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How to Choose a Project Management Methodology

Damon Wiliamson
Damon Wiliamson
Copywriter
August 26, 2022
20 min read
How to Choose a Project Management Methodology

As a project manager, the first thing you’re facing when starting to manage a new project is a problem of choosing a Project Management Methodology. From the beginning, your team might not even know where to start from, and the reason is an absence of a clear objective and inability to assign roles. That’s why people started to devise Project Management Methodologies or PMM.

In this article, we’re going to walk you through the definition of a project management methodology, its benefits, frameworks and some tips on how to choose and implement it for your business.

What is Project Management Methodology (PMM)

Project Management Methodology (PMM) is a set of core principles and standards for project implementation. Simply put, PMM should cover the way you’re working and the way your team is communicating with each other. All PMMs are different, but they all have one thing in common — it helps you to manage your project as effectively as possible.

Some PMMs are quite old, some of them are used in specific fields, but anyway, choosing the right one is almost a half of the success of any project.

Benefits of Using Project Management Methodologies

A workflow without any principles and methodology is a chaos. Imagine if your team didn’t know how to communicate with each other and how to focus on their tasks. Sounds like a complete mess, right? To avoid such situations, there were Project Management Methodologies created.

There is a perception that PMMs go well only for IT projects, but we think that such perception is the wrong one. Here are some benefits to show you that PMMs can be useful for any project:

  • Every team member will know its role. It’s easy to manage your team and keep them motivated when everyone knows what to do.
  • You can consider potential risks. Creating a plan, there is no problem backing up some time if something goes wrong.
  • Defined methodology can help your team to deal with their tasks more efficiently and develop their skills. Most methodologies imply specific insights, so your team has to learn something new before starting to use any of PMMs.
  • Methodology can help you to make a comprehensive plan of a workflow. As far as almost every methodology requires defined timelines, you have to calculate every step. It’s a complicated process, but no pain — no gain!

Tips For Choosing Right PMM For Your Team

You’ve decided that your team needs a Project Management Methodology, so what’s next? As it was said before, all PMMs are different, so you have to choose a proper one for your team. If you’ve never heard anything about such methodologies, there are some questions that’ll help you to figure out what kind of methodology you need:

What is the goal of the project?

The best methodology is the one that helps you to achieve the main target. If you already have a defined goal, you’d better choose a strict methodology, that’ll lead you to it step by step. But what if your end goal is abstract? In that case, you’d rather choose a more flexible methodology to have an opportunity to change something in the process of work. What’s more, flexible methodology can help you to figure out what your final result should look like if it’s not yet decided.

What is your team focusing on?

The next step is to understand the needs of your team. What are you working with? Is it IT or maybe a marketing project? Are you focusing on the main goal or on small tasks? Does your team work together or do they like to do their own tasks? Every team is different and has its values, so the final decision should be based on what your team is focusing on.

What PMM are you using right now?

Using Project Management Methodologies is a common part of a project workflow nowadays, but why if you are already using a framework and can’t achieve any particular results? Or what if your team is not satisfied with its tasks or working pace?

When you think that something is wrong — it really is, and the whole work plan has to be changed. For example, if your team can’t handle all its tasks because the situation in your project changes everyday, why not choose a more flexible methodology? Turn to another framework or even try to make a hybrid of a few of them and see what you’ll get.

How flexible are your plans, budget and team members?

Getting used to a new framework is a challenging task, especially if you’re already using one and want to replace it. Keep it in mind that it’s not easy to implement some methodologies for a particular team. You have to consider what stage of a project you are currently at or if you need to change some tasks.

Budget is a stumbling block as well, because when implementing a new framework, it also has its cost. Moreover, it can be hard for the team to quickly switch to another way of working. Anyway, the main question remains the same — is it going to help to achieve the goal?

Do you have strict deadlines?

Some PMMs are based on quick results, some of them require time to establish order throughout the project. If you have strict deadlines, predefined tasks and team members know their roles, just try to use methodologies that suit rigid systems. But don’t try to push it hard, if you have plenty of time to finish the project, a rapid development framework is not the best option. Focus on the quality, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, right?

What do you need to make everything work together?

Some projects don’t need to implement complicated frameworks, they just need to add some tricks from other approaches that already work smoothly. Don’t overload it, just give your team everything they’re required and keep going! Remember, every team is different and there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

Best Project Management Methodologies: Pros and Cons

Are you ready to deep-dive into the project managing basics? Here is our all-inclusive list of 19 most popular PM methodologies:

1. Waterfall

Waterfall is a traditional project management methodology. It’s a usual linear plan, where every stage goes one after another. The main point is that you have to complete the previous stage before starting the next one. If the stage is not completed, you can’t keep moving forward.

