Waterfall Software Development & Tools

The Waterfall model was developed in the 1970s to help the early software industry follow a formal development process. Modeled from manufacturing principles, this strictly linear sequential process has long helped software companies to design, code, test, and implement software systems based on specifications obtained at the beginning of a project. Today, waterfall software development continues to be a useful, predictable, and relevant approach that is well suited to many types of projects.

Read more: Agile vs. Waterfall: Differences in Software Development Methodologies

Table of Contents

What Is the Waterfall Model in Software Development?

The waterfall model provides developers a rigid structure and sequential process that follows a logical progression of phases to deliver a predictable output. Each phase includes an output, and the succeeding phase cannot begin unless the team produces the output of the preceding phase. The waterfall software development life cycle (SDLC) defines at least four phases of the development process, as well as the individual steps for each phase. The typical phases are:

  • Requirements: Team gathers and documents the specifications and requirements of the software project
  • Analysis: Analysis of the requirements to define schema, models, and rules; sometimes grouped together with Requirements phase
  • Design: Team designs the software architecture based on analysis; sometimes grouped together with Analysis phase
  • Implementation or Coding: Team develops small units of the software and perform functional unit testing
  • Verification or Testing: Integrates the units and performs system testing; identifies errors and corrects bugs
  • Deployment and Maintenance: Team deploys the software live after successful integrated testing into a production environment, monitors bugs, and applies maintenance fixes

Back to top

Top 10 Waterfall Software & Tools

Project management software can help teams using the waterfall model go through the sequence of processes to deliver an output that fulfills the client’s requirements. Here is a list of the top waterfall project management software that enable teams to complete all the necessary steps and move forward phase by phase.


SmartsheetSmartsheet is a project management solution that provides teams the tools to easily create their project plans to deliver the final product within time, budget, and scope constraints. It allows users to create a work breakdown structure and track tasks with improved visibility. Smartsheet also has resource management to help allocate resources across multiple projects, budget tracking to compare planned and actual spending, and dashboards for real-time reporting.


Hive provides software development teams a single platform to plan and execute their projects. It offers project managers six views, including a drag-and-drop Gantt chart view for the project schedule, a table view for the WBS, and a calendar view for a quick monthly view of tasks and deadlines. Hive also has resource management to monitor team utilization, workflows to automate routine tasks, and reporting with analytics to provide actionable insights.


monday.com is an cloud-based work management system that is flexible for different teams, including waterfall software development teams. It has a waterfall methodology template that can help users to start their projects quickly. A centralized workspace allows teams to go through each phase without having to switch applications. monday.com includes several views, including a timeline view to help visualize the time frame for each task and task group. This PM software also has automations, integrations, and 24/7 customer support.


Wrike project management software provides teams all the tools to create their project plans, manage documents, track progress, and collaborate. It has an interactive Gantt chart to let teams visualize every project step, create tasks with dependencies, and track progress against deadlines and milestones. Wrike’s dynamic timeline has drag-and-drop interface, shareable links, and integration with other tools. The software also has resource management to balance workloads, customizable request forms to gather requirements, and time tracking.

Zoho Projects

Zoho ProjectsZoho Projects is a cloud-based project management software with the right tools for development teams following the waterfall model. The Gantt chart view lets users plan software projects, track progress, and visualize task dependencies. It allows teams to create project baselines at regular intervals, create WBS with milestones, task lists, tasks, and subtasks. Zoho Projects also has features for issue management, document management, chat, budgeting, and different types of charts and reports.


AsanaAsana provides software teams a way to create projects, tasks, and subtasks, breaking down a big project into the smallest activity needed to deliver the final product. It has flexible views, including a list view and a timeline view to plan for every phase in the waterfall model. Asana has features that include a project overview to set each phase of work and keep the team aligned, forms to standardize requirements, and real-time reports and charts to keep an eye on workloads.


LiquidPlanner is a project management software with planning intelligence features that predict work completion within waterfall software development projects. LiquidPlanner’s predictive scheduling engine can provide a realistic schedule forecast and reveals insight from project data to help identify problems earlier. Other features include estimations that visualize risk, opportunities, and workload; resource leveling that aligns, people, priorities, and projects; and time tracking that records changes and adjusts schedules automatically.


