Project management methodologies come in all shapes and sizes. The one you choose will depend on your project's goals, team size, time frame and budget. To help you determine what you need, this article will dive deep into which project management methodologies exist, what each one is and how to choose the right one for your company.
What Is a Project Management Methodology?
A project management methodology is a set of best practices, tools, and guidelines to help project managers effectively lead their project teams.
Each methodology defines a specific approach to delivering projects. While each project management methodology has different processes and deliverables, they all follow the same basic principles:
• Planning the project;
• Executing the work; and
• Monitor progress and manage changes to scope.
As you can see, using project management methodologies ensures that the team adheres to proven approaches for managing a project from start to finish.
How to Choose the Right Project Management Methodology
Now that you have a better understanding of the project management methodologies for your business, here are some considerations for selecting the right PM methodologies:
• Understand your project. The type of project you have, and its size will impact which project management methods will be most effective.
• Understand your team members. Consider what capabilities and skills your team members possess to choose the right project management methodology. As their skillset change when they learn or are trained, so should your approach to managing the project.
• Understand your customers. Understanding who they are and what they think is important because it can impact how a project should be managed from start to finish.
• Understand your organisation. It is critical to understand the culture of an organisation and its policies, standards, procedures, and practices to choose a methodology that will work best with the company's current processes.
• Understand your project environment. Internal and external factors such as available resources, the complexity of tasks involved, schedule constraints and budget restrictions could affect the implementation of a particular project management methodology.
16 Popular Project Management Methodologies
There are many different project management methodologies out there. Each methodology has its own strengths and weaknesses, and each is better suited for different situations and the personal management styles of a project manager. Choosing the right project management method can be difficult, but learning more about your options is the best way to do it.
1. Waterfall Methodology
Waterfall is one of the most popular project management methodologies. It is a process that proceeds through specific sequential phases to deliver a product successfully. Waterfall project management can be used to apply to both software development and non-technical projects.
The waterfall methodology is a traditional project management approach. This simple linear approach is often used when the requirements of a project are well understood by the client and work has been clearly defined, especially at the start of the project. Because it is easy to understand (at least initially), the waterfall method can be ideal for clients who are unaware of other project management methods or prefer not to get involved with how their work is carried out; they know what they want from you regarding results.
The waterfall project management methodology assumes you will gather all your requirements upfront before beginning. It is like planning a vacation—you list where you want to go, what you want to do there, when you plan on going there, and so on. You do not get halfway through your trip and decide it would be nice to add another destination, which would break your budget and make everything more complicated than necessary.
The Waterfall Methodology is popular across multiple industries, including technology and engineering, where projects require more planning than discovery. It works well for shorter projects with more predictable outcomes because there is little room for change once a phase has been completed.
2. Agile Methodology
Developed in 2001, the agile methodology was created to provide a framework for responding to change. Instead of following a linear and sequential process, teams who use the Agile approach work on projects in short bursts called sprints. These brief sprints allow project managers and their teams to continually re-evaluate and improve the project rather than creating a plan at the beginning of the project and sticking to it no matter what happens.
Agile project management is used in software development with great frequency. However, it can also be effective for other projects involving highly skilled workers or those where flexibility is needed. The agile approach is not necessarily right for all teams or projects. For instance, it would be impossible for your team to use this project management methodology if your client requires you to follow a rigorous timeline or schedule.
It works best in situations where flexibility is required. The Agile framework makes it easy to adapt as the needs change because it breaks down the project into small pieces that can be completed in one or two weeks.
3. Scrum Methodology
Scrum is not a methodology but a highly iterative, Agile project management framework. It is designed to help teams break down their projects into small iterations and deliver value in a short time span. The word "Scrum" is derived from the game of rugby, where it describes a method of restarting play following an infraction or awarding possession to the team that wins a contested ball. This name was chosen because the Scrum project management mirrors this action by setting up small, focused working groups led by an individual called scrum master to develop incremental updates while keeping your overall vision in mind.
Scrum is best used when you have complex projects and cross-functional work that needs to be completed quickly and without unnecessary process or hierarchy. For example, if you are working on a software project where product requirements change frequently or need to launch several product versions quickly, Scrum is likely your best bet for successful delivery.
Scrum project management can be utilised across industries and teams of all sizes. It can be used for software development projects but is also common for marketing agencies creating advertising campaigns or consulting firms building a new website for a client.
4. Kanban methodology
Kanban methodology is often compared to Scrum. Scrum and Kanban are both Agile project management methodologies or frameworks. Kanban is a project management system that utilises visual cues to help workers stay on track and complete tasks. The Kanban board allows the user to monitor workflow, and the cards within each board can be colour-coded to show each task's phase of production. Kanban boards are usually digital or physical and are used across various industries.
These boards are made up of columns of tasks arranged by their current completion stage. All projects start at the first column, and as workers complete tasks, they move them down columns until all parts of the project are finished. Columns typically include options like "In Progress" or "Needs Review" so that team members know what stage each task is in at any given time.
