Andy Pols CTO, Entrepreneur

Project waterfalls

I have just noticed an(other) article arguing that you must must be mad not to do waterfall development in the appropriately named website (

Steven Little claims IT projects must have the following process:

Step One: What do I have to do? (write the business specifications)

Step Two: How am I going to do it? (write the technical specifications)

Step Three: Do it (actually start implementation)

The print version has a wonderfully ironic photo showing the tools of the trade as hammers chisels.

I wonder why people still feel that waterfall is such a great idea for managing project risks?

Waterfall was first described by Winston Royce in the famous paper “Managing the Development of Large Software Systems”. Many people, incorrectly view this paper as the paragon of single-pass waterfall. In reality, he recommended an approach somewhat different than what has evolved into today’s waterfall concept, with its strict sequence of requirements analysis (Step one), design (Step two), and development phases (Step three).

In a personal communication with his Son (Walker Royce), Craig Larman ( discovered:

He [Winston Royce] was always a proponent of iterative, incremental, evolutionary development. His paper described the waterfall as the simplest description, but that it would not work for all but the most straightforward projects. The rest of his paper describes [iterative practices] within the context of the 60s/70s government-contracting models (a serious set of constraints).

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