Project Management Guide
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What Is Waterfall Project Management?

Waterfall project management is the most straightforward way to manage a project.

Waterfall project management maps out a project into distinct, sequential phases, with each new phase beginning only when the previous one has been completed. The Waterfall system is the most traditional method for managing a project, with team members working linearly towards a set end goal. Each participant has a clearly defined role, and none of the phases or goals are expected to change.

Waterfall project management works best for projects with long, detailed plans that require a single timeline. Changes are often discouraged (and costly). In contrast, Agile project management involves shorter project cycles, constant testing and adaptation, and overlapping work by multiple teams or contributors.

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The typical stages of Waterfall project management:

  • Requirements: The manager analyzes and gathers all the requirements and documentation for the project.
  • System design: The manager designs the project’s workflow model.
  • Implementation: The system is put into practice, and your team begins the work.
  • Testing: Each element is tested to ensure it works as expected and fulfills the requirements.
  • Deployment (service) or delivery (product): The service or product is officially launched.
  • Maintenance: In this final, ongoing stage, the team performs upkeep and maintenance on the resulting product or service.

The pros and cons of Waterfall project management

One downside to Waterfall project management is that since each step is preplanned in a linear sequence, the strategy is relatively inflexible. Any change in stakeholder priorities or needs will disrupt the order and require a revision, or possibly an entirely new blueprint. Waterfall project management is less effective for knowledge-based projects, such as computer programming. However, what it lacks in flexibility it makes up for in replication possibilities; waterfall workflows can be easily copied for future, similar tasks.

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