To many, project management methodologies is little more than a mouthful to say. Often they see it as something that goes on behind the curtains or runs silently in the background.
Really, though, it is the secret sauce that makes the final product or deliverable all that much better.
And yet, even now, you may be asking yourself,
“Do I really need project management? What’s the difference between it and putting together a quick list of things that need to be done?”
To start, there is a lot more that goes into ensuring you complete a project on time, on budget and with the desired result than simply checking items off a list.
Add in a complex network of team members and departments, multiple final deliverables, a strict budget, limited resources, etc., and the path to smoothly completing your project becomes much more complex.
Using a project management (PM) methodology to drive the project along a structured process helps you verify that everyone is aware of responsibilities, deadlines and available resources.
It helps ensure that one team member’s ability to deliver their portion of the project doesn’t hold up another aspect, allowing the project to be completed without disrupting the overall business organization.
Before we get too far into some of the primary methodologies used (and when to use them), however, it’s important to differentiate between two common terms: methodology and framework.
This is a way of doing something that has a defined set of rules, methods, deliverables, processes, etc. – all of which are designed to solve a specific problem.
When you have a methodology in place, it means you have put in place a strategy that is well defined and repeatable.
This is the path to becoming a methodology. A framework offers structure for a certain way of doing something without being too detailed or strict.
While it provides guidance on the method, it offers the flexibility needed to adapt to changing circumstances or be customized based on your company’s needs.
Primary Methodologies Used Today
When it comes to secret sauces (and PM methodologies), you aren’t constrained to just the house flavor. Instead, you have a buffet of choices. There tends to be five categories of PM methodologies that you might employ at one point or another, based on your specific needs and requirements.
It is also important to make sure that the project management software you choose supports your selected project management method.
A traditional method, Waterfall is often considered one of the easiest methodologies to understand. It involves outlining all the steps in the project and determining the project’s scope, budget and schedule before it starts.
2. Critical Path Method (CPM) or Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM)
Also part of the traditional/sequential family, CPM and CCPM focus on the resources needed to complete the most essential/high-priority tasks and then building the project schedule and delegating resources around those items.
3. Agile Family
Developed in 2001, the Agile methodology has four frameworks that can be used for implementing the Agile values (i.e., Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming (XP) and Adaptive Project Framework (APF)).
When using this methodology, the project’s objective is identified from the start, but the final deliverable can change and/or be modified to best meet the customer’s needs.
4. Change Management Methodologies
These methodologies focus on the possible risks that could arise during the course of the project and creating plans for what to do when they occur. It also involves focusing on how one can best adapt and take control when change does occur.
5. Process-Based Methodologies
Often seen as more of a business project management, these methodologies view the work that needs to be completed as a collection of processes that can be streamlined and aligned with overarching strategic objectives.
Other common PM methodologies include PRiSM (Projects Integrating Sustainable Methods) and PRINCE2 (Project in Controlled Environments).
PRiSM is an efficient, repeatable process used for large-scale projects where environmental sustainability is essential. On the other hand, PRINCE2 is a very structured methodology where the project is heavily controlled and planned before it even starts.
Where to Begin? Choosing the Right Methodology for You
The ability to identify a method that takes into account the needs of your project and your team is often the first step in selecting the PM methodology that is the right fit for you.
From there, you should consider what past processes have worked for your team and resulted in success, as well as if there are ways to incorporate those aspects into the chosen methodology.
Overall, the path to finding the right combination of steps (or ingredients – remember, we’re making a secret sauce) is trying something new and adjusting as needed so you can achieve strong communication and deliver a quality product.
To start, we recommend asking yourself these questions:
1) Do you need to complete a sequence of specific tasks and/or run projects sequentially? Do you need to complete the final product by a specific date and within budget?
If YES, ideal methods would be Waterfall (works well for final deliverables that are a physical object with definite materials, such as construction and software development); and CPM (used for construction, software development, research projects, engineering and product development).
2) Do you need collaboration and reiteration through the project? Are these the most valuable aspects for the team/final outcome?
If YES, ideal methods would be from the Agile family: Scrum (the simplest Agile method, it is ideal for product creation); Kanban (a visual Agile method, it is used frequently with digital projects); XP (another framework of the Agile family, it is ideal for projects with shifting requirements and continuous feedback); and APF (the fourth Agile framework, this method adapts the process to project goals).
3) Do you need to focus on potential risks that could derail a project? Do you need to have strategies in place for maintaining control and getting the project done?
If YES, ideal methods would be Event Chain Methodology (ECM) (ideal for projects where there are many outside events that can affect the project schedule); Extreme Project Management (XPM) (used for very short projects); and PRiSM (typically used for large-scale real estate development or construction/infrastructure projects).
4) Do you need to apply new processes and/or ways of working to your project?
If YES, ideal methods would be Lean (a way to do more with less, it is ideal for rapid development of a minimum-viable product); Six Sigma (a data-driven method that is adopted by many manufacturing organizations); and PRINCE2 (used for projects that are tightly controlled and planned before they start).
That’s Not All! Less Common Methodologies to Try
While the items listed above are some of the most common methodologies used, there are other varieties out there for you to try:
6. Adaptive Software Development
Based on the work that needs to be completed, the processes are continually adapted to fit the project’s overall needs.
7. Benefits Realization
This methodology focuses on whether or not the final deliverables satisfy the customer’s expectations of the benefits they will receive.
Part of the Agile methodology, Crystal focuses on the team members and their interactions instead of the tools and processes.
9. Dynamic Systems Development (DSDM)
While DSDM borrows from the Agile methodology, it defines a few items before the project starts: cost, quality and time requirements. It then prioritizes tasks throughout the project in order to meet the final deadline.
10. Feature Driven Development (FDD)
FDD also uses part of the Agile method to incorporate items the customer is looking for while working in repetitive shifts. Once the primary steps are gone through and feedback received, the steps are repeated to improve the final product.
11. Lean Six Sigma
This methodology is a combination of Lean (i.e., streamlining the process with less) and Six Sigma (i.e., statistics-based method for improving process quality). Overall, one of its focuses is eliminating waste.
12. Project Management Institute (PMI)/Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK)
These are not so much methods as they are a set of standards and conventions for managing projects. Under these methodologies, the project is broken into five process groups: initiating, planning, executing, controlling and closing.
Bonus: Rational Unified Process (RUP)
This methodology’s process is typically divided into four stages – inception, elaboration, construction and transition – while simultaneously relying on three primary components. These components are the roles of involved team members, the types of products being produced and the required tasks.
In the end, determining the PM methodology that is the right fit for your needs is all about finding the best way to initiate a plan and execute projects.
And just because you find a methodology that works well for certain types of projects, doesn’t mean it will work well for all of them.
This is why it’s essential to consider certain overarching factors such as the intended outcome, type of end product, goals, people involved, preferred work methods, outside factors, etc.
Knowing the answers to these types of questions can give you a better picture of the methodology that will truly drive results.
In the end, it’s trial-and-error; it’s throwing in ingredients, mixing, tasting and tweaking until you find the secret sauce that makes every project pop and stand out from the crowd.