Gartner Research

Waterfall: Still Crazy After All These Years

Published: 05 June 2006

ID: G00203203

Analyst(s): Stuart Selip


Waterfall, the sequential software development lifecycle (SDLC) methodology, has reached the 50-year mark. Conceived and refined in an age of slow business change, with inexpensive analysts and costly hardware, waterfall had appeal. Today, the world of revolutionary business change and catastrophic software delivery failure demands an SDLC methodology that is responsive to change and minimizing of delivery failure. Waterfall does neither, yet flourishes. In this Application Platform Strategies overview, Service Director Stu Selip confronts the limitations of waterfall, underscores its failings, and urges practitioners to put away the things of information technology (IT)'s childhood.

Table Of Contents



  • In the Beginning, Waterfall Made Sense
  • The End of the Beginning
    • To Waterfall, or Not to Waterfall
    • Unique Requirements Often Mean “IKIWISI”
    • Unique Requirements Challenge Estimation of Effort, Delivery, and Cost
    • Risk Management Is Iterative, Not Sequential
    • “Over the Wall” Is Not Collaboration
    • Discovery-Oriented Processes Are Iterative, Not Sequential
    • Testing Delayed Is Software-Quality Denied
  • Recommendations
    • Limit Use of Waterfall to Project Types Fitting Its Constraints
    • If You Must Use Waterfall, Adopt the “V” Model Waterfall Variant
    • Outside Waterfall's Sweet Spot, Think in Spirals, Act in Iterations
    • Don't Base Funding Commitment Model on Waterfall's Phases

The Details

  • Code and Fix: The Un-Process
  • Waterfall, the SDLC Grandfather
    • Entry-Level Waterfall
    • Emergence and a Variety of Deluxe Waterfalls
    • Waterfall with Prototyping
    • Waterfall on Steroids: The “V” Model
  • Life After Waterfall: Spiraling into Control
    • RUP: An Iterative Technique That Can Be Mishandled into Waterfall



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