The “Waterfall” approach to systems analysis and design was created in the 1970s, and gained popularity because of its logical, linear progression. Tasks are broken into five tiers that follow an orderly progression: requirements determination, design, implementation, verification, and maintenance. In the requirements phase, the programmers and client determine the scope of the project; in the design phase, the programmers create both basic and elaborate designs; in the implementation phase, the programmers test the source code as the program is written; in the verification phase, the programmers test the design and correct any errors; and in the maintenance phase, the programmers make any necessary changes in order to ensure that the system will continue operating properly. Each phase must be carefully planned beforehand in order to ensure success.
Today, many businesses opt to use agile project management instead. Individuals who use this method focus on completing small parts of the project in each delivery cycle, rather than on creating an overarching agenda for the entire project. However, the traditional waterfall approach to project management still has several key benefits.
First, developers and customers discuss what will be delivered early in the process, which makes the planning and delivery phases more straightforward. Techrepublic.com states, “The emphasis on requirements and design before writing a single line of code ensures minimal wastage of time and effort and reduces the risk of schedule slippage, or of customer expectations not being met.” Because developers and customers discuss end goals in extensive detail, both parties have a solid understanding of the primary expectations and desired outcomes. As a result, it is much easier to guarantee that the project is on the right track.
Second, the method can save both time and money. Programmers only develop the code that is actually needed, which saves both time and effort during the initial stages. Developers can correct any errors or mistakes early on in the process, which allows the implementation phase to unfold smoothly. Because the end goal is clearly defined in the beginning stages, both parties understand the financial and time constraints of the project. In his 1996 book Rapid Development: Taming Wild Software Schedules, Steve McConnell estimated that “a requirements defect that is left undetected until construction or maintenance would cost 50 to 200 times as much to fix as it would have cost at requirements time.” As a result, finalizing each cycle before moving on to the next guarantees success in the end.
Third, workers can easily determine how much progress they are making, since expectations are clearly defined before a project begins. Because the project is clearly mapped out from start to finish, workers can quickly measure achievements and accomplishments. The waterfall method is ideal for teams who are working closely together, since it offers clear-cut tasks and goals. It also enables developers to continue working on the project without needing constant supervision from the manager.
Fourth, software can be designed based on a thorough understanding of the deliverables. Because the traditional method entails careful documentation, programmers can guarantee that they are meeting customer expectations before the project is completed.
Finally, programmers can easily test the results based on the expected outcome. In the maintenance phase, programmers and clients can observe the developed application in order to determine whether it operates properly. If there are problems, the programmers can correct the errors before handing the finished product over to the clients.
While less flexible than agile management, the waterfall method provides a clear roadmap of desired outcomes for both programmers and clients. It can save time and money by offering a well-defined strategy. It’s not the most popular method currently, but it is a worthwhile system, and can be implemented with almost any project management software. Companies and clients alike should consider the benefits of the traditional waterfall project management method.
Also check out Misnomers of Waterfall Project Manager, a guest post by KPS Managing Partner, Robert Kelly.
The above post was provided by the folks at Technology Advice, who focuses on finding new technology for your business. It doesn’t have to be complicated and it doesn’t have to take days or weeks of your time. In my opinion, one of the best aspects is that they don’t charge vendors to be listed in their product database. Go check them out and keep on eye out on future posts.