one way to manage a project, and the waterfall model is one of many ways. It is a model that works well in certain situations but is not the best choice for all types of projects. Therefore, analyze the requirements carefully first. Understanding the project management workflow that works best for your business is essential.
  • Too much planning and assessments: The waterfall model may require too much upfront planning and risk assessment for some projects. For example, if you are embarking on a construction project, you may need to know the physical work required. This involves some level of risk assessment and planning.

Also read, Agile project management


The waterfall model is a classic approach to project management that is still around and used today. The waterfall model is a sequential process model where all activities are clearly defined and managed sequentially. The model is often referred to as a “waterfall,” because all project activities flow in one direction, like water dropping over a series of stages.

The waterfall model is still a common tool used in project management today because it is effective at certain situations. However, due to its limitations and shortcomings, it is generally not recommended as a general project management method. So choice wisely after analyzing all the aspects of the project, its scope and requirements for effective depolyment and sucessfull implementation.

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