Waterfall Software Development & Tools

The Waterfall model helped the early software industry to follow a formal development process. Modeled from manufacturing principles, this sequential process helps software companies to design, code, test, and implement software systems based on specifications obtained at the beginning of a project.

While many software engineering teams have adopted the agile methodology 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

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What Is Waterfall Software Development?

The waterfall model for software development specifies 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 until the team produces the output of the preceding phase.

The waterfall software development life cycle (SDLC) defines several phases of the development process, as well as individual steps for each phase. The typical phases are requirements gathering, requirements analysis, design, coding, testing, deployment, and maintenance.

Waterfall software development tools are often part of broader project management platforms, and include Gantt charts and timeline views to help build the project plan, list the work breakdown structure (WBS), and track progress. Other important features are critical path analysis, document management, approval workflows, time and expense tracking, and reporting.

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Best Waterfall Software

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 model-compatible tools that enable teams to complete projects phase by phase.

Smartsheet

Smartsheet is work collaboration software suitable for all teams. It provides project managers of software development teams the tools to streamline workflows, support collaboration, and complete projects on time. Software developers can manage timelines, streamline communications, and simplify waterfall planning. They can also easily sync their data with other development tools like Jira.

Smartsheet enables product managers to create roadmaps accessible to all stakeholders. It has drag-and-drop Gantt charts, dependencies, critical path, formulas, and resource management to view and track task status, progress, issues, budgets, and workload. Other features include dashboards, reports, alerts, and reminders.

Smartsheet

Pros

  • Task lists, Gantt charts, and calendars
  • Intuitive and easy to use
  • Team collaboration

Cons

  • Templates need simpler implementation
  • Users wish for additional custom views

Wrike

Wrike project management software provides teams a central platform of views, up-to-date information, and a shared workspace. It promotes real-time collaboration with commenting, notifications, live editing, dynamic reports, and shared team calendars.

Wrike enables software engineering teams to visualize deadlines and milestones with interactive Gantt charts. It allows software teams to control multiple waterfall plans with critical path analysis, snapshots, and baselining. Users can also import MS Project tasks with all durations, dependencies, and assignees carried over.

Wrike

Pros

  • Task management and tracking
  • Project collaboration
  • Request forms and calendars

Cons

  • User and group administration could be easier
  • Users would like to see a UI refresh

Asana

Asana is online work management software that enables any team to stay organized and connected with multiple work views. In particular, its timeline view gives software development teams a visual map of how projects following the waterfall model progress over time. Teams are able to manage dependent tasks, overlapping tasks, and unscheduled tasks by easily creating and updating project plans.

Asana lets teams organize work into shared projects. Users can further decompose large project activities into tasks and subtasks. It provides information for milestones, start dates, due dates and times, and task assignees. Other features are file attachments, custom fields, sections, forms, automation, approvals, dependencies, and custom templates.

Asana

Pros

  • Task management and accountability
  • Project collaboration
  • Bug tracking workflow

Cons

  • Missing integrated time tracking
  • Data export functionality needs improvement

Jira

Although agile teams prefer Jira Software, it is project tracking software that users can customize to manage hybrid, waterfall, and agile projects. Developers can view code repositories to help track and manage issues, managing branches, pull requests, and commits from inside the software.

Jira Work Management is another platform within Jira that enables business teams to connect with development teams to collaborate on all kinds of projects, including those using waterfall methodology. It has multiple views, like a timeline view that allows users to plan and establish dependencies. Other features are a forms builder, custom workflows, templates, no-code automation, and dynamic reports and dashboards.

Jira

Pros

  • Project, product, and issue tracking
  • Team collaboration
  • Powerful search functionality

Cons

  • Needs additional customization capabilities
  • Users would like more detailed online help

Microsoft Project

Microsoft Project enables teams to manage various projects, including unique projects requiring waterfall methodology. It provides users a single timeline and predictable workflow to achieve firm deliverables. It has flexible, ready-to-use templates that can transform project data into visual timelines and Gantt charts for all stakeholders to see.

Microsoft Project’s cloud-based solutions allow effective communication and collaboration between project team members to improve outcomes. Users can monitor critical path to mitigate risk, and keep stakeholders updated with data consolidation features. On-premises solutions with limited collaboration are also available.

Microsoft Project

Pros

  • Project planning
  • Task dependency and prioritization
  • Budget tracking

Cons

  • Project portfolio management needs improvement
  • Limited third-party integration

Zoho Projects

Zoho Projects is an online project management platform suitable for many different teams. Development teams are able to improve their process and increase their efficiency with included tools and features, like milestone tracking for open tasks and unresolved bugs. It has Gantt charts, baselines, and critical path to monitor dependencies and avoid delays.

Zoho Projects also has automation for recurring tasks, advanced reporting through real-time dashboards, built-in collaboration, time tracking, and customization with custom fields, status, workflows, and notifications. The software integrates with many third-party apps, though Zoho apps include Sprints for managing both waterfall and agile projects in a flexible and systematic way.

Zoho Projects

Pros

  • Project planning
  • Task dependency management
  • Ease of use

Cons

  • Search capabilities need improvement
  • Limited data import and third-party integrations

monday.com

monday.com Work OS is a platform that enables teams and organizations to build software development process tools and other applications for their business needs. The highly visual software allows users to plan, organize, and track their work in a central place. Software development teams can manage their project plans, features, roadmaps, and release plans with customizable workflows.

monday.com provides a waterfall template to get dev teams started quickly. Users can set up groups, add tasks, assign tasks to team members, and set due dates and status. It has a timeline view as well, within which users can set up milestones and dependencies. The software also has other work views, mobile apps, a collaborative work doc, automations, integrations, and 24/7 support.

monday.com

Pros

  • Task creation and prioritization
  • Timeline with dependencies and critical path
  • Tracking using multiple views

Cons

  • Needs more intuitive cost and expense tracking features
  • Users wish for regular video tutorials explaining new features

Mavenlink is project and resource management software for professional services organizations. It helps teams simplify operational processes, team collaboration, and project accounting. The software provides a flexible platform that supports different methodologies, especially predictable and repeatable waterfall projects with well-defined resource demands and defined requirements.

