Hardware development with Waterfall/V-model

February 25, 2015

Hardware-development-Wafterfall-V-Model-336x336 Hardware development with Waterfall/V-model agile blog In most cases hardware components are still developed by Waterfall/V-model, while software components are developed by using an Agile approach. Let’s have a quick insight into the Waterfall/V-model.

Basics of Waterfall/V-model development model

The Waterfall methodology (V-model) is widely accepted as being the first comprehensive design methodology (framework) and has been in use since the 1960’s for large scale projects, most notably by IBM in the early days. Continual refinement of the Waterfall approach by companies like Microsoft has meant that it is still in use today and in many different variations. However fundamental deficiencies in the Waterall approach remain and a lack of process management has resulted in many organisations looking for alternative solutions to become more Agile.

Typically the Waterfall methodology is used to develop large scale projects of multi-year duration and has been used extensively in both the defence and the space industries as well as commercial projects. A pure Waterfall model works well in situations where the original design and requirements are unlikely to change and where engineers need to predict how the different parts of a system might interact; such as in hardware development. Each part of the overall system is developed independently and in parallel with the final integration occurring during the last phase of the project, only after each piece has been tested and debugged by the developing team.

There are a number of different variations of the Waterfall/V-model, however typically the phases of development flow from the initial high level requirements definition down through to the eventual integration and release.

v-model-illustration Hardware development with Waterfall/V-model agile blog

The phases of development with Waterfall/V-model are as follows:

  1. Requirements Analysis – Critical to delivery of an end product that meets the requirements of the client is the collection of product feature requirements and prioritizing these requirements, transforming them into project demands
  2. Design – System architectural plans, defining both hardware and software elements, taking into consideration the system capacity
  3. Implementation – Product build
  4. Testing – Independently tested
  5. Installation – Once tested and vetted it is approved to distribute to customer for intallation + testing
  6. Maintenance – Typically performance related improvements

One of the greatest strengths of the Waterfall methodology is also its Achilles heel: the upfront design can be a big problem. Firstly an upfront design involves the assumption that the design is what the product will be. While it does ensure the development project is well defined and therefore reduces the chance of problems arising later, it completely ignores the fact that most companies don’t know what they want at the beginning of a project. The Waterfall methodology does not manage changing requirements well, which is why it is best suited to projects where requirements are unlikely to change.

Waterfall/V-model, Agile or Agile-Waterfall Hybrid?

It is often a question which methodology to use. Developing with Waterfall/V-model enables us to see the deliverable results at the end of the whole cycle and therefore it is often used by developing hardware components. Agile can greatly shorten the delivery time, and collect feedback in early stages to better fulfill the requirements and therefore Agile is mainly used for software development. If you are not sure what to use, you can start with an Agile-Waterfall Hybrid method. The Agile-Waterfall Hybrid solution can help you to shorten design, analysis and planning, but define project frames – including budget and time of delivery, as well as compliance with standards. Working with Agile-Waterfall Hybrid, your team might need strong collaboration and probably some training to understand the fundamentals of both methodologies.

codeBeamer ALM supports Agile, Waterfall and Agile-Waterfall Hybrid development. Whichever method you choose to use, codeBeamer ALM software is a suitable platform for your development projects.


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Eva Johnson

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Eva is an Economist (MSc) and also holds an MBA in Marketing Communications. She has over 10 years of experience in journalism, digital media communication and project management working with several multinational companies and governmental institutions. You will find her blogs posts on a variety of subjects from Agile-Waterfall Hybrid, Scrum to DevOps.

Eva Johnson has written 131 posts for Intland Software.

2 Comments. Leave new

. . . or you can introduce lean-agile practices at the start of a HW/SW project in a phased implementation. This avoids the inevitable clash between a networked project and a hierarchical project that occurs in an Agile-Waterfall hybrid. There are several successful lean-agile phased implementation models for HW/SW projects. Each phase delivers measurable benefits while staging the team for success at the next phase. The successful phased implementations include all the functional groups involved in defining, delivering, deal making and the deal (selected customers) at the outset of the project. This eliminate the need for a hybrid.


Dear Mark,

I am sure you can elminiate the need for a hybrid by using the suggested Lean-Agile practices at the start of a HW/SW project in a phased implementation but I wanted to focus mainly on Waterfall in this article. We are going to have great discussion about Agile, Waterfall and A/W Hybrid:https://intland.com/webinar/development-with-agile-waterfall-and-agile-waterfall-hybrid/

Please feel free to join.



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