The Different Project Management Methodologies

Choosing the right project management methodology (PMM) for your team is the first step to success. This can be challenging with so many different — and in some cases, overlapping — approaches to managing the complexities of any given project.

Project managers can assist their organisations in improving how they implement projects in the most effective and efficient way while reducing risks. But this requires much more than just recognising organisational priorities. You have to have a deeper understanding of how each project management methodology can create the greatest positive impact — and how each can derail your organisation’s likelihood of project success.

Here, we outline the most popular project management methodologies (PMMs) in practice today, showing you how to evaluate which is best for your project and organisation. Once developed, a process for evaluating and choosing the right project management methodology can be documented and repeated, enabling your organisation to spend less time haggling over how to structure and manage your projects, and more time on achieving project objectives and deliverables.

Today’s most popular PM methodologies

Waterfall: This has been a mainstay project management methodology for years. It is sequential in nature and is used across many industries, most commonly in software development. It comprises static phases (requirements analysis, design, testing, implementation, and maintenance) that are executed in a specific order. Waterfall allows for increased control throughout each phase but can be highly inflexible if a project’s scope changes after it is already under way. It offers a more formal planning stage that may increase the chances of capturing all project requirements up front, reducing the loss of any key information and requirements in the initial stages.

Agile: Agile takes a significantly different approach to project management. It was initially developed for projects that require significant flexibility and speed. To achieve this, agile is composed of short delivery cycles, aka “sprints.” Agile may be best-suited for projects requiring less control and real-time communication within self-motivated team settings. As a project management methodology, agile is highly interactive, allowing for rapid adjustments throughout a project. It is commonly used in software development projects in large part because it makes it easier to identify issues quickly and to make modifications early in the development process, rather than having to wait until testing is complete. Agile offers repeatable processes, reduces risk, allows for immediate feedback, provides fast turnaround and reduces complexity.

Hybrid: While many teams will favour either waterfall or agile, the benefits of both approaches can create a case for a hybrid project management methodology solution, one in which the planning and requirements phase is undertaken under a waterfall approach and the design, develop, implement, and evaluate phases follow the agile methodology.

Critical path method: Critical path method (CPM) is a step-by-step methodology used for projects with interdependent activities. It contains a list of activities and uses a work-breakdown structure (WBS) and a timeline to complete, as well as dependencies, milestones, and deliverables. It outlines critical and noncritical activities by calculating the “longest” (on the critical path) and “shortest” (float) time to complete tasks to determine which activities are critical and which are not.

Critical chain project management: Critical chain project management (CCPM) differs from CPM in that it focuses on the use of resources within a project instead of project activities. To address potential issues with resources, buffers are built in to ensure projects are on-time and that safety is not compromised.

Six Sigma: Six Sigma was originally developed by Motorola to eliminate waste and improve processes and profits. It is data-driven and has three key components: DMAIC (define, measure, analyse, improve and control), DMADV (define, measure, analyse, design and verify) and DFSS (Design for Six Sigma). DFSS can include the previous options, as well as others, such as IDOV (identify, design, optimise and verify). Six Sigma is sometimes debated as a methodology in the project management community.

Scrum: Named after rugby, scrum is a part of the agile framework and is also interactive in nature. “Scrum sessions” or “30-day sprints” are used to determine prioritised tasks. A scrum master is used to facilitate instead of a project manager. Small teams may be assembled to focus on specific tasks independently and then meet with the scrum master to evaluate progress or results and reprioritise backlogged tasks.

Other PMMs: In addition to the project management methodologies mentioned above, there are other PMMs to consider, including event chain methodology (ECM), crystal, feature driven development (FDD), dynamic systems development (DSDM), adaptive software development, rational unified process (RUP), lean development (LD), Prince2 and others.

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