A Beginner’s guide to Project Management Methodology

Application of an appropriate approach or methodology is one of the most significant deciding factors of a successful project management. Any project that aims to deliver value and service must mold its methodology according to its requirements. Project Management methodology is a business strategy that helps companies to maximize a project’s value to the larger organization. These methodologies must evolve to accommodate a project’s changing direction and priorities. Project Management methodology is like a mindset and it shapes and impacts all organizational processes:

  • Sales and Marketing
  • Product Design
  • Operations and Support
  • Finance
  • Planning
  • Deployment, and
  • Recruitment

In order to constantly grow and succeed in an ever evolving world, organizations must keep tweaking their project management methodologies even if it might mean a radical cultural shift for them. It is now a well known fact that there is no universal project management methodology that works for all projects within a company or organization. It is the project manager who is responsible for creating and deciding a concise, well-defined, practical, extremely prescriptive, fast, and cost-effective approach for an efficient and successful project.

Types of Project Management Methodologies

According to ‘A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) 7th edition, there are three popularly used Project Management Methodologies:

  • Predictive, Waterfall or Traditional methodology
  • Adaptive or Agile methodology, and
  • Hybrid methodology

This blog briefly explains each project management methodology and its utility in various kinds of projects in an organization.

Predictive/ Waterfall/ Traditional Project management methodology

Waterfall or Predictive approach is an effective methodology if the requirements of your product and project can be clearly defined, collected, and analyzed right at its beginning. Before employing a waterfall or predictive approach, a project manager must ensure the following factors about the project:

  • The project involves high investment, along with high risks. Consequently, it requires rigorous change controlling mechanisms, rigorous replanning between each development phase, and frequent reviews.
  • The scope, schedule, cost, resource requirements, and risks are well thought out and documented in advance or in the earlier phases of the life cycle of the project.
  • All the above elements of the project are stable
  • There is little to no uncertainty throughout the project life cycle
  • There are defined standard timelines to finish tasks, and there is dependency between tasks
  • The project is familiar to the team who has previously worked on similar projects.
  • The team is large and is remotely distributed.

When is the Predictive or Waterfall approach used?

A Predictive or Waterfall project management methodology is usually employed in building construction projects. For example, the construction of offices, houses, bridges require detailed and rigorous planning such as blueprints, and elaborate construction processes. Additionally, the focus is on delivering a working product within a strict time and budget. 

Manufacturing projects also employ a predictive or waterfall approach in project management methodology. For instance, if your team has to build a new assembly line, the project will have an elaborate layout, precise equipment specifications, and predetermined process flows. Such a project would also require the team to follow a definite set of activities and will have a fixed deadline and budget.

Predictive methodology is also efficient in projects related to marketing campaigns or advertising campaigns. Marketing campaigns have a strict timeline and budget and often have detailed and pre-planned strategies and executive phases. This makes the waterfall model a suitable methodologies for such projects.

Interestingly, the Waterfall approach in project management is also adopted by software development projects that have well defined and stable requirements. These projects have a detailed software design and pre-determined development and testing phases. 

Shortcomings of a Predictive or Waterfall Project Management Methodology

Traditional or Predictive approach to project management has its limitations.

  • There is a lack of flexibility in a predictable approach. Since the scope, budget, and timeline are preplanned and determined in the early phases of the project, there is little to no scope of unexpected changes.
  • A Predictive management approach limits stakeholder involvement. This hinders collaboration and communication with the stakeholders.
  • Since predictive methodology relies on a predetermined process and course of action, any unforeseen risks might cause the project to exceed its budget or get delayed. 
  • Predictive or Waterfall methodology requires a lot of documentation related to the scope, budget, timeline, and work-flow of the project, since all of the factors have to be planned out in advance. This time-consuming process detracts the project manager and the team from more significant components of the project such as risk management and stakeholder engagement.
  • There are fewer opportunities for feedback in a traditional project management methodology.

Companies who use a predictive approach

  • General Electric (GE): the company’s engineering and construction projects often use a predictive approach.
  • Boeing: this leading aerospace and defense company employs a predictive approach in several of the aircraft manufacturing projects as they usually adhere to a definite set of activities within a definite timeline and budget.
  • IBM: this global technology company adopts a predictive approach in many of its software development projects that have a predetermined and elaborate design, and development and testing phase.
  • Proctor & Gamble (P&G): this multinational consumer goods company follows the traditional project management approach in many of its marketing campaign projects.

