May 02

Over the past fifteen years, Project Management has migrated from the construction and technology industries into virtually all other business sectors. Projects help achieve goals and results through a measured and strategic process, allowing stakeholders to define the deadline and budget by larger business objectives. This transition reflects a growing concern over project success rates and awareness that there are better, more advantageous and more effective Project Management practices than many organisations currently use. 

On the whole, utilising the project structure is an excellent way for businesses to track and manage resources while reaching business objectives. However, project failure can run rampant in certain industries, especially IT. One way project managers attempt to mitigate project failure is by structuring their approach through a formal Project Management methodology. 

What is a Project Management Methodology and Why is it Important 

Before discussing the individual methodologies, it is beneficial to understand exactly what a Project Management methodology is and why it is fundamental to the effective management of every project. 

The Project Management Institute defines Project Management methodology as “a system of practices, techniques, procedures and rules used by those who work in any discipline.” However, a methodology must also have something that defines why we use it and certain specifications that define a speciality of approach. 

As many different projects exist, there are many other ways we can deliver them, and these are largely defined by our choices in methodology—how different principles, frameworks, and processes are applied and how these applications provide structure to our project success. 

There is a lot of theoretical debate within the Project Management industry on what exactly a Project Management methodology is. Some Project Management methodologies define a core set of principles, like Agile, whereas others detail a “full stack” methodology of the standardised tenets and processes, such as Prince2. Some are extensive in their list of standards, and some are incredibly light, like Scrum. Realistically, in practice, most active project managers would define a methodology as a best practice framework utilised to get the project successfully finished, within budget and on time. 

Reasons Why a Formal Project Management Methodology Should be Used 

Formal Project Management methodologies offer a strict structure through which to operate a project. The benefits of this approach are that at every stage of the project, its progress can be easily measured and assessed by a timeline, budget, and result outlined at its outset. Especially useful in more prominent organisations, where large teams will be attributed to project completion, Project Management methodologies call for a system of universal procedures, processes, and justifications to be placed, regulating against rogue decisions and potential overspending. 

Without a Project Management methodology, money, time, roles, and responsibilities are used and defined as each team member or project manager sees fit, which can lead to vastly different ideas on a project's goal outcome. 

Factors to Consider When Selecting a Project Management Methodology 

Although Project Management experts universally agree that the majority of projects benefit when a recognised methodology is utilised, each Project Management methodology has its advantages and disadvantages. Different projects inevitably benefit from other methods. To ensure that your Project Management methodology will directly benefit your project, the advantages and applications of the individual methods must be aligned with the objectives of your Project Management plan and your project team, business and industry overall.  

Just as businesses vary in size and many other factors, so do Project Management methodologies. Finding your business’s perfect match can vastly improve your project team’s communication, productivity, and overall performance. When determining which Project Management methodology fits you, consider the following factors against the methods outlined below. 

  • Organisational goals 
  • Core values 
  • Project constraints 
  • Project stakeholders 
  • Project size 
  • Cost of the project 
  • Ability to take risks 
  • Need for flexibility 

The 5 Most Popular Project Management Methodologies 

The number of acronyms and abbreviations related to Project Management methodologies can seem like a whole other language, leaving you spending more time deciphering the names than the methodologies themselves. To add to the confusion, only some Project Management styles will work for some assignments. You must be familiar with these standard project methodologies and their differences to recognise which method will work best for your project. We’ve broken down the five most popular and diverse Project Management methodologies to give you a brief overview of your potential training options or project approaches. 

 Waterfall vs Agile Project Management 

The Waterfall vs Agile debate permeates through most discussions about Project Management methodologies and is, in some ways, a case of the traditional vs the modern approach to Project Management. The Waterfall methodology is one of the oldest approaches to Project Management. However, it is still widely used and takes on the more classical form of a sequential project structure. Split into separate steps, from the planning until the final delivery, each stage of the project under Waterfall is only begun after the completion of the previous step, and it does not typically allow for a return or backpedal once a step has been completed. Project requirements are usually defined at the beginning, with little to no alterations to the plan unless necessary. Due to its nature, it is most commonly utilised in managing large projects with multiple stakeholders or projects involving established and predictable processes and solutions. 

Agile Project Management has grown in popularity in recent decades, especially within software development. In contrast to Waterfall, Agile methodology consists of multiple project cycles, or “sprints,” and focuses on adaptability enforced by constant project feedback. As small components of the overall objective are planned and actioned in an iterative process, Agile methodology is easily adjusted, even mid-project, if new information comes to light. It is ideal for projects with high uncertainty or constantly changing requirements of the final deliverable. 

Overview of PRINCE2 Project Management Methodology 

PRojects In Controlled Environments (more commonly known as PRINCE2) is one of the most widely practised and highly regarded Project Management methodologies. Practised in over 150 countries and endorsed and created by the British Government in 1996, PRINCE2 is widely recognised as the industry standard. 

The overall structure of PRINCE2 is split into three different subsections, focusing on the seven principles of the project plan, the seven roles to be delegated in each project and a 7 phase process to take the project through from its inception to its completion. Despite being one of the most equally complex and thorough Project Management methodologies, PRINCE2 is highly scalable. It can be adapted to many applications and environments and tailored to more simple or complex project requirements. 

Equally, PRINCE2 is one of the only Project Management methodologies to require training, accreditation and constant certification. Reflecting the structure it implements, where the management layer is separated from the work layer to create specialist work, PRINCE2 qualifications come in a range of hierarchical courses, dependent on current Project Management experience and future management aspirations. 

Overview of Critical Path Project Management Methodology 

The critical path is a step-by-step method that works well for projects with interdependent tasks. 

Under the methodology, work is broken down using a structure that tracks the timeline concerned with the completion of the dependencies, milestones, and deliverables. With a heavy emphasis on task duration, activities have their urgency calculated by how quickly or otherwise a task can be accomplished. Due to this, it is most often used by scientists or manufacturers. 

By measuring and prioritising the most durational tasks first, project managers can complete tasks quicker and communicate a clearly defined measure of the overall project length to stakeholders and project sponsors. 

Overview of Six Sigma Project Management Methodology 

Motorola was the original developer of the Six Sigma Project Management style, creating it in response to achieving a 10X reduction in product failure levels in 5 years. With the overall goal of reducing waste, improving project processes, and increasing profits, Six Sigma is, at its core, a very consumer-focused model of Project Management methodology. 

The key concept behind Six Sigma is to identify and measure the number of defects in a process in order to figure out how to eliminate them and get as close to zero defects in a project or as close to perfection as possible. As such, it is an extremely data-driven and analytical management method, with three essential components to take a project from the planning stage through to completion. 

  • The first component is DMAIC: define, measure, analyse, improve, control 
  • The second is DMADV: define, measure, analyse, design, and verify 
  • The third is DFSS (Design for Six Sigma), which can include the other processes mentioned. 

There is no one best fit; your choice in Project Management methodology should be based on the number of variables shared between the style of the methodology and the ideal structure and objectives of your project plan. Choosing the correct fit for your project can significantly reduce the project failure rate and improve your chances of getting your project under budget and on time.