Waterfall Methodology (2023)

The Waterfall Model & ProjectManager

ProjectManager is an award-winning project management software that organizes teams and projects. With features such as online Gantt charts, task lists, reporting tools and more, it’s an ideal tool to control your waterfall project management.

Sign up for a free 30-day trial and follow along to make a waterfall project in just a few easy steps. You’ll have that Gantt chart built in no time!

1. Upload Requirements & Documents

Waterfall project management guarantees one thing: a lot of paperwork. All the documentation and requirements needed to address for the project can quickly become overwhelming.

You can attach all documentation and relevant files to our software, or directly on a task. Now, all of your files are collected in one place and are easy to find. Don’t worry about running out of space—we have unlimited file storage.

2. Use a Work Breakdown Structure to Collect Tasks

Getting to your final deliverable will require many tasks. Planning the waterfall project means knowing every one of those tasks, no matter how small, and how they lead to your final deliverable. A work breakdown structure is a tool to help you figure out all those steps.

To start, use a work breakdown structure (WBS) to collect every task that is necessary to create your final deliverable. You can download a free WBS template here. Then, upload the task list to our software.

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3. Open in Gantt Project View

Gantt charts are essential project management tools used for planning and scheduling. They collect your tasks in one place on a timeline. From there, you can link dependencies, set milestones, manage resources and more.

In the software, open the Gantt chart view and add deadlines, descriptions, priorities and tags to each task.

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4. Create Phases & Milestones

Milestones are what separates major phases in a waterfall method project. Waterfall methodology is all about structure and moving from one phase to the next, so breaking your project into milestones is key to the waterfall method.

In the Gantt view, create phases and milestones to break up the project. Using the milestone feature, determine when one task ends and a new one begins. Milestones are symbolized by a diamond on the Gantt.

5. Set Dependencies in a Gantt Chart

Dependent tasks are those that cannot start or finish until another starts or finishes. They create complexities in managing any waterfall project.

Link dependent tasks in the Gantt chart. Our software allows you to link all four types of dependencies: start-to-start, start-to-finish, finish-to-finish and finish-to-start. This keeps your waterfall project plan moving forward in a sequential order and prevents bottlenecks.

6. Assign From Gantt Charts

Although you’ve planned and scheduled a project, it’s still just an abstraction until you get your team assigned to execute those tasks. Assigning is a major step in managing your waterfall project and needs to happen efficiently.

Assign team members to tasks right from the Gantt chart. You can also attach any related images or files directly to the task. Collaboration is supported by comments at the task level. Anyone assigned or tagged will get an email alert to notify them of a comment or update.

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7. Manage Resources & Workload

Resources are anything you need to complete the project. This means not only your team, but also the materials and tools that they need. The workload represents how many tasks your team is assigned, and balancing that work keeps them productive.

Keep track of project resources on the Workload view. See actual costs, and reallocate as needed to stay on budget. Know how many tasks your team is working on with easy-to-read color-coded charts, and balance their workload right on the page.

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8. Track Progress in Dashboard & Gantt

Progress must be monitored to know if you’re meeting the targets you set in your waterfall method plan. The Gantt shows percentage complete, but a dashboard calculates several metrics and shows them in graphs and charts.

Monitor your project in real time and track progress across several metrics with our project dashboard. We automatically calculate project health, costs, tasks and more and then display them in a high-level view of your project. Progress is also tracked by shading on the Gantt’s duration bar.

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9. Create Reports

Reporting serves two purposes: it gives project managers greater detail into the inner-workings of their waterfall project to help them make better decisions, and acts as a communication tool to keep stakeholders informed.

Easily generate data-rich reports that show project variance, timesheets, status and more. Get reports on your planned vs. the actual progress. Filter to show just the information you want. Then, share with stakeholders during presentations and keep everyone in the loop.

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10. Duplicate Plan for New Projects

Having a means to quickly copy projects is helpful in waterfall methodology, as it jumpstarts the next project by recreating the major steps and allowing you to make tweaks as needed.

Create templates to quickly plan any recurring waterfall projects. If you know exactly what it takes to get the project done, then you can make it into a template. Plus, you can import proven project plans from MSP, and task lists from Excel and Word.

Waterfall vs. Agile

The waterfall methodology is one of two popular methods to tackle software engineering projects; the other method is known as Agile.

It can be easier to understand waterfall when you compare it to Agile. Waterfall and Agile are two very different project management methodologies, but both are equally valid, and can be more or less useful depending on the project.

Waterfall Project Management

If the waterfall model is to be executed properly, each of the phases we outlined earlier must be executed in a linear fashion. Meaning, each phase has to be completed before the next phase can begin, and phases are never repeated—unless there is a massive failure that comes to light in the verification or maintenance phase.

Furthermore, each phase is discrete, and pretty much exists in isolation from stakeholders outside of your team. This is especially true in the requirements phase. Once the customer’s requirements are collected, the customers cease to play any role in the actual waterfall software development life cycle.

Agile Project Management

The agile methodology differs greatly from the waterfall approach in two major ways; namely in regards to linear action and customer involvement. Agile is a nimble and iterative process, where the product is delivered in stages to the customer for them to review and provide feedback.

Instead of having everything planned out by milestones, like in waterfall, the Agile software development method operates in “sprints” where prioritized tasks are completed within a short window, typically around two weeks.

These prioritized tasks are fluid, and appear based on the success of previous sprints and customer feedback, rather than having all tasks prioritized at the onset in the requirements phase.

Understanding the Difference Between Waterfall & Agile

The important difference to remember is that a waterfall project is a fixed, linear plan. Everything is mapped out ahead of time, and customers interact only at the beginning and end of the project. The Agile method, on the other hand, is an iterative process, where new priorities and requirements are injected into the project after sprints and customer feedback sessions.

Pros & Cons of the Waterfall Project Management

There are several reasons why project managers choose to use the waterfall project management methodology. Here are some benefits:

  • Project requirements are agreed upon in the first phase, so planning and scheduling is simple and clear.
  • With a fully laid out project schedule, you can give accurate estimates for your project cost, resources and deadlines.
  • It’s easy to measure progress as you move through the waterfall model phases and hit milestones.
  • Customers aren’t perpetually adding new requirements to the project, which can delay production.

Of course, there are drawbacks to using the waterfall method as well. Here are some disadvantages to this approach:

  • It can be difficult for customers to articulate all of their needs at the beginning of the project.
  • If the customer is dissatisfied with the product in the verification phase, it can be very costly to go back and design the code again.
  • A linear project plan is rigid, and lacks flexibility for adapting to unexpected events.

Although it has its drawbacks, a waterfall project management plan is very effective in situations where you are encountering a familiar scenario with several knowns, or in software engineering projects where your customer knows exactly what they want at the onset.

Benefits of Project Management Software for Waterfall Projects

Using a project management software is a great way to get the most out of your waterfall project. You can map out the steps and link dependencies to see exactly what needs to go where.

As illustrated above, ProjectManager is made with waterfall methodology in mind, with a Gantt chart that can structure the project step-by-step. However, we have a full suite of features, including kanban boards that are great for Agile teams that need to manage their sprints.

With multiple project views, both agile and waterfall teams and more traditional ones can work from the same data, delivered in real time, only filtered through the project view most aligned to their work style. We take the waterfall methodology and bring it into the modern world.

Now that you know how to plan a waterfall project, give yourself the best tools for the job. Take a free 30-day trial and see how ProjectManager can help you plan with precision, track with accuracy and deliver your projects on time and under budget.

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