Waterfall Project Management Methodology

Author: Karolina Matyska

The Waterfall project management methodology is quite simple and effective for your project’s goal of success.

This model divides any project into a handful of phases that follow a linear fashion. By completing every phase in its order, you can move to the one after, and so on.

Free eBook: The Project Manager’s Handbook on Time Tracking

Get your step-by-step guide to master time tracking as a Project Manager

As soon as you arrive at the implementation phase, your goal is complete. This article gives you a complete guide about the concept, stages, advantages, and disadvantages of the Waterfall methodology. 

Read also: What is project management?

What is Waterfall project management methodology?

The Waterfall project management methodology is a linear technique that’s more commonly used for software development projects.

The name originates from the flow of the waterfall, which is the same as the stages of this model due to its downward motion.

Since its creation in 1970, it has been recognized as one of the world’s most used project management methods.

Applying the Waterfall methodology, you must complete every project phase for you to move to the next one. To invest in this model, you would have stages such as design, testing, maintenance, implementation, deployment, and requirements.

There are four essential principles to establish the Waterfall project management methodology:

  • Separation of every phase: When structuring every phase, you must define and separate one from the other, categorizing them as you’ve seen above.
  • Plan to the last detail: A full briefing with every detail is the key to bringing success to your project within the Waterfall methodology. 
  • Linear breakthrough: It’s mandatory to complete every phase before going to the next. You cannot go through to the next phase and come back to the previous one. You’ll significantly damage your project if you don’t respect the natural flow.
  • Keep everything documented: While working on every phase, ensure you leave every type of documentation to support the team in the future. It’s also an excellent system to demonstrate to everyone who’s not as involved but needs to be updated, such as the stakeholders.

Read also: What is project tracking?

What are the 6 stages of the Waterfall project management methodology?

The 6 stages of the Waterfall project management methodology are requirements, design, implementation, testing, delivery, and maintenance. Let’s have a look at each one.

waterfall methodology steps

1. Requirements

This is the phase where the project manager establishes the list of requirements and documentation needed to complete the project and the phase itself.

Documentation such as interviews, briefings, a selection of rules, or even bullet points are some of the things that will be in your favor if you have them. Once you have everything ready, you can pass to the next step.

A project management checklist is a document that can be really helpful in this stage.

2. Design

After completing the right set of requirements and following documentation, it’s time to design the workflow model for the rest of the project.

With the help of the documents established in the first stage, you can see what you need to do to design the full system. This is where the team begins to define the required programming, along with the hardware and software equipment that will help pave the way through.

Free eBook: The Project Manager’s Handbook on Time Tracking

Get your step-by-step guide to master time tracking as a Project Manager

3. Implementation

This is where the real work comes to take its place.

Your team starts to move and take care of the tasks at hand. From coding and programming with the documentation and design that was provided previously, they can create in this stage.

The goal is to achieve a significant and final product delivery.

4. Testing 

This stage ensures that the previous ones were right through the testing method.

After designing and implementing the requirements that were once established, now’s the time to see if everything is according to plan.

It’s normal to find some inconsistencies, but if they’re more severe than you expected, you may need to start this method immediately.

5. Delivery of the product

At this point, everything’s turning out great, and you can let your product out in the world. Since the product is finished, this stage is the opportunity to release your final and tested product.

Read also: What is project reporting?

waterfall method steps

6. Maintenance

After delivering the final product, there’s one last stage to follow, which recalls the maintenance of what you just delivered. Because there’s a potential for possible issues, the team works for the resolution of them to keep the product in the best quality possible.

As it was said in the testing phase, if some problems are not easy to fix, you may need to go back to square one.

Read our guide to find out what are tiger teams and how they can help you to fix problems in your project.

waterfall project phases

Advantages of the Waterfall project management method

Amongst all the different methods that help your project, this is one of the best due to its traditional elements and simple rules to follow.

Below, you’ll find a selection of advantages that could persuade you into its adaptation to your work technique:

  • Without the involvement of the stakeholders, you won’t have recurring requests; 
  • Any new developers that may enter during any stage of the method will quickly be up to speed due to the existence of a clear briefing;
  • The analysis of the project’s progress is even clearer;
  • It’s possible to almost factually estimate the budget and timing for every stage, as well as for the project as a whole;
  • Developers can detect some common mistakes during the stages and easily fix them before implementing them.

Free eBook: The Project Manager’s Handbook on Time Tracking

Get your step-by-step guide to master time tracking as a Project Manager

Why is time estimation important in project management?

Disadvantages of the Waterfall project management method

Although this project management technique stands as a straightforward tool, it shares some disadvantages that you should look out for:

  • Planning way ahead than you should before starting the journey can hurt your project:
  • Your project can take longer to complete due to the possible length of each stage of this method;
  • Stakeholders will share difficulty in elaborating a full briefing without having the opportunity to change some aspects throughout;
  • Clients are not as involved as they would have been in any other model;
  • If something delays any part of the project’s stages, the rest will also be delayed, affecting the final delivery.

Who can use the Waterfall project management methodology

This method is most used by engineers and project managers, who take advantage of this model to develop their projects.

It’s a perfect tool for a project with everything defined in detail. There must be a complete and clear briefing, so you can proceed with this specific methodology.

Related article: The best time tracking app for software development


Who created the Waterfall project management methodology? 

Winston W. Royce created the Waterfall project management method in 1970.

What projects use the Waterfall methodology? 

Most projects that use this methodology are in industries such as construction, IT, and software development.

Which companies use the Waterfall methodology? 

The most recognized company that uses the Waterfall methodology is Toyota.

What’s the difference between Waterfall vs. agile project management methodology?

First, there’s no need for a project manager, while in agile, it’s crucial. It’s also a flexible method that allows for changes during its journey. While in agile, you have a more rigid process that doesn’t allow any changes whatsoever.


As you’re able to read this article, you’ll see that this method is something you can try in your work method to increase the rate of success in your project.

As with every model, it also shares its advantages and disadvantages, and that’s why this guide is so important. You can define from your perspective if the Waterfall methodology is the right path for you and your team.

The trick to enjoying this method’s full potential is to commit to excelling throughout every stage. In that way, you’ll have a smooth and rich experience, along with a structured plan for your project.

You might be interested in: