Best and most popular project management methodologies

project management methodology
Ivan Pavlov
November 28, 2019
Last updated: May 11, 2020

Making the workplace successful and efficient is extremely important for any business. But in case you deal with production and development, it should be your top priority. If you choose the right way to manage your co-workers, working products will be delivered frequently and clients will be satisfied.


Table of Contents

  1. Popular types of project management methodologies

  1. How to choose the best project management methodology
  2. Final word


In such a complex sphere as IT project management methodologies are implemented eagerly. Some managers prefer specific techniques which allow to monitor and adjust the process of product creation, others decide to adapt the best traits of several methods and use them simultaneously. Either way, different project management methodologies are important as they allow to optimize work processes and get enough updates to implement changes and fix mistakes if necessary.

What we aim at doing now is introducing the readers to specific types of methodologies. We break down the most important components of each method as well as discuss their pros and cons. If you are already familiar with the bases of different types of project management methodologies, this will help you make the right decision while choosing a technique for a particular project. And if you are just at the beginning of your project management journey, we hope to encourage you to learn more about those approaches which you find the most appealing.

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The most popular types of project management methodologies

We suggest an overview of those management approaches which are the most popular and most frequently used. Those can be applied to projects in different spheres, starting from IT and up to managing a small business.

Agile

Agile is definitely something every project manager has already heard of. Even though many people think of it as if it was a real project management methodology, it is actually a set of rules which is supposed to make team work more pleasant and efficient. While those can definitely be applied on their own, multiple methodologies have been created which adopt an agile approach, combine it with various control and communication techniques and allow workers to deliver high quality products.

agile project management methodology

The main principles of agile methodology include:

  • Communication and interchangeability of all team members;
  • Involving a customer into the process of decision making;
  • Being open to change, even in the later stages of the project;
  • Regular deliveries of working software instead of paperwork and reports.

The whole Agile Manifesto includes 12 points and was created by software developers who wanted to discuss the idea of making working processes more effective.

The main advantages of agile methodology are as follows:

  • Changeability. Agile project management implies being open to changes and iterations. This allows to adjust the product on any stage of the development. In case your customer doesn’t have fixed deadlines or descriptions or even if the project is overall more creative, agile approach will still suit you perfectly;
  • Feedback. Flexibility is reached with the help of constant communication and involving customers into the process. As business stakeholders can see every stage of their product development, they can notice and address the mistakes timely;
  • Lower cost risks. As the changes are made instantly and it is not too late to include iterations, the cost of work also becomes more manageable.

Despite positive reviews and all the upside that comes with them, there are also disadvantages:

  • No strict deadlines result in projects lasting too long due to no time constraints;
  • Allowing customers full transparency into each project process means that they can be tempted to add more and more iterations and functions to the product, especially if the final concept is not fixed.

Scrum

The next type of project management methodology is Scrum. Scrum is actually one of the ways agile principles can be implemented. While it also includes flexibility and customer involvement, there are specific tools which allow the use of agile basics in-order achieve the most profit and efficiency.

project management methodology scrum

Every participant in a Scrum managed project has a fixed role. There are Scrum Masters and Product Owners, but they do not perform the work of a Project Manager, which allow a team of developers to manage itself successfully.

A term you should definitely remember if you choose to work with Scrum is Sprint. A Sprint is a short timeline lasting from a week to several weeks or a month. Sprints include fixed tasks which need to be completed by the end of a sprint. In retrospect, at the end of each sprint insight is given about the work that was done. Before another sprint begins, a backlog is prepared which shows the main tasks that need to be completed.

The updates are given during daily stand-up meetings. All team members are obliged to participate in them. Such meetings allow to denote issues and find people to solve them. Team members can help each other with the tasks.

As for the main advantages of such approach, those are the most important:

  • Enhancement of teamwork. Collaboration with colleagues is one of the core points of Scrum project management methodology. This allows to encourage people to work together in order to reach a common goal successfully and efficiently;
  • Independence. Scrum teams don’t rely on the decisions of a Project manager and can distribute the roles between team members themselves depending on everyone’s skills and abilities;
  • Sprints. Such timelines have several pros. First, they allow to have a certain deadline which motivates to cope with the work faster. Second, sprints imply brief understandable tasks which are easier to cope with because they are simple, clear and visible unlike big tasks which can be overwhelming.

