Waterfall project management uses a sequential process to simplify project management and how you might implement aspects of this methodology in your own work. Simply put, waterfall project management is a sequential, linear process of project management.
It consists of several discrete phases. No phase begins until the prior phase is complete, and each phase’s completion is terminal—waterfall management does not allow you to return to a previous phase. The only way to revisit a phase is to start over at phase one. If waterfall methodology sounds strict, that’s because the system’s history demanded it.
Waterfall project management has its roots in non-software industries like manufacturing and construction, where the system arose out of necessity. In these fields, project phases must happen sequentially. You can’t put up drywall if you haven’t framed a house. Likewise, it’s impossible to revisit a phase. There’s no good way to un-pour a concrete foundation.
A waterfall project management approach consists of clearly outlined objectives, budget, timeframes, tasks, and activities. The progress of the approach flows in one direction, like a waterfall, by consecutively moving from one phase to another once they have been completed. The phases are:
Since this project management approach is not flexible, it relies heavily on record keeping to improve the approach to the project as a whole for the future. Engineering, manufacturing, and construction projects commonly use the waterfall approach because it is ideal for mass production of the same product, such as airplanes, buildings, and bridges.
The client and production team go into the project knowing what to expect at each stage. If strict requirements are given by the client at the conception stage, the quality of the product will improve at each consecutive stage. Should anyone on the production team leave, the project won’t suffer because of the heavy documentation available for the replacement team member.
As you can see, traditional waterfall approach doesn't always work for projects with changing objectives or requirements, or projects where tasks can't be constricted to one immutable phase, but an iterative waterfall methodology might be the right approach. Acute360 is well suited to manage a project in a stage-gated iterative process by creating mini-waterfall tasks/sprints that emphasizes the completion of one task before proceeding to the next. A due diligence is then completed before proceeding to the next task/sprint.