Mostly, Waterfall contains 6 stages:

  • Requirements.
  • Analysis.
  • Design.
  • Construction.
  • Testing.
  • Maintenance.

But don’t be deceived by this simple structure. As Waterfall was one of the first methodologies, it has its own disadvantages.

Now, let’s go through some pros and cons of Waterfall.

Pros:

  • Your team knows exactly what they want and what its final goal is.
  • You’re considering all the risks.
  • If your project is affected by a regulated industry, you always have to prepare documentation. It’s easy to manage all papers when you know all stages of a project.
  • You can quickly incorporate a new team member because it’s easy to understand what to do.
  • It’s easy to measure progress.

Cons:

  • Once the previous stage is completed, you can’t change it. It works both ways, because if you haven’t completed the stage, you can’t go to the next one.
  • It’s hard to adapt to new changes because the plan has a strict arrangement.
  • If you don’t have a whole picture of a project before starting, you can’t make Waterfall work in a proper way.
  • It’s not working with projects that have to adapt and develop through feedback.

2. Agile

Agile methodology comes from the disappointment of Waterfall and is mostly based on constant communication with users. Agile became the core of the whole family of methodologies, such as Scrum, Kanban and some other frameworks.

Since Agile was created as an opposition to Waterfall, it’s more flexible and feedback-based. Such projects do not start with a comprehensive planning, the team just splits the whole project into small parts called sprints. Every sprint has a deadline, and by the end of the target date, the Agile team receives feedback from a customer.

So, as you can understand, the success of such a project depends on the customers’ feedback, and if the customer can’t give a response, it’d be hard for the Agile team to handle the project effectively.

As Agile methodology still remains the most popular one in today’s project management, it still has its pros and cons:

Pros:

  • It’s flexible and you can always adapt to the changing situation.
  • If you don’t have a defined goal, you get it step by step due to the customers’ feedback.
  • Agile projects are divided into sprints, so your project is unlikely to be overloaded.
  • You don’t have to reach a perfect result from the first time. Since the needs of your clients are changing, the result has to be changed as well.
  • You don’t have to take all risks into account because if there is a need, you can reorganize the project.

Cons:

  • If the team is not self-motivated, it’ll be hard for them to finish the sprint in time.
  • Agile is not suitable for projects that tend to remain the same as it was in the beginning.
  • It can be hard and costly to implement an Agile method if you have strict deadlines and have never used such methods.
  • The success of a project lies not just on the team shoulders, but on a product owner and customers as well.

Here, with Flowlu, you can get a closer look at Agile project management and see how to use it. As far as Agile is a complex methodology, there are more tips and tricks on how to implement and use it. To learn how to handle Agile, you can check out our insightful article.

3. PRINCE2

PRINCE2 (the acronym for Project In Controlled Environment) is a Waterfall approach as it is. Before starting a project, there are goals, target customers, and values that have to be defined. After that, the project is divided into parts. There is a Project Manager assigned for each part of the project. But anyway, the project manager has to give a report to the project board (an Owner, Main User and Chief Specialist).

Such a framework relies on a strong management and defined structure, so there is no chance to change something after the plan is confirmed. As far as everything is clearly defined, every person in a team knows what to do and it’s getting easier to manage risks.

Pros:

  • Suitable for large IT projects.
  • Gives a predictable result on the output.
  • Roles are clearly defined and everything is controlled by a project board and project manager.
  • As far as everything is strictly organized and there are no multiple routes, you can focus on quality.

Cons:

  • It’s not going to work with ever-changing projects.
  • As everything is well-organized and each step is reported to a project board, managers are free to control the team as they want.
  • You have to provide a lot of paperwork.

4. Scrum

Scrum methodology is a part of an Agile family. Actually, Scrum is not a complete methodology, so you’d better consider it as a framework. As it’s based on Agile, Scrum is splitting a project into small parts (sprints) that lasts for 1-2 weeks. The Development Team is responsible for completing tasks, while the Scrum Master is responsible for interaction between Team and Product Owner.

Moreover, there is another essential part of a Scrum project — regular meetings. Each sprint includes 4 regular meetings, also known as ceremonies:

  • Sprint planning.
  • Daily stand-up.
  • Sprint review.
  • Sprint retrospective.