As for the disadvantages, we can denote the following:

  • Lack of leadership. If the team is not used to working on its own, as Scrum project management methodology generally implies, it might be hard for them to organize the processes;
  • Lack of motivation. As there is no leader, there is also no one to encourage the team of developers. If the team is not highly motivated this will result in trouble.

Waterfall

Waterfall methodology is pretty different from Agile. As agile methods value flexibility and self-organization, Waterfall methodology implies the opposite: a strict plan which is followed at every stage of the project as well as project management which one individual is responsible for.

waterfall project management methodology

Waterfall is also one of the oldest on the list or project management methodologies. It originated back in 1970. Its creator, Dr. Winston Royce, who thought about software development in terms of a lifecycle. It has been extremely popular as a software project management methodology ever since then.

There must always be a defined Project manager in the Waterfall approach. The Project manager is responsible for the development of a schedule for the whole project cycle which is handed down to developers and must be precisely followed.

Waterfall also implies defined stages. Each of them should be completed before the next one starts. Such stages include:

  • Requirements. At that stage business stakeholders, product owners and project managers define their expectations and requirements for the final product;
  • Analysis. All the aspects of the project, starting from finances and all the way to business logic are analyzed;
  • Design. Now it is time to create mockups and define technical requirements;
  • Coding. This is when developers do the work. Each of them has an assigned piece of work to be done and deadlines are specified;
  • Testing. The completed product is tested and analyzed again in order to see if it meets the requirements or has any mistakes;
  • Acceptance. When the product is completed it is delivered to the customers.

Several advantages of such management technique include:

  • Simplicity. As everything is divided into clear defined stages. The whole system is very simple to understand and apply;
  • Structure. Since each stage is precisely defined, everyone knows what to do and when to do it.

But for some people disadvantages might outweigh:

  • Rigidity. Even though a stable plan is good in certain aspects, it can be destructive in others. In case a mistake was made or a customer is not satisfied with the product, or just wants to make iterations, with Waterfall system this is not possible without starting the process over again;
  • Risks. The previous point also means the risks are increased. If everything is not done perfectly from the beginning costs may increase and the product might not come out the way it was expected.

Kanban

This is another way to implement agile methodology. It is quite similar to Scrum, as it also has self-organizing workers, but at the same time there are certain core differences.

Kanban concept was created in a Toyota factory in the 1940s. It was a simple yet effective method, which allowed visualization of the amount of work. It was and still is a simple tool which allows to inform all workers with the system of visual symbols.

project management methodology kanban board

Several principles which Kanban system follows can be noted:

  • Visualization. In Kanban approach everything is presented visually and simply;
  • Workflow management. Depending on how a Kanban board is created, it allows to monitor every stage of the working process and adjust it if necessary;
  • Transparency. The system can be understood by any worker who is involved in completing the project;
  • Work in progress limits. There are never too many or not enough tasks which are can be done by the workers, this increases efficiency.

Basically, all you need to use Kanban management system is a board and sticky notes or a corresponding computer software. Kanban boards have several columns: To-Do list, Work in progress, and Done. Once a task is complete or taken into work it is transferred into another column. Additional sections can be created depending on what stage the project is in.

What makes Kanban project management system so attractive:

  • It is simple and visual. Even workers who have no special training can understand the Kanban System;
  • It allows to track top priorities and main issues and manage them timely which leads to less mistakes and mishaps;
  • It involves every developer, this means each of the workers give updates and participates in painting the whole picture of a current situation.

But there are also several things which might discourage you:

  • Kanban can be tricky to apply if there are too many tasks you need to do. Usually it suits projects which work on several tasks per stage;
  • The system doesn’t orient workers on quality. Instead, preferring the speed and overall task completion;
  • Implementing Kanban into a dynamic and flexible environment might be tricky as the tasks presented on the board are planned ahead;
  • Kanban boards usually lack timing, so, even though workers might be motivated to complete the work as fast as possible, no specific deadlines can harm this motivation.

Lean

The main principles of Lean methodology include valuing customers while working on minimizing waste at the same time. It is quite beneficial for the customers as it aims at using fewer resources while still achieving good quality products. That also means that costs will be lower than those of the projects with other types of management.

As Lean methodology is centered around eliminating waste, it creates three categories for dysfunctions which actually lead to wasting resources. The scheme is called 3M: Muda, Mura, Muri.

Muda. This category is applied to functions which only get rid of waste but don’t create anything new. Such things include:

  • inventory;
  • waiting;
  • transport;
  • over-processing;
  • overproduction;
  • defects;
  • motion.

As you can see, it doesn’t only mean physical waste, but also implies wasting other resources like time.

