What is a project management methodology?
A project management methodology is all of the techniques and guidelines a business uses to set, plan, accomplish and report goals. Modern business owners have a range of project management methodologies they can use to approach projects depending on the workplace processes they expect to be most successful. You can combine elements of different project management methodologies to create a hybrid system unique to a specific project, or follow the workflow of an established project management strategy.
Benefits of having a project management methodology in place
The benefits of establishing a project management methodology are:
- Team members have the same guidelines for their workflow, producing consistent results throughout the project.
- Your team is prepared ahead of time to address issues and troubleshoot potential problems instead of simply reacting to emergency situations.
- Making adjustments to your workflow is easier when you have an existing methodology to compare changes to.
- You can explain your project approach to stakeholders and clients.
- Team priorities are always the same, and individuals understand the impact of their contributions.
Once you have a project management methodology in place, you can make updates over time to reflect actual workflows compared to the theoretical structure. Documenting your project management methods shows the growth of your operational strategies over time.
Six types of project management methodologies
Here are six of the most common project methodologies you can implement to guide workflows in different situations:
Waterfall is a basic project management process that involves completing tasks in sequential order. Each task is scaffolded off of the previous one, meaning that team members need to complete the first task to move on to the second task. Waterfall has a clear beginning, middle and end. It’s a simple methodology that involves making a shared list of actions that your team needs to complete according to a timeline. Waterfall usually consists of the following:
- Determining client or consumer needs
- Concept development and planning
- Product creation
- Integrating the new product with existing ones
- Launch or installation
Waterfall is ideal for companies that produce physical products using specific guidelines to assemble an item. Waterfall is not very flexible, so companies that anticipate big changes in their project needs may find Waterfall inefficient.
Software developers initially came up with the concept of Agile project management, a methodology based on prioritizing individual needs, responsiveness and collaboration over structure and planning. Instead of identifying the long-term end goal of a project, Agile identifies smaller deliverables and updates team objectives as each one is completed. It emphasizes flexibility and support from managers instead of strictly-defined instructions.
This strategy is well-suited to software, web development and other companies that have to provide constant updates, fast turnaround and maintenance support for their products and services. Agile managers ensure that team members are aware of everyone’s goals and role in the company, encouraging a culture of shared responsibility and support. Agile methodology has since expanded into several sub-categories based on Agile theories, including:
- Adaptive Project Framework
- Extreme Programming
CPM and CCPM
Critical Path Method (CPM) and Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) are two similar methodologies that operate on the understanding that some tasks are more important than others. CPM and CCPM project management involves identifying which tasks are absolutely essential for a team to continue operating. Project managers use CPM and CCPM to create multiple series of related tasks, noting which tasks are inter-dependent and which can be completed individually at any time. According to these workflows, project managers can set deadlines, assign resources and determine priorities.
For example, an editor cannot proofread a manuscript if the writer hasn’t submitted a rough draft. The illustrator, however, might be able to start on the cover art for the book before the writer has written anything. A CPM or CCPM workflow would help the project manager create a timeline for project completion. In this case, the project manager could avoid wasting an editor’s time and overspending on labor by assigning the editor a different project first while the writer finished their draft.
The Rapid Application Development (RAD) methodology uses a structured prototyping process to continually identify and refine a project’s ideal parameters. RAD is consumer-focused and uses ongoing data collection to improve a project’s user interface on a fast timeline. Applying RAD to a project involves addressing quick updates instead of large system or product overhauls, so project managers may alternate RAD with other methodologies, shifting between short-term and long-term product updates.
The Lean methodology achieves success by analyzing all parts of a workflow and mapping out their consequences. Instead of instituting a new workflow, Lean identifies all of the nuances of a current workflow and reverse-engineers an efficient system by identifying key issues. Project managers using Lean follow production from start to finish, noting where delays occur or where they could improve coordination throughout a product’s development.
Six Sigma is centered around improving quality assurance and consistency while also refining processes to be more efficient. It is a data-centered approach to project management that has the goal of eliminating inconsistencies and reducing waste. The Six Sigma process has five steps that are repeated cyclically throughout a project, giving it a mix of structure and flexibility as the project changes. Six Sigma focuses less on the experience of the individual and more on the results of their work as a team. The five steps in the Six Sigma lifecycle are:
- Define expectations.
- Measure performance.
- Analyze issues.
- Improve procedures.
- Apply updates throughout the organization.
Six Sigma first developed in the manufacturing field to reduce the occurrence of defects on an assembly line. Business owners in many different industries have adapted Six Sigma to their organization’s processes. Successful implementation of Six Sigma involves a substantial initial investment from company leaders, who need to train everyone in their organization to learn the steps of the cycle.
Tips for choosing the right methodology for your business
The project management methodologies you implement at your organization can have a significant impact on your project outcomes and team efficiency. It is important to be intentional about your company’s project management methodologies so you can properly train your team and achieve the desired results. Use these strategies to choose the best methodology for your situation:
Assess your project needs
Start by gathering information about the goals and resources of your project. Making a clear outline of your project needs will make it easier to determine which methodology meets your specifications the best. Collect the following information:
- Company structure
- Project objectives
- Customer details
- Project complexity
- Roles of team members
Identify key variables
Once you have a basic understanding of your project’s limitations, determine which variables are most important for your project’s success. This will help you prioritize different aspects of the project, allowing you to select the project management methodology that shares your main priorities.
Create a comparison chart
Make a list of the different project management methodologies that fit within your available resources. Chart the pros and cons of each management style for each of your key variables and secondary project needs.
Weigh the risks and rewards
Based on your chart and project data, make projections about the possible risks and chances of success that could come with each methodology. The methodology with the most potential for success could also have the highest risk of failure, so collaborate with your team to decide how much risk you are willing to incur.
Common project management roles
The core of project management is understanding how various roles interact and guide project development. Here are some of the positions that will guide and implement your chosen methodology across your organization:
- Project sponsor: The project sponsor is a senior employee who is responsible for the project’s outcomes and represents the project to customers or stakeholders.
- Project manager: Project managers delegate tasks, organize workflows and monitor the progress of their direct subordinates.
- Business analyst: Business analysts collect the data that project managers use to refine workflows and adjust goals or resources allocation.
- Team members: Team members are responsible for carrying out individual tasks and objectives. They collaborate to complete the day-to-day activities involved with producing deliverables.