ProjectManager LogoThe ProjectManager online platform allows software teams to plan, track, and report using a centralized PM software. Features include a Gantt chart maker to plan projects and create schedules; project dashboards to quickly show project progress and health; and task management tools capable of adding descriptions, comments, and attachments. ProjectManager helps teams structure project processes throughout the SDLC as the project moves through phases. It also has reporting tools, online timesheets, and resource management.


Sciforma is a portfolio and project management software for companies managing multiple projects. Its project planning and management tools allow software development teams to plan out, manage work, and deliver the final product. Its all-in-one Gantt view lets users manage the project critical path, assignments, budgets, risks, and deliverables. Resource management provides allocation, scheduling, and tracking. Sciforma also has on-demand status reports, a collaborative workspace, and portfolio management.


WorkzoneWorkzone provides software development teams essential project management tools, such as a project request forms for requirements, approvals workflow and secure file sharing for centralizing project documents, and a project dashboard for a big-picture view. It has Gantt charts, task lists, and task dependencies to manage development activities across a timeline. Workzone also helps ensure on-time product delivery with status alerts, time tracking, workload reports, a group calendar, and email alerts.

Back to top

Types of Waterfall PM Software & Tools

Project management software for waterfall software development fall into several categories. These tools vary in how providers deploy them and what features they include.

Read also: How Significant is Project Management in Software Development?

Online Software

Online PM software are more popular because application providers offer these solutions using the software-as-a-service (SaaS) business model, which allows businesses of all sizes to set up and implement the solution quickly and without a huge initial investment. Development teams can also easily scale depending on the number of projects they work on or the number of team members involved.

On-Premise Software

Software development teams can choose to install their project management software within local servers. Companies working on highly sensitive projects prefer this type of software deployment because they need of greater access control. Smaller teams who require specific configuration of the software may also choose this deployment.

All-in-One Software

Many project management software offer a comprehensive set of tools that allow software teams to use a single platform throughout the SDLC. These software have features for managing requirement documents and their versions, storing designs and flowcharts, and creating schedules and Gantt charts. Teams can manage and track tasks as they code software, create reports for project status, calculate costs and budgets, document test results, and manage issues from bug reports.

Best -of-Breed Software

Some PM software serves a single purpose, such as creating a Gantt chart, managing tasks, or tracking software bugs. This type of software allows development teams to choose a solution tailored to their way of working. However, this strategy also requires heavier maintenance to keep individual tools updated, integrated, and secured.

Free or Open-Source Software

Aside from commercially available PM software, development teams have the option to use free, open source, and community editions of waterfall PM software. This provides greater customization and flexibility at no cost, but also requires team members be familiar with the technology.

Back to top

Waterfall PM Software Features

Every software development project comes with unique challenges and requirements. The best waterfall project management software is one that is most suitable for that project, providing teams the appropriate functionality and features that will result in a successful product delivery. In the waterfall model, some features are more essential than others found in PM software.

Document Management

In waterfall software development, teams fully document a project in advance. The detailed investigation that the team conducts up front produces important documents that need to be safe, up-to-date, and accessible. Document management features in a PM software help organize, secure, store, capture, and digitize project documents.

Planning and Scheduling

Project planning is an important process because any change made at the latter phases of the development lifecycle can trigger a costly restart of the whole project. Advanced features in creating plans and schedules, such as interactive Gantt charts, a drag-and-drop interface, automated and intelligent scheduling, and other visual tools can simplify the work of the team while producing an accurate project blueprint.


Resource Management

Software development using the waterfall model is a linear process that needs a steady supply of resources to stay on schedule. Together with project planning, resource management is an important feature to make sure analysts, programmers, and testing specialists are available to accept and perform the workload within the timeline.

Task Management and Tracking

Project managers break waterfall software development projects into smaller tasks and assign them to the team members expected to complete these tasks with the estimated time effort. Some tasks are dependent on precursor tasks, so task management and tracking features are crucial in a PM software for waterfall. Real-time status can help alert the team if they are encountering project blockers or bottlenecks that increase the risk of missing deadlines.

Time and Expense Tracking

Project management software with time tracking allows teams to record, report, and monitor the actual time spent on tasks and compare them to the planned values. Built-in time and expense tracking can automate the calculations, ease the workload of project managers, and allow them to make timely decisions to keep the project on schedule and budget.