The Kanban methodology should be used when you need to manage a high volume of tasks at once, which means it is not right for every situation — especially when you only have one or two things that need your attention. It is also best used when everyone involved has similar workflows that do not require much customisation from person to person (e.g., all employees use the same computer programmes).
5. Scrumban Methodology
The Scrumban methodology is a subset of the Agile framework, combining the benefits of Scrum and Kanban project management methodologies. It uses a mix-and-match approach that allows you to pick what elements from each methodology will work best for your team.
Scrum tries to improve how teams manage their projects, emphasising planning and scheduling. On the other hand, Kanban is all about limiting work-in-progress (WIP) and improving efficiency by eliminating waste. Combining elements from both PM methodologies gives you a flexible approach that allows your team to adapt as needed.
This agile project management methodology is best used when your team has an ongoing stream of work or if it works on multiple projects at once. It is also helpful if you have unpredictable workloads — so if there are frequent scope changes or unforeseen problems pop up often — because it offers flexibility and regular feedback loops.
6. eXtreme Programming (XP) Methodology
Extreme Programming (XP) is an Agile software development methodology that aims to deliver significant value early and often. It is based on five core principles: communication, simplicity, feedback, courage and respect. These values are reflected throughout the entire lifecycle of a project. The project management methodology emphasises teamwork, with developers writing code in pairs, holding daily stand-ups (short meetings where everyone gives a quick update on their progress), and doing comprehensive testing on each new piece of code before it is added to the project's main body.
Since its inception in 1999, various organisations have adopted extreme programming across industries worldwide. It can be used for large-scale projects with strict deadlines and is very difficult to manage due to its size or complexity. Also known as eXtreme Project Management (XPM), this methodology is used in business intelligence system development and when working with a customer database and other business processes that demand strict timeframes.
7. Adaptive Project Framework (APF) Methodology
Adaptive project framework (APF) is a project management methodology that involves making decisions as the project progresses. It is also known as Agile project management and is used in IT, product development, and software projects. APF is more iterative than sequential, which means tasks are repeated multiple times instead of once.
An adaptive project framework can accelerate your schedule and execute deliverables faster when working with limited resources on complicated projects. Because this methodology focuses on delivering value rather than predefined processes, it is great for organisations that work in cross-functional teams to manage projects across different departments collaboratively.
8. Lean Methodology
Lean methodology focuses on maximising customer value while minimising waste. In practice, that means working to eliminate any task or activity that does not contribute to providing something of value to the customer.
Lean project management methodologies are often used in manufacturing industries, where teams must be efficient and streamlined. While the term "lean manufacturing" has been around since the 1990s, it was first introduced as a project management methodology in 2002 by Jim Womack and Daniel Jones in their book Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation. However, many aspects of "lean thinking" can be traced back even further—some claim to Henry Ford, while others credit Toyota for developing its production system based on a just-in-time (JIT) inventory management approach.
Lean methodologies are best suited for projects where there is significant risk involved. By eliminating waste throughout the development process, teams can build products faster without sacrificing quality or missing deadlines and budgets.
9. Critical Path Method (CPM)
The critical path method (CPM) is a project management tool that helps you plan and complete projects on time. Like a work breakdown structure, CPM helps you balance your workload and ensures that important tasks do not fall behind schedule. It is a popular project management methodology because it works well with teams of all sizes, from small start-ups to large corporations.
Many companies, including Netflix, Nintendo and DuPont, have used the critical path methodology since it was first developed in 1957. It is often used for large-scale construction projects like building roads and bridges but can also be applied to smaller projects such as creating marketing campaigns or planning events.
Critical path methodology is most commonly used at the beginning of a project to figure out how long it will take and which activities are the most important. However, it can also be used during the middle or end of a project if you need to re-prioritise certain tasks or want to make sure everything stays on track. A critical path method is an important tool for any team leader who wants their organisation to run smoothly.
10. Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM)
Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) is a methodology that focuses on managing project resources and constraints. It is commonly used in projects that have multiple stages, such as software development, product development and construction. It was first developed by Dr Eliyahu Goldratt in the mid-1990s and was driven by his theory of constraints, which states that all projects have bottlenecks or limiting factors that impact the final outcome of a project. CCPM focuses on these factors to maximise profits and reduce overall lead time.
The project management methodology can be used in many different industries, including manufacturing, construction and information technology (IT). However, it is most often used in IT for software development because it allows for iterative risk assessment along with its multi-stage approach to projects. For example, in a software development process, you would develop an MVP (minimum viable product) and then test the prototype with users before scaling it into a full-fledged application. The crucial part here is testing—if you were building an app for Amazon customers but failed to include them in your testing phases, you might end up making design decisions based on feedback from non-users who may not be familiar with your product purpose or target audience at all. This is where CCPM comes into play: identifying those bottlenecks so they can be addressed early on before any major damage occurs downstream when it becomes too late.
11. Six Sigma
Six Sigma is a set of tools used to define, measure, and improve quality by eliminating defects. It is a process that companies use to increase efficiency by focusing on identifying waste and reducing variation. The technique is most often employed in manufacturing but can also be used in business processes like sales or marketing. Six Sigma aims to improve performance by measuring how many defects there are in a process and systematically eliminating them until the number of defects is as close to zero as possible.