Scrum is the most popular framework among the Agile family and that’s why many of the CRM software include Scrum basics. Here is how you can use Scrum with Flowlu:

A Scrum board mostly consists of 4 columns: “To Do”, “In Progress’, “Approval” and “Completed”. You can drag it from one column to another for your team and Scrum Master to see your progress. Except for columns, there is also a priority range to know what task you’d better do first.

Each task has its story points, so by the end of the sprint you can check the progress of every team member.

We’ve prepared an excellent blogpost for you to share with you: 7 books that every project manager should read, where you can find the book written by the founder of the Scrum method.

Pros:

  • It’s flexible.
  • End product tends to have better quality because of the regular feedback.
  • Easy to track the progress.

Cons:

  • Only works with small teams (less than 9 people).
  • Possible scope creeps.
  • Project success highly depends on team motivation.

5. Critical Path

Critical Path (or analysis) is one of the first project managing methods, such as Waterfall. The main concept is that you’re splitting the project into small tasks and then finding out the order in which these tasks should be completed. When you’ll find the shortest and the longest one, it’ll be your critical path to define critical activities of a project.

In that case, to find your critical path you should follow these steps:

  • Identify the core tasks of your project. Core tasks have to help you to achieve your goal.
  • Calculate the time you have to spend dealing with these tasks. Keep it in mind that you can’t start a new task before finishing the previous one.
  • Use your calculations to find out a critical path. When you’ll find a critical path, you’ll be able to identify the most appropriate way to achieve your goal. The key idea is that you’re seeking for the easiest way without missing any essential step.

Projects based on critical path methods are using milestones to track the progress. It helps to achieve the target goal step-by-step, reaching every milestone. What’s more, milestones help you to figure out that one stage is completed and you have to move on to the next.

Pros:

  • Calculations and charts can help you to easily track your progress.
  • Preliminary analysis helps you to visualize everything and allocate your resources to focus on the priority tasks.
  • You’re focusing on the key activities.

There are some Critical Path tools that are presented on Flowlu Gannt Chart.

Cons:

  • It’s too complicated and mostly suits IT projects.
  • It’s hard to manage time because of inaccurate deadlines and timings.

6. Kanban

Kanban is a method based on Agile principles, but except for the other Agile-family frameworks, Kanban is more simple and not so rigid. The core of Kanban is a Kanban Board. It’s just a task board that consists mostly of “to do”, “in progress”, “review” and “done”.

Kanban became extremely popular during the pandemic times, because most people had been working remotely, so it was hard to track the progress, and Kanban board helped to visualize workflow.

Since Kanban is based on Agile, it requires feedback to keep moving. It allows this framework to be flexible and adapt to the needs of the team and customers. Kanban board is a useful tool not just because you can track the process, but because it can help you to understand where the problem is. For example, if you see that one column is overwhelmed with tasks, you can easily define and eliminate the problem.

Some teams are implementing limits on the Kanban Board. If you have limits, you can add no more than a defined amount of tasks to each column.

Pros:

  • Helps you to visualize the process.
  • Goes well with any project.
  • Flexible.
  • Simple to implement.
  • Easy to track required time for each task.

Cons:

  • Works only with small teams.
  • Requires a high level of team collaboration.
  • Rely on feedback.

To learn how Flowlu uses Kanban methodology and how you can implement it to your workflow, check our blogpost.

7. Lean

Lean methodology was created in Japan, and it’s based on the value of efficiency. This framework can help you to do more by spending fewer resources. In a nutshell, Lean is not a defined methodology, it can’t tell us what we have to do to reach something. Lean is rather a list of principles that can help you to manage your workflow in an efficient way.

First of all, Lean establishes three processes that can help you to eliminate wastes:

  • Muda that tells you to remove everything that is not delivering values to your product. For example, why do you have to report each stage of a workflow? Does it have any importance or is it just a waste of time? Revise your actions to remove everything irrelevant.
  • Mura that stands for eradicating any varieties that can confuse you. You don’t need to overload your product, just make standard processes where it’s possible.
  • Muri is about avoiding overloads. If you’re overloaded with tasks or projects, your value is starting to go down because you can’t maintain everything at once.

As a result, Lean is focusing on delivering value rather than toxic productivity. Everything should be linked, and values flow horizontally through the product.

Pros:

  • Your team focused on quality rather than quantity.
  • You’ll have a better outcome in the long run.
  • Customers will be more satisfied
  • Can be used for any type of project.

