The waterfall method is an approach to project management that breaks down project activities into linear sequential phases. The term “waterfall” is primarily used in the context of software development but the methodology itself has been adopted in a number of industries because of how simple it is. In the waterfall model, also known as the linear sequential life cycle model, the phases cascade downwards like the flow of a waterfall.
What are the stages of the waterfall model?
The phases within a waterfall method vary, but Winston W. Royce defined the following six phases in the first formal description of the model in 1970:
- Requirements: What the product, system, or software should do – what are the customer requirements?
- Design: The first step is brainstorming and theorizing solutions, followed by nailing down specifications for those ideas.
- Implementation: Development is executed; in software development this is where programmers produce the actual code to meet the specifications previously determined.
- Testing: Verification of the product and investigating defects.
- Operations: In software development, the installation, support, and maintenance of complete systems.
A popular methodology often compared to the waterfall model is Kanban. Over the years the waterfall method has declined in popularity partly because of how its inflexibility, the sequential structure can lead to issues and the Agile/Kanban methodology has become the industry standard. Kanban boards allow teams to better visualize where work is at in the stages of production introducing a smoother workflow and limited works in progress.
Similar Glossary Terms
- Scrum Methodology
- Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)
- APQP (Advanced Product Quality Planning)
- Design for Six Sigma (DFSS)
- Agile Manufacturing
- Critical Path Method (CPM)