Adaptive Project Management Methodology

A project manager follows adaptive project management methodology if the requirements of the project are volatile and highly uncertain with significant chances of changes throughout its life-cycle. An adaptive approach does not require a rigorous and elaborate planning process. In the beginning of the project, a clear vision is established. However, the requirements are constantly refined, altered, and even replaced as per the customer feedback, environment, and unforeseen circumstances. Adaptive or Agile methodology employs iterative and incremental approaches and provide a lot of flexibility throughout the project’s life cycle. Unlike the traditional project management methodology, agile or adaptive methodology embraces and thrives in change. 

In this approach, the project team must be habitual to work in shorter sprints with short term sustainable goals. Their development cycle is fast and iterative. The team will be clear and focused about the tasks for one or two weeks but not about the complete life-cycle of the project. At the end of each iteration, the team delivers a functional product and allocates time for feedback. Common adaptive approach to project management include agile methodology, Lean Startup, Design Thinking, Lean Six Sigma, etc. Adaptive approach facilitates greater stakeholder involvement and engagement throughout the project. Changes are frequently made according to their feedback and changing requirements.

Limitations of Adaptive or agile approach to project management

  • Since the adaptive approach is extremely flexible, one cannot predict the final product. This approach might not be suitable for stakeholders who need predictability to make informed decisions.
  • Because adaptive project management methodology requires the team to complete the work in sprints or within a shorter time-frame, the members must be extremely qualified and skilled at their respective jobs.
  • Adaptive approach is more complicated than a traditional methodology as it relies on regular feedback, communication, collaboration, and frequent decision making. This can get increasingly difficult in larger teams that are scattered throughout the globe.
  • Lack of proper documentation. In an adaptive model, since each stage and factor is subject to modification, documentation is not given much importance. This might pose a problem in case the project needs to be audited or if a detailed project history is needed.
  • Adaptive methodology is also more vulnerable to scope creep. Since the project scope is modified frequently, it becomes difficult to manage the timeline and budget of the project.

Companies who adopt Adaptive project management methodologies

  • Spotify relies on “Squad Model” of agile methodology to manage its software development
  • Amazon uses the Lean Startup methodology to manage its innovative projects. 
  • Google uses various adaptive methodologies such as Agile, Lean Startup, and Design Thinking.
  • Toyota uses Lean Six Sigma inorder to manage its manufacturing projects
  • IBM has developed its own version of agile known as “IBM Rational Unified Process” or RUP. It focuses on iterative development, continuous integration, and regular feedback.

Hybrid Project Management Methodology

The hybrid approach is a combination of both predictive and adaptive approaches to project management. It is more adaptive than the waterfall methodology, but less flexible than a pure adaptive approach. Hybrid approach is beneficial when:

  • There is uncertainty or risk around the project requirements.
  • The deliverables can be modularized and the deliverables can be developed by several different project teams

To give an example of a hybrid project management methodology, let us assume that the project team needs to develop a product that involves uncertain requirements. However, the deployment of the product can efficiently be done using the predictive approach. In this case, the hybrid approach will be the most appropriate methodology for the project.

Limitations of a hybrid approach
  • Since this project management methodology uses two different approaches, a hybrid approach requires a highly proficient project manager as they can be extremely complex
  • Inconsistency in project management since different teams use different methodologies
  • When different teams employ different methodologies, they run the risk of conflicts in decision making and prioritizing.
  • The project team might require extra training as they might not be familiar with all the adopted approaches
  • There might be some team conflict as some team members might prefer one approach to another
  • Since hybrid project management methodology integrates different methodologies it might require additional cost and time.
Companies that adopt Hybrid approach
  • Microsoft combines Agile, Scrum, and Waterfall methodologies to manage software development projects
  • Cisco combines Agile, Scrum and traditional methodologies for its networking technology projects
  • Accenture combines Lean, Agile, and waterfall methodologies in the management of several projects.
  • Companies that adopt adaptive approaches also utilize hybrid methodologies according to their requirements.

Large organizations and multimillion dollar companies have several ongoing projects. To understand it better, we can think of companies like a small film studio, where every project is a movie. Just like each movie within a film studio has its separate director, script, music director, and different methodology and process, each project within an organization too has its own methodologies, processes, deadlines and budget. 

As stated earlier, adopting the most befitting project management methodology is the deciding factor of a project’s success. Deciding the most suitable methodology requires project managers to be extremely adept at all the diverse methodologies so that they might make an informed decision. The PMI PMP certification course equips the professional with an indepth knowledge about all the methodologies and makes a project manager adept at excelling in all projects irrespective of their practiced methodologies. At Education Edge, we train you to become one of the most efficient and result oriented project managers, who can easily thrive in a competitive corporate environment.

Become an indispensable resource to your organization. Get your PMP certification now.

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