Mavenlink also includes visual task management to improve execution. It allows for flexible planning, tracking of billable and non-billable time, workflow management, and real-time project health metrics and reporting. Other features are contextual collaboration; internal and external team communication; work breakdown analysis; time, expense, and cost tracking; and financial reports.

Mavenlink

Pros

  • M-Bridge integrations
  • Project and budget tracking
  • Time tracking and timesheets

Cons

  • Needs simpler navigation
  • Limited issue tracking

LiquidPlanner

LiquidPlanner is intelligent project planning and management software. Its predictive scheduling capabilities dynamically adjust to changes and allow teams to plan, predict, and perform waterfall projects effectively. It helps align people, priorities, and projects with its built-in planning intelligence features.

LiquidPlanner has priority organization, time management, and smart estimation. It also has priority-driven board views, automatic resource leveling, and custom task management. Other features include portfolio management, dashboard insights, automatic alerts, change tracking, personalized team member work views, and access control.

LiquidPlanner

Pros

  • Dynamic scheduling tool
  • Dashboards and reports
  • Responsive support

Cons

  • Takes time for familiarization
  • Users wish for UI improvements

Hive

Hive is work management and team collaboration software. It provides a range of ways to view work, such as project overview, portfolio view, and the detailed task management view. It is a flexible platform that allows users to organize projects in a Gantt chart, Kanban board, table, or calendar, and switch easily between layouts.

Hive includes resource management to monitor team utilization. Users can design custom workflows and automate routine tasks. Reporting and analytics provide actionable insights customizable to user needs. Other features include action templates, external user collaboration, email integration, and time tracking.

Hive

Pros

  • Task management, prioritization, and scheduling
  • Project tracking and critical path
  • Multiple views and easy switching between them

Cons

  • Limited project budget tracking
  • Analytics feature needs improvement

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Types of Waterfall Software

Waterfall software development tools vary in how providers deploy them and what features they include.

On-Premises

Many companies using enterprise project planning software for waterfall software development install, host, and maintain it on their own company servers. Employees are in charge of its security, operations, accessibility, and maintenance. The owners can fully customize their waterfall tools to fit their unique requirements.

SaaS

Companies often adopt software-as-a-service PM tools for their software development requirements due to the benefits offered by modern cloud computing — including enhanced collaboration and low initial expenditure. Also, it is easier for companies to scale their teams, processes, and operations with SaaS tools.

Dedicated Methodology Software

Some project management tools provide users support for a single type of software methodology like the waterfall model. This type of tool is easier to learn and use, so users are able to start using the software with minimum training time. However, because the software is dedicated to a single methodology, it isn’t easily adapted to projects using hybrid or other models.

Multi-Methodology Software

Many tools support multiple software development methodologies. Aside from sequential waterfall methodology, many have features for agile models like Scrum, Kanban, and hybrid methods. These tools are more flexible and customizable, but also have a more complex interface that requires additional time for training and familiarization. Vendors try to remedy this learning curve by offering ready-to-use templates for specific workflows.

Read also: Significance of Keeping Documentation in Project Management

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Waterfall Software Features

Projects developed with the waterfall model have many moving pieces and team members to keep track of. Look for the following features to help manage workflows, timelines, and deliverables effectively.

  • Document management: Helps teams organize, secure, store, capture, and digitize project documents.
  • Planning and scheduling: Tools should have interactive Gantt charts, a drag-and-drop interface, automated and intelligent scheduling, and other visual tools to simplify the work of producing an accurate project blueprint.
  • Task management and tracking: Allows developers to break projects into smaller tasks and assign them to team members with time estimates. Other important factors to consider are support for task dependency, critical path analysis, and automated alerts and notifications of upcoming due dates.
  • Resource management: Enables a project manager to plan, allocate, and forecast a steady supply of resources to keep the project on schedule and budget. It ensures analysts, programmers, and testing specialists are available to accept and perform tasks within the project timeline.
  • Time and expense tracking: Record, report, and monitor actual time spent on tasks and compare to planned values. Built-in time and expense tracking automates calculations, eases workloads, and allows teams to make timely decisions to keep the project on schedule and budget.
  • Issue tracking: Helps organize the recording, status, and resolution of all bugs and defects of a software product. This feature enables the development team to produce a high-quality product that will pass client acceptance testing. Support teams can also utilize this feature during the maintenance phase to record other issues.
  • Reporting: Provides real-time dashboards and ready-to-use reports to minimize the need to hold regular project status meetings. It helps project managers inform sponsors, stakeholders, and clients about project progress updates.
  • Communication and collaboration: Facilitates clear communication and agreements before, during, and after the project moves into maintenance. These features provide a central platform that allows discussion, feedback, and approval while allowing simultaneous access to work-related output.
  • Integration: Allows analysts, developers, and testers to integrate their specific tools while keeping project-related work centralized. Cloud storage services, version control software, configuration management tools, and test automation software are some of the applications to integrate with.

Read next: Top Reasons Why Your Project Costs More Than Originally Planned

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Waterfall Development Tools: Our Top Picks

Software development teams using waterfall, agile, or hybrid methods should check out our recommended project software for all types of development projects.


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.