Cons:

  • Requires pre-defined plan.
  • You can eventually cut off an important part of a project.
  • Lean can’t establish a clear strategy.

8. Six Sigma

Six Sigma is a framework that stands for reducing everything that can lead to an error. So, the main point is to define weaknesses of a project and get rid of it. To make Six Sigma work, you have to rely on statistics and Six Sigma experts. Therefore, projects that use Six Sigma method are less likely to collapse.

Six Sigma has a few principles to follow:

  • Focus on a customers’ profit.
  • Find a deal breaker and remove it.
  • Collaborate with your stakeholders.
  • System has to be flexible to adopt all the changes.

Six Sigma framework consists of two methodologies:

  • DMAIC is used for improving business processes.
  • DMADV is used for creating new products, services and processes.

Pros:

  • Can be applied to another methodology.
  • Improves outcomes.
  • Reduces errors and mistakes.

Cons:

  • Requires lots of pre-planning and statistics.
  • Lack of flexibility and creativity.
  • Inability to create something new.
  • Excess of attention to process improvement rather than growth and originality.

9. eXtreme programming (XP) methodology

Extreme programming (XP) is a part of the Agile family, which means it’s flexible and relies on customers’ feedback. And as with many other methodologies, it’s based on its own principles and values.

As the name suggests, this framework was created as a programming practice. Simply, Extreme programming just takes to an extreme already existing programming praxises.

XP values:

  • Communication.
  • Simplicity.
  • Feedback.
  • Courage.
  • Respect.

Extreme programming avoids long-lasting phases and is based on testing and practice. Once you’ve finished one step, you have to test what you’ve done. Moreover, XP is not based on rigid roles as some Agile methodologies do. But anyway, XP has its own distribution of roles and responsibilities. As far as it’s based on feedback, customers play a huge role in a workflow.

Beyond that, there are programmers and coaches as well. And since we know who programmers are, what roles do coaches play in XP? Coaches have to implement practices into the workflow and ensure programmers follow these practices. And last but not least are trackers that have to gather statistics and metrics to improve the whole working process.

Pros:

  • Better outcomes.
  • Every member of the team knows what to do.
  • Easy to implement changes.
  • Short work phases.
  • Product is being tested on every stage of a project.

Cons:

  • Team should be motivated for self-management.
  • Takes a lot of time and investment.

Other Methodologies

Since all well-known methodologies are named, let’s discover some of the other methods that can be implemented into your workflow.

1. Rapid Application Development

RAD is a development method based on multiple iterations and repeating testing cycles. As with many other flexible methodologies, RAD requires regular feedback.

2. Adaptive Project Framework (APF)

The key figure in APF is a customer. Without its approval, there will be no next stage. Such a framework helps to improve team-customer relations and promises a better result. You always have to improve your process relying on customers’ feedback, but these improvements have to be based on outcomes of previous stages.

3. New Product Introduction (NPI)

NPI is a simple framework that helps to take a product from its idea to the final form. It’s not a whole methodology, but a framework that defines a first step in the product development.

4. Package Enabled Reengineering (PER)

PER is a framework that helps you to develop your strategy and workflow. Organizations that are striving to change are implementing this framework to remain true to their original values, but to become better at the same time.

5. Feature Driven Development (FDD)

FDD is an Agile-based framework that revolves around the development of features, as its name suggests. In a nutshell, it splits the whole workflow into short stages that proceed iteratively to make it easier to work for a large team.

6. Rational Unified Process

RUP is another one Agile-based method that stands for repeating product lifecycle, divided into four states. Stages are repeating themselves until the product meets requirements. Stages include: Inception, Elaboration, Construction and Transition.

7. PriSM

PriSM stands for sustainable development. Implementing this framework, companies are using tools and methods that help not just to achieve project targets, but also to reduce negative social and environmental impact.

8. Spiral

Spiral is a method that is mostly viewed as a spiral diagram. Each loop represents a phase of the software development process. This method helps to create a prototype of a product for each stage and manage all risks before starting production.

To Sum Up

There are many different approaches to project management. But it’s important to remember that PMM is just a tool to achieve the goal. You don’t have to focus on one methodology, you can mix them and try something new if you feel like there is no output. First, focus on your values and results, then on methods.

With Flowlu, you can easily try some of the project management methods like Agile, Kanban or Scrum. To discover Flowlu handy PM features, read our recent blogpost.

Still wondering if it’s appropriate to you? Take it for a test drive with Flowlu 14-day-trial period or a free plan and explore everything by yourself!

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