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Project management frameworks provide a structured and systematic set of processes, methods, tools, policies, and guides to project managers (PMs). PMs can use them to deliver sustained value to project stakeholders in a predictable way. The best project management frameworks are as follows:
Agile is a popular project management framework. A team of software development experts collaborated to create the “Agile manifesto”, which drove the creation of this framework.
This framework enables teams to self-organize. Teams adapt to a dynamic environment, and they plan agile projects in an adaptive manner. They use an adaptive approach for work management too.
The agile framework focuses on delivering values to customers. It enables collaboration, effectiveness, iterative delivery, speed, and data-driven decision-making. Agile teams follow processes, however, they avoid process overheads. Often, teams use frameworks like Scrum and Kanban with the agile framework.
The agile framework is highly suited to software development. It’s used in other projects too. Projects where the requirements are evolving can use this framework. Organizations using the agile framework need to foster the right organizational climate for building empowered teams.
Web and mobile development project teams often use the agile framework. Business stakeholders in an organization planning to launch web or mobile apps often don’t have the entire requirement finalized. The organization launches a functional app even if it has limited features. Based on the market feedback, the organization wants to add features in iterations. The agile framework suits this well.
The “Waterfall” framework is one of the well-established project management frameworks. Most PMs are very well aware of this framework, and it’s often seen as a traditional PM framework.
The waterfall framework consists of clearly defined, demarcated, and sequential phases. In the case of a software development project, these phases could be the following:
- Requirements definition;
- Technical specifications design;
- Post-deployment support;
- Transition to ongoing support.
Each phase has a clear boundary. A project team needs to complete one phase before proceeding with the next phase. This sequential pattern resembles a waterfall, which is the reason behind the name. This framework is often referred to as the “software development lifecycle” (SDLC) in the software development industry.
This framework is highly suitable for large and complex projects where the business requirements are clearly defined. Such projects often involve many stakeholders. Since most PMs/organizations know this framework, communication among these stakeholders becomes easy.
Furthermore, you can define clear entry and exit criteria for each phase. You can implement a review process after each phase. These factors help you to manage risks better, and you get a predictable outcome.
“Scrum” is a project management framework that rose to prominence in recent decades. Many organizations and PMs have taken to it, and more PMs are learning this framework. It’s very popular in the software development industry.
This framework involves delivering a functional product in a short iteration called a “sprint”. A sprint typically lasts two weeks.
As you can imagine, you will likely develop only a few features in such a short duration. Project teams focus on delivering a functional product within this timeframe.
Subsequently, they plan the next sprint. They enhance the product by adding new features. Project teams must deliver a fully functional product this time too.
In this framework, project teams need to work very closely with significant collaboration. They are small teams. “Scrum teams” have 10 or fewer team members. Such teams are cross-functional.
Take a software development project for example. A scrum team in such a project will have UI designers, developers, testers, and DevOps engineers working together. Such a team also collaborates closely with the business stakeholders.
The PM leading a scrum team is called the “Scrum Master”. Scrum masters lead the team through various activities. However, scrum teams are empowered. The other team members make a proactive contribution to the success of the sprint.
Key activities in a scrum team
The following are examples of key activities in a scrum team:
- Sprint planning: Scrum teams work closely with business stakeholders to estimate and prioritize features. They then plan them in sprints.
- Daily stand-up meeting: Scrum teams discuss the project status and resolve issues.
- Sprint review meeting: In this meeting, a scrum team demonstrates a functional product to the business stakeholders. Business stakeholders approve the sprint if the requirements are met.
- Sprint retrospective meeting: This meeting takes place after a sprint. The team learns lessons from the sprint, and they implement them in subsequent sprints.
The use of the scrum framework
Projects using the agile framework often find the scrum framework very suitable. Such projects typically use these two frameworks together. Software development projects for mobile/web development often use the agile and scrum frameworks together.
Kanban, a popular project management framework helps you to visualize project backlogs using visual elements like boards. Project teams of all sizes across industries can use it.
You use boards to depict project tasks. Furthermore, you can use the same boards to represent the workflow. The Kanban framework enables you to visually communicate the progress of the project using the same boards.
You can use physical boards. Modern project management software tools allow you to use digital Kanban boards. Some of these tools might allow you to drag boards across projects.
Since Kanban boards make it easy to visually communicate the project backlog and progress, this framework is very useful for remote teams. Agile project teams often use the Kanban framework. It helps them to identify and resolve project bottlenecks quickly.
You can think of “Scrumban” as a PM framework that takes the best of both Scrum and Kanban. Projects using this framework use the “Sprint” approach of the Scrum framework. Project teams using scrumban focus on developing a fully-functional product in each sprint.
However, you can also pull individual tasks into the plan for your sprint. You take this practice from Kanban. This helps you to complete important tasks with their due priorities. You also keep your project plan simple.
Further, you use the visualization techniques of Kanban. Agile projects can use the scrumban framework. Short sprints enable quick development, whereas Kanban boards enhance clarity.
“PRINCE2”, which stands for “PRojects IN Controlled Environments”, is a prominent PM framework. The UK government had created this framework for large IT (Information Technology) projects.
