Projects differ significantly across industries and organizations, and what works well for one project can be ineffective for another. That’s why there’s a variety of project management methodologies each of which is suitable for specific projects and/or industries.
In a nutshell, a project management methodology is a set of principles, processes, and techniques applied to guide a project toward successful completion. Combining it with the right project management software features, you can achieve excellent results thanks to getting the whole project team on the same page, comprehensive control over the workflow, identifying and eliminating bottlenecks, increasing the efficiency of the processes, and more.
So, what PM methodologies are there and how to choose an appropriate one for your project? Let’s take a closer look.
Waterfall is one of the most traditional approaches to managing projects. It’s a linear methodology that breaks a project down into several phases. Each phase starts after the previous one is completed, and you can’t return to the previous phase.
As a result, you proceed from one phase to another until the project is finished. It’s mostly suitable for manufacturing and construction projects – their specificity requires getting the work done as a sequence of phases. Also, it’s rather good for small projects whose scope and requirements are clear from the beginning and aren’t going to vary significantly
The main advantage of this methodology is that it has clear and simple structure and is rather predictable. However, Waterfall doesn’t imply any clients’ (or users’) involvement in project implementation and isn’t flexible, which means that unexpected events or changes can derail the project.
Critical path analysis
This methodology implies identifying and scheduling all the critical tasks of the project, i.e., those assignments that need to be completed to achieve a project’s goal. You should also take into account dependencies between these tasks and estimate each of them. The longest sequence of critical tasks is called the critical path. The sum of all these tasks’ duration will determine the whole project’s timeline. If one of the critical tasks is delayed, it will lead to missing the due date of a project.
The advantage of this methodology is that it involves creating a clear structure of a project with all the tasks and dependencies as well as a strict schedule. However, it’s not flexible enough – in real life, there are plenty of things that affect the workflow and cause delays, which makes following the strict schedule of the critical path a little bit unrealistic.
Critical chain project management
Critical chain project management is an advanced version of the critical path. It was created on the basis of E. Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints that aims to identify bottlenecks or limiting factors that prevent the project team from achieving the goal. In addition to determining critical tasks of a project and the dependencies between them, this methodology takes resource availability into account.
One of the distinctive features of the critical chain methodology is that it involves adding several buffers that will enable successful project completion even if some unexpected events occur (for example, adding a time buffer will protect a project’s due date against a delay in case of contingencies).
Therefore, this methodology is more realistic than the critical path. Besides, it contributes to more efficient resource utilization and helps keep a project afloat among uncertainties and risks.
PRINCE 2 stands for Projects in Controlled Environments. Initially, this process-oriented methodology was developed for managing IT projects. It divides a project into several stages and requires thorough initial planning, clear structure of each stage, and control over them.
PRINCE 2 is based on 7 principles, 7 roles, and 7 processes.
The principles behind the methodology are as follows:
- Each project should have business justification;
- The project team should learn from every step of a project;
- The project work in planned in stages;
- There should be clearly defined roles and responsibilities;
- Senior executives manage by exception (delegate daily oversight to project managers);
- Constant focus on quality;
- Tailoring the methodology to each particular project.
The main advantage of PRINCE 2 is that it’s very detailed, which is good for large projects with high levels of predictability. At the same time, it can be too complex and laborious for small initiatives and is rather deterministic.
Agile is an iterative approach to managing projects that was initially intended for handling software development projects. The methodology breaks projects down into small phases that usually last for no more than several weeks. These iterations enable frequent value delivery based on regular customer’s feedback.
Agile methodology is based on the specific principles and values listed in the Agile Manifesto, e.g.:
- Frequent delivery of working software;
- Customer satisfaction is the highest priority;
- Welcoming changing requirements, and more.
Therefore, such an approach makes it possible to deliver user-centric products within a short time period, which is the main advantage of this flexible methodology. But at the same time, Agile has certain limitations – e.g., due to frequent changes, the possibility of scope creep becomes higher, and it can be difficult to predict what the final project outcome will be.
Agile methodology has several variations. Scrum and Kanban are the most popular ones. Let’s take a closer look at them.
Scrum is the most widely practiced Agile software development framework which has its specific values, philosophy, theory, and structure. According to this methodology, the work is divided into sprints – the development cycles lasting for 2-4 weeks. Every day, the team members have stand-ups where they report on their progress. Each sprint finishes with a retrospective where the results of the work done are analyzed.
The key points of Scrum methodology are as follows:
- cross-functional teams work together as a single unit;
- close communication and interaction;
- no need for large amount of documentation;
- completing smaller parts of the whole work during fixed periods.
Scrum is focused on continuous improvement, which may appear to be its disadvantage – the borders of the final product as well as the whole project’s timeline and budget become blurred, which can lead to scope creep, project delay, and cost overrun.
Kanban is one of the Agile frameworks that is focused on improving workflows by means of reducing inefficiencies and avoiding bad multitasking. Like any Agile framework, it implies a high level of customers involvement, constant collaboration and improvement.
What is special about it is that it visualizes the workflow by categorizing the tasks and placing them on the Kanban boards (To-Do, In Progress, Completed). In contrast to Scrum, Kanban doesn’t have specific ceremonies and roles but is adapted to the existing environment.
The methodology is based on four principles:
- Start with now (focus on their current work);
- Take an incremental approach;
- Focus on the existing roles;
- Promote leadership (encouraging team members act as leaders).
Also, the methodology embraces several core pactiсes which among other things require visualizing the workflow and limiting the amount of work in progress.
The main advantage of the methodology is that it increases the efficiency of the workflow and prevents the team members from bad multitasking and overloading. But its simplicity can be inappropriate for large and complex projects. It also doesn’t provide any timeframes, which can create additional difficulties for workflow management.
Initially, Lean was developed for Japanese car manufacturing companies. With time, it has evolved into a project management methodology that focuses on productivity achieved thanks to determining the value and eliminating waste. According to it, you can do more with less if you eliminate three dysfunctions that generate waste. They are called 3Ms:
- Muda involves eliminating waste – everything that won’t add value to the customer;
- Mura is about making away with variations;
- Muri implies getting rid of overload as a main factor that can hamper the workflow and generate additional risks.
In common with Agile, Lean is more than just a methodology but is rather a mindset focused on increasing the efficiency of processes. However, its application can run not as smoothly as it’s expected – strictly following the Lean principles can be challenging for some organizations.
How to choose a proper PM methodology
As we see, no methodology is a one-size-fits-all solution and each of them will work well under the right circumstances. Here are the things you should take into account when choosing the right project management methodology:
- The degree of project complexity and the project scope;
- The size of a company and its organizational culture (its adaptability to changes);
- The degree of user involvement;
- A methodology’s alignment with the values of a company and the project team;
- The industry a company works in;
- Project management experience and methodologies used previously;
- A project’s goals and objectives, the final deliverable;
- Possible risks.
This list can go on, but the main point to keep in mind is that the selection of a specific project management methodology should be based on a comprehensive analysis of a great number of factors that can make a break the success of its application.
In addition to selecting the right methodology for your projects, it’s highly recommended to select an effective software solution. For example, Epicflow which is a resource management tool designed for work in a multi-project environment. It’s flexible, compatible with almost any methodology, and focused on the seamless orchestration of multiple projects and efficient utilization of their shared resources.
Epicflow prevents the team members from bad multitasking and overload, lets them focus on the highest priority work, detects bottlenecks that hamper the flow, and is adaptable to changes.