The techniques involved in Six Sigma can include statistical analysis, organisational culture management, business process reengineering, leadership development and training, project planning and implementation methods, design of experiments (DOE), data collection systems using software tools, descriptive statistics for small data sets (e.g., discrete control system data), hypothesis testing, regression analysis for estimating process parameters or identifying potential cause-and-effect relationships (regression on one variable), correlation analysis for estimating potential cause-and-effect relationships (regression on two variables).
It is important to remember that with any project management methodology, you should not use it just because it is popular or because everyone else is doing it—you should choose one based on the needs of your business and your projects. That said, if you have a process that could be made more efficient and does not move very quickly (i.e., it does not require rapid iteration), then using Six Sigma might be beneficial for your project management efforts.
12. PMI's PMBOK
Project Management Institute defines project management methodologies as a set of principles, tools, and techniques used to plan, execute, and manage projects.
PMI's PMBOK is a guide to project management and the processes that should be used within the profession. It lays out the industry standards and best practices for how projects should be completed, as well as explains why these practices are generally accepted.
The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) is often used in an educational setting, specifically for people seeking a PMP certification or other accredited project management degree. You will also see it referenced when somebody discusses the "standard" approach to project management, but you are not likely to find it being used by actual project managers. The PMBOK is not prescriptive like some others on our list, so while it is helpful in understanding some of the more universal concepts of project management (e.g., initiating, planning, executing and closing), you will not necessarily find any explicit instructions on how to use it within your company.
Organisations primarily use the Project Management Body Of Knowledge methodology when they want to follow proven methods for managing projects and achieving consistent results. It is also used for more complicated projects that have multiple teams working on them simultaneously, as well as complicated deliverables or tight deadlines.
13. PRINCE2 Methodology
PRINCE2, which stands for PRojects IN Controlled Environments, is a Project management methodology that comes with best practices, processes and terminology. PRINCE2 methodology focuses on business justification, defined organisation structure for the project management team and a product-based planning approach. It emphasises dividing projects into manageable and controllable stages. The project management methodology can be applied to any project regardless of size and complexity.
PRINCE2 provides guidance on how to tailor projects in accordance with their specific needs, requirements and scale of operation. Its main objective is to ensure smooth workflow throughout the process by defining responsibilities, describing products required at each stage and providing control points along the way (ensuring that things are going according to plan).
PRINCE2 methodology is used extensively in various industries such as aerospace, software development and IT services.
14. Rapid Application Development (RAD) Methodology
The RAD methodology is used when you want to build a product quickly. In the rapid application development methodology, the development process is split into four phases: business modelling, data modelling, process modelling and application generation. Each phase contains a series of iterations, and the users are involved in each project phase. Prototypes are developed for each iteration to increase user involvement early in the project's life cycle. The software does not have to be fully functional at each iteration as long as it displays features and functions that users can test.
Projects that use RAD methodology require more planning than other project management methodologies because it is necessary to determine how modifications will be made when they arise in the later stages of the project. In addition, clear milestones need to be set to make updates without disrupting previous work.
RAD methodology works best for projects where frequent interaction with end-users is required or where there are a limited number of small changes after great initial efforts have already been made. It works well for software products that need to get on the market quickly or if time constraints prevent longer development periods from being an option.
15. Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM)
The Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM) is another project management methodology that is designed to help companies respond to rapid business change. The DSDM approach prioritises user involvement and flexibility over detailed planning. It also encourages the early delivery of useful software, meaning that a company can begin using the software while the developers are still improving it.
DSDM focuses on business value and business priorities instead of technical concerns or deadlines. In order to deliver this value quickly, the method uses iterative development in which developers frequently add new features or make improvements. This incremental approach means that your team will start working on an initial version as soon as possible and then continue adding features later until you have built a complete product.
This project management methodology is popular in environments where products need to keep up with rapidly changing technologies. Companies often use DSDM when they do not know exactly what their final product should look like, so they want to be able to modify it as they go along.
16. Rational Unified Process (RUP) Methodology
Rational Unified Process (RUP) is a highly used project management methodology that the Rational Software Corporation created. It is considered a modern and adaptable process, which means it is integrated with other processes and can be tailored for projects.
In RUP, a project's work is split into four phases: inception, elaboration, construction, and transition. Each phase has its own set of activities to follow and guidelines and deliverables associated with each activity.
RUP is based on UML (Unified Modelling Language), which makes it more suitable for object-oriented analysis and design. It describes software development in terms of models instead of documents. This project management methodology is used in the aerospace, defence, automotive, and communications industries. It is flexible enough for use in various environments; it can be applied to large and small projects. RUP has been used successfully by teams from three to hundreds of developers worldwide in many project types.
A suitable project management methodology can elevate your project and help the project manager get the best out of each team. A comprehensive understanding of project management and its various methodologies will be needed to choose the right project methodology for your business.
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