Waterfall Model: Advantages & Disadvantages

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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Laury Hales

Laury has taught in professional adult education settings for over 10 years and is currently working on a PhD in Organizational Psychology.

The waterfall model is a common project methodology. While it has many advantages, there are disadvantages as well. In this lesson, we'll learn the advantages and disadvantages of the waterfall model, as well as when to use it.

Definition of the Waterfall Model

Hapre Data Centers is a large IT company that manages customer data centers across the US. Frequent advances in technology force Hapre to upgrade their numerous data centers. The latest upgrade involves opening a brand new data center location in New York, an undertaking that didn't go well last time. As the senior project manager at Hapre, you have been assigned to ensure this project goes well and the new data center opens on time and within budget.

The CEO, concerned about the relative newness of the project team and the previous problems becoming an issue on this project, has asked you to brief the executive leadership team on why you have chosen the waterfall model as the project methodology when there are many to choose from.

Deciding you first need to ensure the leadership team understands the waterfall method, you start your presentation with a slide showing the definition. The waterfall model is a sequential design project method that was originally conceived for software development but is now used for a variety of project types. It generally consists of 6 phases:

  • Requirements
  • Design
  • Implementation
  • Verification
  • Deployment
  • Maintenance

The distinctive feature of the waterfall model is the sequential nature of the phases. One phase completely finishes before another phase begins.

Waterfall Model

With a nod from the CEO, you continue to explain why the waterfall model is the best choice for the New York data center project.

Advantages of the Waterfall Model

Moving to the next slide in the presentation, the audience sees the word advantage in bold, red letters with a list of advantages to the waterfall model:

  • Suitable for simple or smaller projects
  • Requirements are well understood
  • Easy to understand
  • Easy to manage
  • Clear milestones
  • Extensive documentation

As you flip to the next slide, you begin to explain each of these advantages in detail and how they will help us be successful in our New York data center project.

Suitable for Simple or Smaller Projects

The waterfall model is an ideal choice for smaller, simple projects because it is made of the defined stages that are done sequentially, and each stage is fully completed before moving to the next stage. The New York data center, you explain, is a fairly simple project. The data center itself is not very large and will consist of a single technology. Since there is no building construction to be done, the complexity of this project is very minimal.

Requirements Are Well Understood

The requirements for our data center are also well understood. There will be no new customers moved to this data center; only well-established customers with fixed requirements will be relocated. The fixed requirements help manage the defined stages in the waterfall method, you explain, because there is no revisiting previous stages due to missed requirements.

Easy to Understand and Manage

With a new slide addressing the CEO's concern regarding a new project team, you explain that the waterfall model was chosen specifically because it is easy for the new team to understand. Each phase has defined deliverables tied to stable requirements, making scheduling and resourcing a waterfall model project simpler and easier to manage.

Each phase is reviewed before moving on to the next phase, so tracking the overall progress of the data center project will be easier than if the schedule moved back and forth between phases. The sequential nature means the waterfall model is the methodology most likely to stay on schedule and on budget, one of the CEO's requirements for the New York data center project.

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