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What is Waterfall Project Management? | Video

What is Waterfall Project Management? | Video

Waterfall Project Management is a specific approach to tackling a project. It is linear and follows a series of stages or phases.

PMI Talent Triangle - Technical Project Management

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The term ‘Waterfall’ was first used in 1976.

But, an earlier, 1970 article by Winston W. Royce, presented this approach as an example of a flawed, non-working model for software development.

So, Waterfall is often used as a pejorative term for a style of project management that is, frankly, not well-suited to many software development projects.

But it is extremely well-suited to other projects, in domains like construction, engineering, and manufacturing. These require a highly-planned approach and have a clearly-defined and fixed end-requirement.

Planned Project Management /
Predictive Project Management

So, I prefer the more precise terms Planned Project Management or Predictive Project Management to ‘Waterfall’ Project Management. In addition, these don’t carry the stigma that some software Project Managers and Agile practitioners heap upon a highly effective approach to Project Management.

Typical Stages

Waterfall Project Management Stages are often represented as the stages that are well suited to software development.

Hence, the confusion as to whether it is an appropriate approach. These stages are:

  • Requirements Gathering
  • Design (and documentation)
  • Implementation (of working software)
  • Testing (to verify the solution)
  • (Installation, or Deployment)
  • Maintenance

Generic Project Lifecycle Model

However, a more generic lifecycle model, like the one that we use for OnlinePMCourses training better represents the generality of the kinds of projects for which predictive project management is well-suited:

  • Definition
  • Planning
  • Delivery
  • (Handover)
  • Closure

Some characteristics of Predictive or Waterfall Project Management

  • Robust definition of the end product
  • Careful planning and budgeting
  • High levels of project governance, leading to significant use of documentation

Not True about Waterfall Project Management

Accusations are often made by detractors of the approach, which are simply not true of predictive project management in skilled hands:

  • Low engagement with customers and stakeholders
  • An ‘all at once, big bang approach to delivery’
  • Allows for no refinement of or change to the scope or specifications

Recommended Videos.

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Change Control

For full details about how to implement Change Control in your predictive project:


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About the Author Mike Clayton

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.

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