Waterfall Model: What Is It and When Should You Use It?
When managing a project, you want to find an efficient method to drive your team to success. With the right project outline model, you can schedule your project deliverables and develop a structure that your team can follow throughout the process.
You’ll need to establish a project model that makes sense. You will want to outline your scheduling and all the factors and members involved in one model that follows a clear path to your outcome. With all elements defined and tasks assigned to your team, they need the discipline of deadlines and timeframes within which they need to be productive and complete their work. You will want your team to be accountable so they can effectively contribute a fair, balanced amount of effort to your complete project.
So which project model offers the best structure to guide you and your project team to complete a high-grade product that will satisfy your clients?
The Waterfall Model
Project managers popularly use the waterfall model for a good reason. It’s a strong, reliable method that leads to efficient workflow and productivity among teams. That way, all deliverables are met with enough attention to detail that no major errors are made that impact your project’s overall quality. By following the waterfall model, you will lead your team by monitoring and easily following all moving parts of the project. You’ll find that your team can complete work on time, so you can submit the completed project to your clients when they expect it.
The waterfall model is a straightforward project management system that follows a linear stream. It entails breaking down one massive assignment that your clients have handed you in your briefing stage. By sectioning one large project into several scheduled phases with associated tasks, your project will be much more achievable and easier to complete on time. The waterfall model is organized and efficient, so all members of your team will thrive while following it.
When implementing the waterfall model, you will develop a schedule or roadmap that will stay in place throughout your project. Contrary to its name, this is not a fluid model that you will want to adapt or reshape while work is being done to meet the collective end goal. Instead, the waterfall model’s outline will be strict to avoid lags in production, adding to a very long delivery delay and an upset client.
The waterfall model is effective for projects that involve several steps to production. For projects where one task can’t be completed without one being done before it, this is the most efficient outline system to incorporate.
Implementing the Waterfall Model
To develop your waterfall model, you will need to have all the necessary information for your project. This includes:
- All employees committed to the project and their designated roles
- All materials (internal and external) required
- Phase scheduling
- Task deadlines
- Project scope
- Project budget
- Client involvement
You can format this information in one document or chart that will be easy for your team members to refer to as the project is on its way to completion. With the details and outline of their project available, they can understand what’s expected of them and the impact of their completed duties on the project’s completion and scheduling.
Waterfall Model Phases
As mentioned, the waterfall model entails breaking your project into several phases that must be completed consecutively. Imagine flowing water in a waterfall. Your project will begin at the top and descend the waterfall into the stream at the bottom. This happens in one, smooth flowing pattern, rather than a scattered, horizontal stream.
Each of your waterfall model phases will precede the next until you approach your final project deadline.
1. Requirement Collection and Documentation
This is when you will gather all the details you and your team will need to know for your project’s completion. During this phase, you will collaborate and brainstorm to find the best solution for your client’s needs.
2. Planning/System Design
With all requirements considered and a chosen project idea, you will establish the project’s overall workflow outline.
This is when your team will complete their assigned project roles and tasks.
Because your project will involve separate working and development, you will want to test all combined elements. This is when you will analyze potential problems when all pieces of the project are put together. You will not want to advance in your project until your project passes tests that prove it will meet your client’s needs.
Your product has been tested for flaws at this stage, and any that were noticed have been resolved. You can submit your project to your client or release it to your customer base.
During this time, your team is on standby for any potential issues that may arise while your clients or customers use your product. You may need to update or tweak it so it is user-friendly and performs without glitches.
Benefits of the Waterfall Model
The waterfall model is a reliable project management method that has been used across several industries. It’s effective for technical projects in engineering, construction, software development, and other fields.
Some of the advantages of this structured outline include:
- Simple outlining. The consecutive order and scheduling of this model are easy for your team members to follow. Your team can refer to your waterfall outline to see what phase you are in and who is completing what tasks at what times.
- Detailed planning. Because the scheduling is so rigid in this model, the planning must be detailed and thorough. If properly planned, your waterfall will run smoothly as all deadlines are met, and any possible obstacles have been addressed and proactively resolved.
- Team members can prepare ahead
- The client has a clear outline of timing and phase requirements
- Progress is easier to track
- Efficient design
When You Should Not Use the Waterfall Model
While the waterfall model is an efficient, smooth, streamlined approach to completing a project, it may not be the most effective tool for all types of projects. If you are managing a complex project with several task dependencies, or if your project is in the creative field, where your client’s reaction to the results is subjective, this strict project method may not be best for your team. Because it involves very little client interaction, you likely won’t find out how they feel about the product until it’s complete. This is useful in technical industries where the results are usually only labeled good or bad. But in industries where the outcome is created from imagination, it’s important to incorporate client feedback throughout the process.
If you are working on a project with several tasks that can be completed simultaneously, the waterfall model may not be the ideal choice. You may be able to meet deadlines faster by addressing multiple tasks at a time, rather than waiting for one team member to complete their duty before anyone else can begin their work.
Use Time Tracking to Monitor Your Team’s Productivity
If you choose the waterfall model for your upcoming project, your team’s productivity levels will be major determinants of completion timing and quality.
Trust time tracking software, like actiTIME, to monitor your team’s productivity as they complete their steps of the waterfall project.
actiTIME is the ideal platform for waterfall model project management — it will help you follow your scheduling and display your project roadmap, so everyone is on the same page.
Start your free actiTIME trial today for your efficient project management.