Project Management Methodology

Learn how leaders use specific methodologies to drive success.

Explore Project Management Software

Just because you spent a small fortune on a project management solution doesn’t mean it can solve all your strategy problems in a snap.

The project manager still decides what methodology to use -- not the software.

Project management methodology can mean a lot of things, but what it is not is a quick fix or a temporary solution to glitches, or a surefire recipe for project success.

More importantly, there is no single methodology that can be applied as a panacea to cure all of your project management problems and ensure customer satisfaction.

Understanding Project Management Methodology

Project management methodology is "a set of guidelines or principles that can be tailored and applied to a specific situation," as defined by project management guru Jason Charvat.

It is a remarkably simple definition of methodology, which many project managers approach as very complicated.

In his book on project management methodologies, he breaks down the description of project methodology even further to mean any of the following:
  • A process that documents a series of steps and procedures to bring about the successful completion of a project.
  • A defined process for accomplishing an end.
  • A series of steps through which the project progresses.
  • A collection of methods, procedures and standards that define a synthesis of engineering and management approaches designed to deliver a product, service, or solution.
  • An integrated assembly of tasks, techniques, tools, roles and responsibilities, and milestones used for delivering the project.

How Methodologies Affect Project Management

Primarily, implementing the right project management methodologies can help you achieve your business goals because they direct and maneuver projects in such a way that you ultimately deliver within specification, schedule, and cost. Without a clear methodology in place, projects are more likely to fail as there is no accurate way to measure or ascertain whether their project objectives are being met.

Project methodologies, in general, are applied in order to: (1) break down the work into phases; (2) assign resources to the various phases; (3) measure progress; (4) identify issues so that corrective measures can be taken.

Some of the benefits achieved by working with the proper methodology include:
  • Defining processes and introducing improvements
  • Providing the project with a standard and unified approach
  • Gathering and integrating metrics
  • Managing complex situations
  • Supplying proper documentation for every phase
  • Providing reference for review in future projects

All team members should become familiar with the chosen methodology and be adept in using it, since the methodology serves as a guide to the project throughout its entire life cycle.

Ultimately, methodology is implemented with one main purpose in mind: to help the project manager coordinate the activities and timetable of his project team.

Project managers also have to bear in mind that they are not only addressing a single project. At any given time, there will be several other projects going on simultaneously in different phases, all competing for the same time and resources. You need to be practical and well-informed in finding the one that will help you manage projects more effectively.

Choosing the Right Project Methodology

Experienced project managers can attest that there is no “magic” methodology that works for all projects in all industries. However, you can select features of various project methodologies, then customize and implement them to meet the requirements of your particular project.

The most important consideration in choosing a methodology is to ask how it enables the organization to achieve its business objectives and roll out successful projects.

In exploring options, project managers should keep an eye on which methodology contributes directly to efficient project management. Does it help safeguard costs and preserve the project schedule? Can it identify and correct errors before they escalate? Will it help avoid costly mistakes? Does it allow for proper documentation?

Project management is more than just meeting deadlines. The main role of a project manager is to provide leadership in hurdling and resolving challenges that are faced from day to day even by projects in controlled environments. Thus, leaders would rely on proven and tested methodologies to help them handle their complex responsibilities with less effort and greater control.

A few important considerations in picking the right project management methodology include:
  • Is the project simple or complex?
  • What is the size of your team?
  • Will the work environment be rigid or flexible?
  • Are your deadlines fixed or variable?
  • What are your organizational goals?

5 Most Commonly Used Methodologies

There are no right or wrong methodologies. You just have to choose the one that will deliver the most value to your organization, your project team, and your client.

Here is a brief recap of five methodologies that are most commonly used by professional services organizations:

1. Waterfall

Considered the granddaddy of modern project management methodologies, the Waterfall methodology is the most straightforward, linear, and uncomplicated of the lot. It’s called a “waterfall” because the phases of the project flow in a cascading motion. In essence, each phase has to be successfully completed before moving to another. Everything moves toward a single, downward direction. One of the most common examples of the waterfall methodology that is widely observed in project management is the use of Gantt charts.

