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project mangement methodology

What is a Project Management Methodology?

Estimated read time: 5 minutes

Project management is the key to successful projects including software development projects. You need to choose the right project management methodology for success. Read on, as we explain PM methodologies, their characteristics, and their utilities.

Project management methodologies: What they are

A project management methodology is a collection of principles, processes, methods, tools, and practices for project management. Project managers (PMs) use PM methodologies to initiate, define, plan, execute, monitor, control, and close projects. PM methodologies help PMs to deliver sustained value to all project stakeholders including customers, organizations, partners, and team members.

What a project management methodology contains

There are many PM methodologies. Their purposes and designs vary widely. Different PM methodologies contain different artifacts. However, a PM methodology should at least have the following:

  • An explanation and construct of the methodology;
  • A list of the essential and optional work products and deliverables;
  • Guides to using the PM methodology;
  • Explanations of projects that fit the methodology and projects that don’t fit;
  • An explanation of essential and optional KPIs and metrics;
  • A lessons-learned repository.

Why should you follow a project management methodology?

An organization undertakes a project to meet a specific objective. This objective is related to its strategies. The organization invests money, resources, and efforts to execute a project since it wants to achieve its strategic objectives.

Naturally, the organization wants a predictable outcome. It can’t undertake a project without that.

The organization will likely achieve success in a project if it has a brilliant PM and a heroic team. Brilliance and heroism are matters of chance though. Organizations can’t invest money and resources based on the hope of getting brilliance and heroism.

Enter project management methodologies. They offer a systematic approach to project teams. The PM and the team can get a structured way of working if they follow a PM methodology.

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Creators of PM methodologies have studied many past projects. These include successful and failed projects. Creators of PM methodologies incorporate lessons from these projects when they design a methodology.

PMs don’t have to “reinvent the wheel” if they follow a PM methodology. The methodology provides the PM with processes, methods, and tools (PM&T). It also provides detailed guidelines about the associated PM practices.

PMs can easily find out the required work products and deliverables. They also get guidance and templates to use these work products.

Certain PM methodologies are well suited to certain industries. Creators of such PM methodologies worked within the context of those industries. They incorporated their knowledge of the industry when designing the methodology. PMs in those industries benefit considerably by following that methodology. They are actually taking advantage of the accumulated knowledge.

When faced with a project issue, PMs can consult the lessons-learned repository to get guidance. All of these bring predictability to the project. That improves the chances of project success. In turn, the organization delivers sustained value to the project stakeholders.

Specific advantages of following a project management methodology

We talked about the enhanced chances of project success when using a project management methodology. These translate to the following specific advantages:

  • Clearer definitions of stakeholder needs;
  • A standardized way of project management;
  • Better cost, effort, and schedule estimates;
  • Efficiency gains due to standardization;
  • Early identification and mitigation of risks;
  • Predictable progress;
  • A systematic approach to learning lessons and implementing them.

Who in your organization needs in-depth knowledge of project management methodologies?

The PM in your software development project team needs comprehensive knowledge of popular PM methodologies. You need the software architect to have a thorough knowledge of this subject. Other team members in your project team don’t need in-depth knowledge of PM methodologies.

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In your larger organization, do you have a projectized organization? PMs in that organization naturally need deep knowledge of PM methodologies.

On the other hand, do you have a functional organization? Line managers at different organizational levels should know the PM methodologies well.

How to choose the right project management methodology?

You can’t use a “one-size-fits-all” formula to choose the right PM methodology. Your choice of methodology depends on many factors like the industry, project type, organizational maturity, and project complexity.

Consider the following examples:

1. An example of choosing the waterfall methodology

The waterfall methodology has clearly defined and demarcated phases that need to execute sequentially. In the case of a software development project, that means that phases like requirements gathering, technical design, coding, testing, and deployment will occur sequentially.

Assume you are undertaking a strategic software development project. The requirements are well known, and they will not change. The senior leadership of the organization wants to review the project after every phase. You will get the approval to proceed with one phase only after the outcome of the preceding phase is satisfactory.

You should choose the waterfall methodology here. The review after every phase will determine whether you can proceed to the next phase.

2. An example of choosing the agile methodology

The agile methodology involves iterative development where the project requirements are fluid. In the case of a software development project, the team would work closely with the customer. Together, they prioritize requirements. The team undertakes short iterations of development, testing, and deployment. Every such iteration develops a functional product.

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Assume you have a web app development project. The requirements aren’t fully finalized. Customers will finalize requirements only after getting the market feedback. They want to incrementally enhance the product with features and get market feedback.

Choose the agile methodology in this case. Iterative development, short iterations, and close collaboration with customers are what you need. The agile methodology facilitates all of these.

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1. Which are the popular project management methodologies?

Some of the popular project management methodologies are Agile, Scrum, Kanban, PRISM, Waterfall, Scrumban, PRINCE2, Six Sigma, Critical Path Method (CPM), Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM), Lean, PMI’s PMBOK Guide, and Extreme Programming (XP).

2. Do I need software developers with in-depth expertise in PM methodologies?

You don’t need software engineers to have in-depth expertise in PM methodologies. They should have worked on projects that used the popular PM methodologies. This working experience should provide them with sufficient familiarity with these methodologies.

3. How to judge if a PM has in-depth knowledge of important PM methodologies?

Ask specific questions in the interview. Also, check whether PM has certifications like Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP), Project Management Professional (PMP), Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Certified Associate in Project Management, (CAPM), and PRINCE2 Foundation/Practitioner.


Alexey Semeney

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