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Nowadays, the importance of proper project management is unquestionable. It involves applying a wide range of factors — processes, methods, skills, considerable knowledge and extensive experience — in order to successfully steer a project from the very beginning to the end of its lifecycle. Achieving this ambitious goal requires that a project manager follow a set of principles and practices that aim at helping them organize their projects and ensure the best possible results. And this is exactly what the definition of a project management methodology embraces.
There are many types of project management approaches that can be adopted with the aim of properly managing successful projects and improving business processes. Let’s have a look at a brief overview of different project management methodologies.
In the Waterfall project management methodology (also called Software Development Life Cycle) tasks are carried out in a linear and sequential manner and each stage of the project is supposed to be completed before the following one starts. Like in case of a real waterfall, the realization of all the phases falls downward. The Waterfall approach involves defining all the requirements and making a solid plan at the very beginning and then working toward executing it. It is considered one of the most traditional project management methodologies, in which there is very little room for adjustments, revision or reflection. As a result, if expectations change or any errors occur as the project progresses, it is very difficult to go back to the previous stage and adapt to the changing reality.
Agile project management grew out of increasing dissatisfaction with the limitations of the Waterfall method. The agile methodology values flexibility, idea evolution and the ability to adapt to emerging changes and actively seek ways of improving processes, which makes it perfect for dynamic environments, such as game and software development. This iterative approach promotes short phases of work, in which project teams collaborate quickly on smaller, more manageable tasks and frequently go through the process of testing, evaluating and adapting. The focus is thus more on fast progress than the impeccable results. Agile is a broad term that embraces several submethodologies, such as scrum, kanban, or extreme programming, that are often referred to as versions or forms of the concept of agile project management.
The distinguishing feature of the Scrum project management — one of numerous agile methodologies — is the fact that work is divided into “sprints”, i.e. very short cycles that last 1-2 weeks and are strewn with frequent meetings. After each sprint, small teams under the leadership of a Scrum Master review their performance and, if need be, introduce necessary changes before they move on to the next cycle. This is why the method is ideal for teams that work toward continuous improvement.
The Kanban methodology focuses on a visual representation of the project’s progress throughout its different phases, which makes it a great project management tool. Presenting relevant data on, what is called, Kanban boards aims at promoting greater productivity, as it enables teams to concentrate on specific issues and better identify any areas of concern.
The XP method uses short development cycles and accentuates collaboration and teamwork as a way of making sure that customer requirements are met. It has a clearly defined set of rules that are based on such principles as simplicity, communication, feedback, respect, and courage.
The Lean methodology — yet another Agile framework — has its roots in the manufacturing industry. It basically arose from the need to reduce physical waste and improve productivity and cost-effectiveness of manufacturing processes. The method dates back to 1940s when, while pursuing the goal of eliminating waste, Toyota developed its lean manufacturing model that is known as the Toyota Production System. Now lean principles are applied to project management methods in order to get rid of wasteful practices, which contributes to maximizing value, increasing efficiency and streamlining processes.
This project management method revolves around identifying all the key tasks within the project (especially complex projects) and planning a schedule for them so that the project can be completed within a work breakdown structure. This includes, for instance, estimating how much time is going to be needed to perform each task, creating task dependencies, tracking and visualizing progress or recognizing milestones signalling the completion of a certain phase.
CCPM is a more sophisticated option than other project management methodologies that derive from the CPM. While the critical path methodology is concerned about the timeframe of the project and — due to the rigidness of scheduling — can turn out to be unrealistic, CCPM takes into account possible hindrances. Therefore, it focuses more on balancing resources and emphasizes greater flexibility.
PMBOK published by Project Management Institute isn’t technically a project methodology (although there is much terminology-oriented debate in the project management community, which makes the classification seem arbitrary). It is a book that provides a set of useful principles and guidelines on how to best plan, schedule execute and control projects. This is why PMBOK can support you tremendously in managing projects of various kinds and teach your project team how to improve existing processes.
PRINCE2 (which stands for Projects in Controlled Environments) is a project management certification initially used for IT projects. This process-based methodology consists of seven main principles, themes and processes that all serve as guidelines for project managers and equip them with necessary skills and knowledge about the best practices.
The main question that you are probably asking yourself right now is which one of the abundance of currently existing project management methods is worth choosing (and bear in mind the above list is not exhaustive…). There is no one-size-fits-all solution to such a complex issue as a whole variety of business-related aspects need to be thoughtfully analyzed before deciding on the right approach (or approaches). For a methodology to be suitable for you, it has to be tailored to the type of your project, the characteristics of your team, the unique needs of your organization and all the objectives you want to achieve. These constitute just a handful of factors that should be taken into account in the decision-making process in order to manage projects in a way that facilitates your company’s growth instead of hindering it. An ill-suited methodology may result in your workflow being obstructed and lead to a visible decrease in both the performance and overall results.
What are the key considerations that are definitely worth your thought before you choose the right project management methodology? It’s advisable to analyze the limits of your budget, estimate how many team members and stakeholders are going to be involved, assess your team’s flexibility when it comes to adjusting to changes and consider how much time can be devoted to the project and how it may influence the finished result. Having conducted such an analysis, you are more likely to draw valid and correct conclusions so that you can act upon them.
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