IT project management methods – traditional, called cascade

Project management methods in IT are divided into traditional (cascade) and modern (agile). Read about traditional methods such as Waterfall or PRINCE2.

Currently, there are many project management models in the world and different methods of their implementation. Looking at the types of management methodologies, including in the IT field, one can see that some are just a set of principles, others set a framework based on themes or processes. Some define process standards extensively, and others describe the process itself. How to accurately identify the methodology and choose the optimal one for the project?

It is good if project managers know all the methods so that they have a picture of which one will work best for the project. It may turn out that you can combine different practices to take into account everything that it requires.

Knowledge of methods can result in the optimization of profits, but also neutralize risk and potential failure. It will help to stay in line with the company's standards and goals, human potential, and resources.

While choosing methodology one should keep in mind the following factors:

  • The difficulty, i.e., simplicity or complexity of the project – refers to both the project itself and the needs of the client, available resources, time, tools and people.
  • The characteristics of the work environment – if it is dynamic with an appetite for evolution and change, an agile methodology will work; if the work is done according to strict requirements, schedule and budget, a cascade approach is better. It is worth asking yourself whether your organisation is to be rigid or flexible.
  • The value of a company and customer relations – the method should be in harmony with the company's strategic goals, taking care of the most significant benefit with minimal loss.
  • Organisational value and team potential – good relations within the project team and its motivation can shape a genuinely sustainable methodology.

Tradition or modernity?

According to current trends, the methodologies are divided into traditional (cascade) and modern (agile). Many projects related to software development appreciate a flexible approach, i.e., the ones that can be adapted to changing circumstances have no strict assumptions, time, and budget. On the other hand, traditional project management works well in conditions of high predictability, the company's stability, and customer awareness of their own expectations. And although the balance of interest currently tilts in favor of the former method, both should be known. At the beginning, traditional methods will be discussed. These are Waterfall, Prince2 or PMBOK.


The classic waterfall (cascade) methodology is based on a precise plan and rigorous implementation of its stages. It favors those factors which make it possible to define the principles of the project from the beginning. It focuses on maintaining the project in an organized and controlled state throughout the entire period, resulting in the delivery of the project in one cycle. Its implementation is carried out in a strict order, according to requirements and limitations.

The classic scheme is divided into several stages and includes, among others, requirements analysis, design, implementation, testing, and maintenance.

In this model, each phase must be completed before the next one begins. There is no overlapping of phases – usually, the result of one phase works sequentially as an input to the next. It works best for projects where its final result or shape can be well defined. And as long as the requirements are clearly established, well documented, and the technology is understandable and mature, the project can succeed.

This method is ideal for large projects that have tight budgets and limited time. By smaller agencies, such a work cycle can be seen as passive and, consequently, long. It, therefore, has its advantages and disadvantages.


  • emphasis on precise target setting;
  • control and predictable design steps;
  • clear, accessible and up-to-date documentation;
  • generally short and closed cycle;
  • no additional loss (as well as benefits) for contractors;
  • gives a predictable end result for budget, schedule, and scope;
  • eliminates waste of effort, time, and cost.


  • it leaves no space for indirect verification, an adjustment in case of unexpected circumstances;
  • after reaching the testing stage, it is challenging to go back and change something that was not well designed at the planning stage;
  • critical necessary changes require special motions to allow that changes;
  • there is nothing to show the customer during the work – the customer has the first contact with the system he has ordered on the date specified as the delivery date.

Other methodologies used by companies and institutions for large projects include PRINCE2, which is suitable for projects in many different industries, not just IT, and PMBOK, a collection of good management practices in IT projects.

PMBOK/PMI – traditional method of IT projects management


PMBOK, or Project Management Body of Knowledge, of PMI, is considered a traditional project management method due to its precise plan and cycle. It refers to the cascade stages: initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing. The stages maintain a constant order; each step must be finalized before proceeding to the next.

In fact, you cannot run a finished PMBOK project without using its standards, universal language, and best practices around the project. For this reason, it is not even considered a methodology. In essence, it provides a framework for standards, processes, best practices, terminology, and guidelines through which you can monitor and evaluate how the project is run or the methodology used.

PMBOK/PMI – traditional method of IT projects management

PMBOK practices are useful as a basis, and to implement them as a methodology, it is necessary to define when, by whom, and to what extent they will be applied. It is also worth considering the organisation's structure, its management method, and workflow, i.e., adjusting the general foundations of PMBOK to specific circumstances.

Comparing PMBOK with PRINCE2 can be considered as a tool complementary to each other.


Prince2 – traditional method of IT projects management

Just like Waterfall, PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) is a cascade management methodology. It is based on controlled project management, which leaves nothing to chance. As an accurate methodology, PRINCE2 is an excellent tool to run large, predictable projects.

It is process-oriented, dividing projects into stages, each with its own plan and process. It emphasizes developing a good business case, clear roles, and responsibilities. It also defines useful management of change and risk management. Project documentation usually includes a justification of a clear need for the project, characteristics of the target customer, description of real benefits, and precise cost assessment. The PRINCE2 methodology defines the exact stages of the project life cycle:

  • starting – submitting a project application and presenting details;
  • initiation – project assessment and business justification;
  • strategic management – defining the project scope, budget, and schedule;
  • stage control – the project manager supervises and corrects the course of action;
  • product manufacturing management – project evaluation based on results;
  • stage scope management – project evaluation according to a defined schedule;
  • closing – project delivery and submission of final reports.

Fully compliant with PRINCE2 recommendations, it requires the creation and maintenance of a large number of project documentation, regular meetings at various levels of the organization, and continuous handling of defined processes. At the same time, it explains well to the client what will be delivered and focuses on project profitability. It clearly defines roles and responsibilities. Just like PMBOK, it formulates precise vocabulary that can be applied to other methodologies. Although the rules and topics are well structured, the process can be labour-intensive and cumbersome for small projects.

In the traditional solutions discussed above, project management is based on a rational, predictable, and planned structure. The next text will describe modern methods, called agile, starting with the one that started it all – Agile. If you want to receive an information about the Agile articles publication, subscribe to our newsletter!

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