Waterfall versus cyclical project management: The activities in a cycle

By | June 20, 2015

Waterfall versus cyclical project management: The activities in a cycle
In cyclical project management, the project goal is pursued in several short,
successive consecutive cycles. Each cycle is relatively short, preferably lasting less
than one month. Within each cycle, a portion of the project is carried out. Analysis,
design, implementation and testing occur within each cycle. This is fundamentally
different from the waterfall method, in which these activities all take place within
their own separate phases. In addition, the waterfall method prescribes only single
moments for definition, design, implementation and testing. In the cyclical method,
this occurs many times in sequence.
Various components of the software are implemented during the cycles, which
are therefore independent of each other. Evaluation takes place after each cycle is
completed. Should advancing insight lead to new of different requirements for the
project, the activities of the subsequent cycles are adapted to take them into
A cycle begins with the making or adjusting of the schedule. Next, the
requirements of the result of the cycle are examined. A design is made, programmed
and tested. Evaluation subsequently occurs and, in some methods, the new software
is brought into use. Thereafter, the following cycle can begin, in order to carry out
the following component of the project. (For a more extensive description of cyclical
methods and the differences between the methods, see e.g. Kroll, 2004; Chromatic,
2003; Stapleton 2002.)
The most important advantages of working with the cyclical method are as follows:
Higher product quality and improved implementation of functionalities,
More realistic estimates of time and money,
Project team is under less pressure,
Higher quality.
The previous chapters have shown that it is difficult or impossible to determine of
the desired functionalities accurately in the early stages of a project. In cyclical
methods, the desired functionalities are implemented in several short cycles. In each
cycle, a small portion of the desired functionality is not only investigated; it is
designed, implemented and tested as well. The short succession of design,
implementation and testing makes a particularly important contribution to quality
improvement. Teams are thereby in state to make adjustments. If a design does not
turn out to be good in practice, it becomes obvious during the cycle, thereby
allowing adjustment. This way of working also allows customers to request
Another reason that cyclical project management leads to better quality is that a
cycle involves intensive collaboration between customer, designers and
programmers. A multi-disciplinary team jointly conceives of and implements
solutions. In the waterfall method, the customer is involved primarily in the
beginning, in the formulation of the requirements; thereafter, the designers make a
design and then the programmers programme the software. The project leader
serves as the link between all of the various parties and must ensure that
information that is exchanged is delivered to the right place. In practice, many
programmers and designers never see the customer, who re-emerges in the process
only after the software has been completed.
Cyclical methods of project management are particularly suited to projects in
which the goal that is to be achieved cannot be clearly established beforehand, as in
creative projects or research projects. Working in a number of cycles with a multidisciplinary
team in which the end-users are also represented allows the team to
discover the real goal of the project and how it can best be achieved. Each cycle
contains a point for reflection and an opportunity for adjustment.
In waterfall projects, a goal is formulated beforehand. Reflection on the original
goal is less of a possibility. The originally formulated goal is never (fully) achieved,
and it is likely that neither the originally formulated goal nor the goal that is
achieved is exactly what was originally desired.

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