Best used for:

Just like the method itself, Waterfall is ideal for clear-cut projects with fixed deadlines and predictable activities. All the tasks are visible at a single glance and you can simply soldier on toward your deadline. While most commonly used for software development, the Waterfall methodology also works well in manufacturing, construction, and other projects that have short deadlines, fixed requirements, and are highly structured. Some of its features (like the Gantt chart) have also been adapted and modified by latter methodologies. Since Waterfall also depends on detailed documentation, changing resources can be easier since the replacement can simply review the records and pick-up from where the other left off.

2. Agile

Experts continue to argue on whether Agile is more of a framework or a methodology. Nevertheless, it is almost always listed among the most popular project methodologies. Agile methodology, as the name suggests, is swift, flexible, iterative, and adaptive. It found its early niche in software development, which required a methodology that could support the quick and continuous evolution of its products. Its principles have since been adapted to other industries, and have also provided a foundation for other methodologies, such as Scrum.

The main idea behind Agile is to be responsive to change in a volatile development environment. It espouses a set of 12 principles that revolve around: promoting customer satisfaction embracing change even late in the project phase, early delivery, collaboration between the client and the project development team, trusting individuals and not micromanaging, effective communication, attention to details, simplicity, and empowering teams.

Best used for:

Agile methodology is best for projects that carry certain levels of uncertainty, like having no fixed deadlines or predetermined product in mind. Its flexibility fuels innovation, collaboration, and communication – one of the reasons it works well in software development and technology, as well as in other fast-paced industries such as marketing and creatives.

3. Scrum

An off-shoot of the Agile methodology, Scrum focuses on delivering the business value in the shortest time. As a product development strategy, Scrum is composed of values, team roles, and rituals used together to accomplish iterative work. The Scrum values are courage, focus, commitment, respect, and openness.

The term “scrum” is taken from rugby and is used to denote an emphasis on teamwork. A team is composed of the Scrum master, the product owner, and the development team. They work together in cyclical periods --- or “sprints – in which they focus on a single goal. As applied by most organizations, it works best in teams of no more than 10 people working on two-week cycles.

Best used for:

Scrum has been applied across many industries and businesses that require flexibility and adaptability. It works best in iterative development projects. Because of the lean and mean nature of its roles, it is advised to put together team members who are experienced, disciplined, motivated, and responsible, as Scrum roles need to be adhered to strictly for the undertaking to succeed.

4. Kanban

As a project management methodology, Kanban relies on a visual approach in which each task is represented by a “card.” The cards are then organized on a Kanban board that reflects the current status of the task, making the workflow and progress visible to all the team members. With its name derived from the Japanese word that means “billboard,” Kanban tools and methods have been adapted for visual planning boards in today’s project management software.

Best used for:

Initially developed for the software and manufacturing needs, the Kanban method has since been adapted for marketing, human resources, organizational planning, and even basic accounting requirements. Any team that wants to visualize its workflow around the traditional status of to-do, doing, and done can benefit from Kanban tools, with its ability to drag and drop cards, as well as to customize work status columns. It is ideal for small, flexible projects that do not require much iteration of tasks.

5. Lean

Lean methodology encourages the practice of continuous improvement in the creation process and upholds the fundamental concept of respect for people by giving high value to the stakeholder. This method operates around five principles that basically revolve around:
  • Determining what is the customer willing to pay for
  • Finding out what the customer really wants
  • Adopting strategies can make the value-added product flow continuously
  • Creating products when they are needed to limit inventory
  • Constantly improving processes

As a PM methodology, Lean can help any organization boost innovation by increasing customer satisfaction, reducing the consumption of resources, finding more efficient ways to eliminate waste, and constantly improving processes.

Best used for:

The Lean method works best for organizations that deliver products and services that puts customers first. While originally created for manufacturing, Lean has found popularity in software development, construction, education, and various start-ups. It is also ideal for small teams working within a shorter time frame, or bigger projects where Lean can be used as a strategy for streamlining the work.

Power Your Methodology with Award-Winning PM Software

These are just a few of the more commonly used project management methodologies, particularly by organizations engaged in creatives, technology, and consultancy services.

There are so much more methodologies to choose from but they all share the same purpose – to help you deliver projects on time, on spec, and on budget.

Whatever methodology works best for you, Mavenlink’s award-winning project management software will empower you to continually improve project performance and help your business prosper.

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