Time tracking

Work-Specific Integration

Different team members need access to work-specific tools to complete their work. Analysts, developers, and testers need to integrate their specific tools while keeping the rest of the team informed. To keep project-related work centralized, the PM software should provide integration to cloud storage services, version control software, configuration management tools, and test automation software so team members can easily update the status of their work for transparency purposes.

Communication and Collaboration

The phased approach of the waterfall model highlights the need for clear communication and agreements before, during, and after the project moves into maintenance. The development team and the customer need to sort out all issues and finalize the requirements that define the end product. Team members need to relay the status of their tasks as they complete them. Developers and testers need to coordinate to fix issues, bugs, and defects. A PM software that allows discussion, feedback, and approval while allowing simultaneous access to work-related output can facilitate the overall development process.

Issue Tracking

At the testing phase of the waterfall software development lifecycle, teams need tools and features to organize the recording, status, and resolution of all bugs and defects of the software product. This feature helps the development team to produce a high-quality product that will pass the client acceptance testing. Support teams can also utilize this feature during the maintenance phase to record other issues.

Issue tracking


PM software that provides real-time dashboards and ready-to-use reports can minimize the need to hold regular project status meetings. It is a handy tool that helps project managers inform sponsors, stakeholders, and clients about project progress updates.

Back to top

Features for Small Business

Small businesses with fixed budgets, firm timelines, and cost constraints can take advantage of the waterfall model. These specific PM software features will help them achieve a more predictable outcome.

  • Project planning and scheduling: No matter the size and complexity of a project, software teams using the waterfall model will depend heavily on the project plan and schedule. This feature will ensure that teams complete all their tasks in a phase before moving to the next.
  • Document management: A PM software with document management features will centralize and organize all project-related documents the team will produce for each software product. From these documents, they can create success templates to help them be more efficient and productive going forward.
  • Task management and tracking: Task management is a core PM feature that promotes work visibility and accountability. Visual task tracking tools provide instant information, so teams know quickly if they are on track or getting delayed.

Back to top

Features for Midsize Business

Waterfall project management software is an ideal tool to help midsize businesses working on enhancements to existing systems. Existing products with defined features and known interfaces are great candidates for the waterfall model, as well as projects whose clients or end-users want only minimal involvement.

  • Project planning and scheduling: Using visual project planning tools, teams can present a Gantt chart early on to the customer to get sign-off. Teams can then proceed smoothly without having to involve the customer at every phase.
  • Time and expense tracking: To help monitor the team’s budget and progress, a project management software with time and expense tracking can provide indicators of the project health. PMs can generate reports to check the accuracy of their time estimates and get the status of the budget at different project intervals.
  • Communication and collaboration: Midsize businesses will have more teams, more collaborators, and/or more simultaneous projects. They need a PM software with more robust communication and collaboration tools. Some essential features include email integration, built-in chat or client portal, and secure document sharing features.

Back to top

Features for Enterprise Business

Enterprise businesses deal with software projects that have detailed product requirements and strict regulatory requirements, which is ideal for the waterfall model. They need a PM software with features that let them support existing organizational processes.

  • Project portfolio management: Bigger companies need tools to manage multiple project schedules and align them to the overall business strategy. In this case, PM software with project and portfolio management features help decision-makers prioritize their projects.
  • Issue tracking: To comply with different quality and regulatory requirements, issue tracking features within an enterprise PM platform will help teams organize issue resolution and bring ticket numbers down to a minimum. Project managers can also include issue volume and rate of resolution along with other metrics as indicators of performance.
  • Integration: Enterprises use different systems, so their waterfall PM software should be capable of integrating with other software and applications. Some possible systems to integrate are CRM, ERP, and financial systems.
  • Customization: Although robust customization is not a typical feature in waterfall software, teams may need to customize reports and dashboards to provide more complete and relevant information to regulators, contractors, and other development partners.

Back to top

Ready to Try the Waterfall Model for Software Development?

The waterfall methodology is a well-defined, straightforward software development approach that provides clear expectations. Project management tools that support this model allow teams to define deliverables at a detailed level, letting team members focus on their specific jobs of analysis, coding, or testing. Software projects that require strict compliance, timelines, and budgets are ideal for the waterfall methodology.

Jose Maria Delos Santos

Jose is a subject matter expert and member of the writing team for Project-Management.com and Bridge24. He has written hundreds of articles including project management software reviews, books reviews, training site reviews, and general articles related to the project management industry.