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Waterfall Methods: Past and Ever-Present

Illustration: Waterfall 2006 Conference

In an earlier post, Managing RIA's [7]: Developing Usable RIA's, I commented that adopting a waterfall development methodology would not work well when developing Rich Internet Applications, because more agile methods were needed.

While writing that post, I did a bit of research into the literature about Waterfall methods, a concept I clearly recall encountering for the first time in 1978 or '79 soon after I joined IBM's DB2 development team in the Santa Teresa Lab.

My own introduction to the Waterfall method was in a talk about its limitations. So it was interesting to read Tarmo's psycho and techno blog explaining that the very first description of the model by Winston W. Royce in 1970 was also as a counterexample. This point of view is amplified by Conrad Weisert, who claims that in fact there's no such thing as a Waterfall Model!

But despite the fact that (maybe) it should not exist, the Waterfall model has taken root, and appears in methodology comparisons and analyses. What's more, despite the many rumors of its demise, especially in the face of today's need for more agile methods, researchers have discovered that Waterfall methods refuse to die:

... in a survey of almost 200 practitioners, accounting for several thousands of projects over the past five years, the dominant process model reported was the Waterfall, with more than a third claiming its use.

Indeed, perhaps the ultimate tribute to the sheer persistence of the Waterfall approach in everyday development practice is the fact that the agile development community recently promoted the Waterfall 2006 Conference. Even if you couldn't attend, I recommend reviewing the agenda and the session descriptions carefully, just to see what you missed. I don't know if or when more documentation will be published, but I'm sure it will be worth waiting for.

[This post was first published on blogger on April 15, 2006.
Since it was two weeks late, I've adjusted the date.]

Posted on Saturday, April 1, 2006 at 12:26PM by Registered CommenterChris Loosley in , | CommentsPost a Comment

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