Rahul is the project manager at an event management organization where he’s struggling to keep up with the volume of work. As the projects pile up, Rahul is unable to coordinate each and every project with due diligence and ends up making a couple of costly mistakes.

His mistakes arise from the fact that he relies on basic software to manage his projects. These programs aren’t equipped to handle complex and lengthy projects that often take months to complete. Disappointed and dismayed, Rahul hires three more people and divides the coordination job among them. But even the fresh batch of employees finds it hard to keep up with the ever-increasing work requirements.

Dev, a friend of Rahul’s working at a senior level in a banking organization, asks Rahul to look up the waterfall model. Rahul is reluctant at first but decides to give it a try. Six months later, the results are transformative.

Using the waterfall model, Rahul just needs two or three days to accomplish coordination tasks that would’ve taken him weeks. Projects are much easier to streamline and everyone is made aware of their roles at different phases of a project. The waterfall model, just like it has done with countless professionals over the years, makes Rahul’s life much easier.

  1. What Is The Waterfall Model?

  2. Uses Of The Waterfall Model

  3. Waterfall Model: Advantages And Disadvantages

  4. Advantages Of The Waterfall Model

  5. Disadvantages Of The Waterfall Model

  6. Find A Way Out

What Is The Waterfall Model?

The waterfall model is one of the most important models used in project management in order to deliver projects on time and in a seamless manner. The model is referred to as a “waterfall” because it moves from one phase to another in a downward manner, resembling the movement of a waterfall.

To function smoothly, the waterfall model uses the output from one phase as the input for the next phase. Over the years, the model has seen a number of variations, some of which include returning to the previous cycle after errors have been discovered downstream or moving all the way to the first phase if the subsequent phases don’t work properly.

Thomas Bell and Thomas Thayer were the first to use the term “waterfall” to describe their model in a 1976 paper. However, the first formal and detailed diagram of the model came out in 1970 in an article by Winston Royce. Royce’s article outlined the waterfall model: advantages and disadvantages, reflecting on how testing was only possible at the end of the process.

In 1985, the United States’ Department of Defense standardized the waterfall method as part of its association with software development contractors.

The waterfall model that’s largely applied today consists of the following phases:

  • Recruitment Gathering

  • Analysis

  • System Design

  • Implementation

  • Integration And Testing

  • Deployment Of System

  • Maintenance Or Fixing Issues

Uses Of The Waterfall Model

The following are the ways in which the waterfall model can be put to use:

  • For projects that are linear and streamlined wherein customer and stakeholder requirements are recorded at the beginning and mostly remain the same

  • For projects where a large volume of data is required before proceeding with the management of the projects

  • For engineering design, software development and other sectors that require project management on a large scale

  • For manufacturing and construction industries in order to reduce expenses for any changes in design

Waterfall Model: Advantages And Disadvantages

There are numerous advantages of the waterfall model that have made it an extremely popular model in project management. These advantages of the waterfall model not only optimize a project ensuring a quality product and timely delivery, but they also help to create a systematic pattern of work that guards against complacency.

Advantages Of The Waterfall Model

  1. Presence Of A Clear Structure

Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of the waterfall model is its clear and precise structure, which lays down the role that you and your associates need to perform at every phase of the project. Such clarity is crucial when planning and executing complex projects as without it, the project can easily get muddled. The waterfall model is designed in such a way that at every phase you need to be crystal clear about the responsibilities of different members in order to proceed with the project.

  1. Smooth Transfer Of Information

Since the waterfall model cannot progress to its next phase without the previous phase being completed, information is always recorded properly from one phase to another. This ensures that the transfer of information between phases is smooth and orderly, making it one of the biggest advantages of the waterfall model.

  1. Easy To Manage

Among the major advantages of the waterfall model is the ease with which it can be managed. Once the initial structure for a project is in place, the waterfall model is lucid and simple and can easily be understood by everyone involved. The division of the model into several phases means that each part is easy to grasp, process and manage.

  1. Early Determination Of Goals

If you’re a project manager who likes to set the goals of a project at the outset and retain those goals till completion, the waterfall model is made for you. The first phase of the waterfall model requires all information that allows this kind of goal-setting for a project to be recorded. This prevents confusion as well as the development of parallel goals that can derail complex yet promising projects.

  1. Extremely Stable

The rigidity of its setup has widely been regarded as one of the biggest advantages of the waterfall model. By its design and structure, the waterfall model is extremely tight and stable. There’s little to no room to maneuver the model once the initial plan has been created and installed. This means that projects which have conflicts of opinion can always fall back on the stability of the waterfall model to guide you through potentially tricky phases of project management.

  1. Follows A Strict Timeline

The waterfall model is made keeping in mind the importance of a timeline. As it’s a linear model, there’s very little scope to shift or play around with the timeline of a project. This is extremely useful for you and your organization as a strict timeline demands discipline, focus and regular coordination to ensure that the project isn’t delayed in any way. If followed in spirit, the waterfall model will help you deliver your project within the estimated deadline.

Often enough, the strengths of a model can contribute toward its weaknesses too. Even though the waterfall model has been around for decades and has often been tweaked and updated, it continues to have a few loopholes. The disadvantages of the waterfall model are explained as follows:

Disadvantages Of The Waterfall Model

  1. Costly And Inflexible

One of the main disadvantages of the waterfall model is that once it’s structured with the relevant information, it’s practically impossible to make changes. Returning to a previous phase to make alterations is extremely difficult. If at all changes can be made, the process can prove quite expensive, thus pushing up the project cost.

  1. Doesn’t Prioritize The Client Or End-User

The waterfall model is designed primarily for internal teams to communicate within an organization. However, a number of projects also require client or user inputs as the project progresses. This is where you can see one of the major disadvantages of the waterfall model, as it’s not built to factor in feedback from users and clients during any of its several phases.

  1. Delayed Testing

In most waterfall models, testing is only possible as part of the last three phases. This means that there can be a fair amount of uncertainty well beyond the midway point of a project. The only way to remove that uncertainty is waiting till the phase where testing becomes viable, something many organizations don’t prefer doing.

  1. No Scope For Revision Or Reflection

The rigid nature of the waterfall model means that there’s little or no scope for revision or reflection when working with such a model. Today, this is one of the biggest disadvantages of the waterfall model, as plans frequently change on the go and departments are built to adapt, not to retain the same structure of functioning that the waterfall model recommends.

Find A Way Out

The waterfall model is a great example of how sophisticated models can provide solutions for a variety of circumstances and crises in project management. At Harappa, the Executing Solutions course is designed to understand and master such models so that you have no shortage of options when faced with a critical situation to manage. The course helps you make the most of the advantages of such management models while making you mindful of their disadvantages.

With the help of live learning support, self-paced learning and a collection of frameworks and models like the Branding, Leadership, And Selling Techniques (BLAST) Approach, the Primary, Alternate, Contingency and Emergency (PACE) Toolkit, and the Bifocal Approach. Executing Solutions has you covered when it comes to handling projects with experience and expertise. Take the next step in your career as a project manager by enrolling for this course and follow in the footsteps of employees from organizations like NASSCOM, Infosys and Uber.


Explore Harappa Diaries to learn more about topics such as How Does The Waterfall Model Help In Project Management, What Is Project Management, Introduction To Operations Management and How To Do A PERT Analysis and monitor your projects efficiently.

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