Project Lifecycle: Waterfall and Agile

Waterfall and Agile – do they have different project lifecycles? Or if there is finally something common between those two? Let’s check it out.

Hey Crizpers, how deep do you dive into the project lifecycle? Are you a strong supporter of some Project Management methodology? Do you think Agile rocks? Or maybe you feel that fun starts from classic and therefore prefer Waterfall? They are so much different, aren’t they? Or maybe not that much.. Let’s have a look at those methodologies from the top and define if finally there is anything common between them.

Project Lifecycle

Starting from the tips of the finders, let’s initially outline what a Project Lifecycle is. Project Lifecycle is the sequence of phases the project is passing through from its start to its finish. What I have managed to get from my research, in most resources professionals are allocating four general phases of the Project Lifecycle. They are: Initiation, Planning, Implementation (or Execution), and Closure. But what would be the breaking points for those stages? 


As for the Initiation, the work starts when we are receiving a request and the project requirements. The first thing we need to do in order to proceed officially, is creating a Project Charter. This is the first breakpoint when we are transferring from one stage to another. By the way, if you have concerns about how to create a Project Charter, what information to add and how to structure it, make sure to check out my Free Project Charter Guide with a template within. Also, you could check this video about the Project Initiation.


Next step in our cycle is Planning. So here we are moving forward with such activities like Project Plan / Documentation creation; Engaging Resources; Working on Scope, Schedule, Budget and so on. When to proceed with the implementation? At this point, I would mark Project Approval as an edge for that moment.


Here is when all the fun comes. During the Execution, or Implementation stage we are working on the solution development. This is the biggest stage of the project as during this time we implement and push forward all the decisions and action items we have created during the Planning stage.

Project Lifecycle

And also, we are supervising and facilitating the delivery process itself. Actually, this is the biggest stage of the project. Besides, during this stage we are going to work on the outcome verification. What is the breakpoint here? Exactly, this would be the Project Acceptance and Approval for Production.


Finally we have come to the moment when the project is ready and we have deployed the solution. Now we work on documenting the Lessons Learned, updating the project knowledge, verifying all the KPIs and closing out the budget? So when the Project is closed? The breakpoint would be Transition to Maintenance

So since the time we have received a request for starting the project, and until we deliver it, we are going to take through all of these stages with no shortcuts. Pretty straightforward. But what I am curious about is how can we map Project Management methodologies onto this process?

General Flavors

To brush it up, there are two huge flavors within the Project Management methodologies. We will not discover America if I tell you, they are predictive, or classical Waterfall; and adaptive, or modern Agile.


As a quick summary, Waterfall is a predictive Project Management methodology which is characterised by the requirements known in advance; low flexibility; no intermediate deployments and a single final MVP delivery.


Here is what we usually see in Waterfall: sequentially structured phases with no repeating or overlapping among them. Thus, in predictive development we are passing through the delivery stages that are clearly separated between each other. From my point of view, it is very much common to the Project Lifecycle principles in general. What are your thoughts?


As for adaptive, Agile methodology welcomes changes; allows scope modification; conducts intermediate deployments and demonstrations for retrieving feedbacks. 

If you would want to get more details on the methodologies and relevant frameworks, feel free to check out this video about Choosing the best methodology for a project.


I guess you know that Agile is an iterative continuous delivery process when the product is delivered in stages, sprints, or iterations. Here we see that project stages are repeating continuously. But is it about all of the stages?

What I am referring to, although Agile differs from the predictive methodology significantly, in every project there are still common stages present.

Common Points

Let’s enable our imagination. You, as a Project Manager, receive a request for a new project. What are the very first steps you are going to undertake? I bet this is gathering the initial requirements, drafting the MVP description and creating a Project Charter. I have just described the brief steps of the Project initiation. And this is common to all of the projects, isn’t it. 

Next, we need to come up with the general things like scope, timeline, budget and so on. And here the slight differences might enter the game. 

Obviously, the delivery approach differs a lot. But what about the closeout? Once deployed, usually we do almost the same things for every project. When all the gaps are closed, we are transferring it to maintenance. 

And voila, everything starts at the same point and ends at the same point too. This is like when we come to the party. Each person has his / her own dance style. But in the end of the day, everybody there is to have fun.

Same is above, initiation and closure for all projects are very much common. And therefore, all the methodologies could be easily mapped onto the general Project Lifecycle scheme.

My point here is, that we need to initially understand the general basics. All the projects have similar goals and similar evaluation paths. And we can see that although there are so many differences among them. Every methodology is intended to meet the same goal. The ways they use to meet it would be the topic for another chat.


Let me know if you see any other common points within the Project Lifecycle theory? And by the way, which methodology do you prefer to utilize?