Which Project Management Methodology is Right For Me?

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

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

What is a Project Management Methodology and Why is it Important

Before breaking the individual methodologies down, it is beneficial to understand exactly what a project management methodology is and why they are so fundamental to the effective management of every project.

The Project Management Institute’s definition of project management methodology is, “a system of practices, techniques, procedures and rules used by those who work in any discipline,” but a methodology must also have something that defines why we utilise it, certain specifications that define a speciality of approach.

As much as there are many different projects, there are many different 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 the way we deliver 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 simply define a core set of principles, like Agile, whereas others detail a “full stack” methodology of standardised principles and processes, such as Prince2. Some are extensive in their list of standards, and some are extremely 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 being that at every stage of the project its progress can be easily measured and assessed in accordance with a timeline, budget and result outlined at its outset. Especially useful in bigger organisations, where large teams will be attributed to the completion of a project, 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 goal project 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 it’s own advantages and disadvantages, and different projects inevitably benefit from different methodologies. To ensure that your project management methodology is going to directly benefit your project, it is imperative that the advantages and applications of the individual methodology are aligned with, not only the objectives of your project management plan, but your project team, business and industry overall.Just as businesses vary in size, and many other factors, so do project management methodologies, and finding your business’ perfect match can vastly improve your project team’s communication, productivity and performance overall. When determining which project management methodology is the right fit for you, consider some of the following factors against the methodologies outlined below.

●     Organizational 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 on deciphering the names than the methodologies themselves. To add to the confusion, not every style of project management will work for every assignment. In order to recognize which method will work best for your project, you need to be familiar with these common project methodologies and their differences.We’ve broken down the five most popular, and most 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, very much a case of the traditional vs the modern approach to project management.The Waterfall methodology is one of the oldest approaches to project management, although it is still in wide use today, 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 absolutely necessary. Due to its nature, it is most commonly utilised in the management of large projects with multiple stakeholders, or on projects that involve 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 an 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 a high degree of 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 practiced and highly regarded project management methodologies. Practiced 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 3 different subsections, focusing on; the 7 principles of the project plan, the 7 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, and can be adapted to a multitude of applications, environments, alongside being 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, in order 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

Critical path is a step-by-step method that works well for projects that have tasks which are interdependent.

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, and due to this, is most often used by scientists or manufacturers.

By measuring and prioritising the most durational tasks first, project managers can complete tasks quicker and make use of a clearly defined measure of an overall projects length to communicate 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 10X reduction in product-failure levels in 5 years. With the overall goal to reduce waste, improve their project processes, and increase profits, Six Sigma at its core, is a very consumer focused model of project management methodology.

The key concept behind Six Sigma is to identify and measure the amount of defects there are 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, analyze, improve, control

●     The second is DMADV: define, measure, analyze, 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. By choosing the correct fit for your project, you can significantly reduce the rate of project failure and greatly improve your chances of getting your project in under budget, and on time.


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