Benefits of the Waterfall methodology

The Waterfall methodology is a popular working model in software development. Its structure defines a clear and sequential way of working through a development project, putting the work into forward-moving stages. These stages include: 

  1. Requirement analysis 
  2. System design 
  3. Implementation 
  4. System testing 
  5. System deployment 
  6. System maintenance 

The Waterfall methodology is a classic and simple approach to software development. One that may have been slightly more favoured in the past but one that still holds its own in the modern climate of tech and development. Despite the new models revered by companies across the world, the benefits involved in the Waterfall methodology still attract many development teams. 

In this blog, we are going to explore why this is the case. 

Firstly, let’s clarify what the Waterfall methodology means in more detail.

The difference between the Waterfall methodology and other approaches 

The main difference between the Waterfall methodology and other models of software development, including Agile and iterative development, is the way in which movement between the stages works. 

When following the Waterfall model, the development team must completely finish one stage before they move on to the next. There is no going back to previous stages, there is only forward movement, as we might see in the flow of water in a real-life waterfall. 

Many other approaches to software development are more flexible in their movement between stages. Iterative development, for example, will run a piece of work through each stage of a project’s life cycle, revisiting stages when necessary. A piece of work may be developed, tested, redesigned, and redeveloped before moving on to another piece of work. In comparison, in the Waterfall methodology, a piece of work will move through each of the six steps outlined above without moving back to any stage once it has been completed. This typically means that more time is taken in each stage. 

So, the question is… What are the benefits of this?

5 benefits of the Waterfall methodology

There is a range of benefits to the Waterfall methodology. How appropriate they are will depend on each individual project and the team behind it. However, generally, the benefits of the Waterfall model that we can expect include:

Consistent requirements 

As the requirements analysis stage in a Waterfall project is so robust and thorough, there are clear and consistent requirements established at the beginning of the project and continuing throughout. As there is no returning to stages once they have been completed, these requirements do not change as the project advances. 

Having a steady, stable target helps to keep all development work highly focused.

Detailed documentation 

A key component of a Waterfall approach is detailed documentation for each stage of the project’s life cycle. This documentation ensures that every member of the team is on the same page at any given point and it is easy to measure controlled progress throughout the project. While this may be time-consuming, it is very advantageous for the development team, client, and stakeholders involved. 

Easy to measure progress and set timeframes

As there is a clear and tangible structure through which the development work passes, it is much easier to measure progress and set realistic timeframes for work to be completed. As you know that a certain stage can’t begin until another is finished, it helps to more accurately predict what will come next and when. In this way, the project stays on track for all parties involved.

Keeps project management simple 

Project management within a Waterfall methodology is very simple and clear-cut. Matters are a lot less complicated when they follow such a cohesive structure. There can be no overlapping of teams that confuses progress and everything can be conducted without miscommunication or stepping on toes.

Simple budget predictions

With clearly-defined, sequential stages, it is easier to predict how your budget will be used in a project. Budgeting can be tricky and complex in software development, but with a Waterfall approach, a software development company can more easily divide their budget and plan its costs from the beginning. This keeps clients and stakeholders informed as early as possible too, which is always a plus.

Possible downsides of the Waterfall approach 

Every topic has two sides, and the Waterfall methodology is no different. It is important that we look at the potential downsides of the approach as well as the benefits. 

These can include aspects such as:


Less room for feedback and revisions throughout 

As clients may not see any development work until many stages have been passed already, there is less room for valuable client feedback and revisions. A client complaint may require a long process of going back to the beginning to fix the problem. Client feedback is critical to a project and waiting until the end of a phase to hear it can present issues.

Delayed testing 

In a Waterfall approach, testing is delayed until after all development work in a certain phase is completed and pushed up. This means that critical testing may not take place until after significant errors or bugs occur. Again, this could involve more time spent fixing larger problems that could have been spotted earlier on.

Time-consuming stages 

A lot of time and detail goes into each of the stages of the Waterfall model. While this means that care, attention, and diligence go into each and every stage that is completed in the project, it also means that the stages themselves can be very time-consuming. For larger projects, this time needed may simply not be possible.

A brief summary 

The Waterfall methodology is one that has existed in the world of software development since the 1970s. It is a classic development approach that allows a software development company to move steadily and sustainably through well-defined development stages. 

The methodology has many different benefits, including more consistent requirements and detailed plans, comprehensive levels of documentation, clear time frames and budget parameters, and ease of project management. It is a clear and cohesive structure for any development team to follow. Even when put up against more modern methodologies such as Agile, in many cases, the Waterfall approach has stood the test of time. 

There are, naturally, pitfalls to the approach too. There can be issues deriving from delayed testing, lack of consistent client feedback, and time-consuming stages such as planning. The Waterfall methodology won’t be appropriate for every digital project, especially not those that are very large and complex. 

Whether this approach is right for your project or not will depend on size, scope, goals, and timeframes. 

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