PRINCE2 builds on the waterfall framework. The Waterfall framework has phases, and the creators of the PRINCE2 conceptualized project stages on that.
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The PRINCE2 framework expresses the project stages in terms of principles. This framework has the following 7 principles:
(A) Starting the project;
(B) Directing the project;
(C) Initiating the project;
(D) Controlling a project;
(E) Managing product delivery;
(F) Managing the stage boundary;
(G) Closing the project.
The PRINCE2 framework then elaborates on the roles, tasks, processes, methods, and tools for a project. This structured framework helps you to execute large enterprise IT projects. Such projects have many stakeholders, and they tend to be complex. A well-defined and systematic framework like PRINCE2 helps to manage this complexity.
7. Six Sigma
Six Sigma is a project management framework with a laser-like focus on reducing defects. It’s a popular framework for quality management.
You use this framework to continuously improve processes. Your underlying objective is to reduce process wastes and defects continuously.
Project teams often engage Six Sigma experts to use this framework. Such experts help them to define, improve, and control processes. Project teams also learn how to sustain continuous improvement drives.
You can use the Six Sigma DMAIC process for continuous improvement and defect reduction in your project. DMAIC stands for 5 phases, which are as follows:
- Define: You create the project scope statement and define a business case.
- Measure: In this phase, you collect relevant data to pinpoint process improvement requirements.
- Analyze: You identify the root causes of process-related problems and defects.
- Improve: You solve the root causes to prevent defects.
- Control: After you have resolved defects, you work on sustaining the gains. You might need to plan more projects for that.
Organizations often use Six Sigma with other PM frameworks like Lean or Agile. Such combinations are known as “Lean Six Sigma” and “Agile Six Sigma”, respectively. Six Sigma is suitable for large organizations. You get a better RoI (return on investment) from Six Sigma for defect reduction in such organizations.
8. Critical Path Method (CPM)
The “Critical Path Method” (CPM) framework helps you to identify the critical tasks in a project. You can then identify dependencies for these tasks. Subsequently, you can prioritize and schedule them. You can then monitor their progress and completion status using CPM.
CPM is useful for identifying, planning, and managing important project milestones. You can use it in small and medium-sized projects.
9. Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM)
The “Critical Chain Project Management” (CCPM) framework builds on the CPM framework. It utilizes the work breakdown structure used in CPM. Subsequently, you add time requirements for the tasks. You can monitor tasks running over their specified time limits.
Project teams using CCPM also use the resource-leveling technique. You can distribute large pieces to work to people with available bandwidth. CCPM helps you to resolve efficiency issues in the project team.
The Lean framework is very famous. Automobile giants like Ford and Toyota achieved great success by using it, however, Lean is now widely used in the IT industry too.
The objective of the Lean framework is to reduce waste. Manufacturing companies used Lean to build efficient product manufacturing processes. The technology sector uses Lean to eliminate irrelevant processes.
Organizations use Lean to achieve more while spending fewer resources. The net result isn’t financial efficiency only but more efficient teams. You focus on eliminating 3 “M”s, which are as follows:
- “Muda”: This is wastefulness. It refers to practices that don’t add value despite consuming resources.
- “Mura”: This refers to over-production. It occurs when you produce something that the customer didn’t even want. Your effort is wasted.
- “Muri”: This refers to the over-burdening of people, equipment, and infrastructure. Too much strain on people, equipment, and infrastructure will cause burn-out.
The Lean framework provides extensive tools and resources to PMs for reducing waste. An example is “Value Stream Mapping” (VSM). You use it to analyze a process and identify wasteful expenditure of resources. Subsequently, you optimize processes to eliminate wastage.
Large manufacturing organizations have derived plenty of value from the Lean framework over decades. However, many IT organizations have used it to great effect too. The Lean framework also helps small teams to improve efficiency.
11. PMI’s PMBOK Guide
The PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) Guide from the Project Management Institute (PMI) is a very famous PM framework. Project teams across all industries can use it.
A key characteristic of the PMI PMBOK Guide is that it allows flexibility in choosing tasks. This framework recommends that you execute a project in 5 phases. You can decide the project tasks within each phase. The PMI PMBOK framework provides the foundational approach for the phases and the overall project.
The 5 project phases are as follows:
- Monitoring and controlling;
- Project closure.
The PMI PMBOK framework provides guidance on 10 knowledge areas to execute a project. These knowledge areas are as follows:
- Project integration management;
- Project scope management;
- Project schedule management;
- Project cost management;
- Project quality management;
- Project resource management;
- Project communications management;
- Project risk management;
- Project procurement management;
- Project stakeholder management.
Project teams of all sizes can use the PMI PMBOK Guide. It’s suitable for a wide range of projects.
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The best project management certifications are Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP), Associate in Project Management (APM), Certified Associated in Project Management (CAPM), Certified Project Manager (CPM), Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), and Project Management Professional (PMP).
The “Agile Manifesto” is a document that specifies 4 values and 12 principles for software developers. 17 software development experts collaborated and came up with this document in 2001. Agile practitioners use these values and principles to guide their work.
“Value Stream Mapping” (VSM) is one of the important Lean management practices. This management method helps Lean practitioners to visualize the product delivery process. They can analyze the process using VSM so that they can improve it.