Mura. This is what is used to eliminate variations and provide work processes with even flow. That can be explained with the example of time scheduling. When people, who complete first stages of the project waste their time and it takes them too long to deliver a scheme, developers, who are involved at later stages of the project will have less time to complete their tasks. Mura means that the resources should be evenly distributed at every stage.

Muri. Muri deals with overloading. Sometimes managers and business owners put too much stress on vendors just because they want to complete more work in less time. But that also creates an unhealthy atmosphere and demands 100% capacity from workers. It is perfect to work at 60-70% in case you don’t want to get overloaded.

Lean project management methodology implies adjusting the workflow and conditions rather than inventing new tools.

The main advantages of Lean method are:

  • It’s simple and understandable. As Lean technique doesn’t include any special tools into the process, it is very simple to understand for every person who is involved in the project;
  • Cost efficiency. As Lean methodology aims at lowering waste, it means it will be more cost effective and beneficial for the customer.

But there are disadvantages which are worth considering as well. These are technical failures. It is not always on people that a project doesn’t go the right way. Sometimes the equipment fails and breaks down. Such cases are not discussed very much within Lean methodology.

Six Sigma

Six Sigma is another project management methodology which was first introduced at mass production. Motorola which started it in 1986, has adapted this methodology. It uses statistical data to improve the processes and eliminate possible errors. This method finds which pieces of the process are not working properly, extracts, and fixes them.

Two different ways of implementing this methodology are hidden under the umbrella term Six Sigma. Those are DMAIC and DMADV concepts. DMAIC is used when current processes are in need of improvement, but project managers don’t want to create a totally new scheme. DMADV is different as it implies actually developing new tools and processes.

These abbreviations can be broken down into main principles of each approach.

DMAIC means:

  • Defining aims and issues;
  • Measuring current processes of the project;
  • Analyzing the processes to find out faults;
  • Improving the work;
  • Controlling further process development.

DMADV stands for:

  • Defining aims and issues;
  • Measuring each detail of the process and possible product capabilities;
  • Analyzing the mechanisms and coming up with a new design;
  • Designing and testing each process component;
  • Verifying the final version and handing it down to clients.

Advantages of Six Sigma stand as follows:

  • Beforehand reactions to defects. The processes are analyzed and the solutions for various issues are created even before the problem actually arises which allows to solve it quickly;
  • Comprehensive issue solution. Six Sigma doesn’t address a single stage of the process or the final outcome. It deals with the whole process of product creation and aims at eliminating mistakes at every given stage;
  • It is customer oriented and takes their aims and goals seriously.

Disadvantages of Six Sigma are also present:

  • Long-term process. As complicated as the whole production and development can be, it implies that changing and iterating certain elements takes time. It may also result in additional bureaucracy;
  • This also leads to increased costs which are not always affordable for smaller businesses. Implementing Six Sigma means that workers should go through training and get certificates;
  • Depending on a customer, control may become extreme, as some customers are tempted to have a glance into every stage of product development as well as demand changing the product multiple times.

Extreme Programming

This project management technique is similar to agile, as it also implies customer value as well as iterations and changes on any given stage of a process. It was invented in 1999 by Kent Beck when he published his “Extreme Programming Explained” and has become quite widespread.

Basic ideas of Extreme Programming include:

  • Communication. Co-location and daily meetings are vital for Extreme Programming as it allows all team members to discuss current issues and find all solutions timely;
  • Feedback. Every time users make comments on potential outcome such ideas are considered seriously. The team makes an effort to implement those into the final product, because that is what satisfies the customer;
  • Courage. The customer is always updated on everything that happens during the development process, even though such updates might convey unpleasant information. But at the same time this allows to get the most valuable comments from the user;
  • Simplicity. Extreme programming implies creating a product according to the requirements, but without adding anything that the customer did not approve. The main task is also broken down into several smaller tasks which allow developers to successfully complete the project.

As for the advantages of Extreme Programming:

  • Simplicity. The core idea of XP is also its main advantage. Developers aim at creating a simple product which is divided into step-by-step tasks. Altogether it is much easier to come up with a working creation which also can be alternated any time customers have new demands;
  • Shorter timelines. As the software is tested on each stage of its creation, it allows to find flaws and correct them. It also means that developers won’t waste their time on an incorrect code and work more efficient on presenting a working product quicker;
  • XP both benefits the workers and the customers. At first, there is not too much tension and pressure which allows to work more efficiently. The latter feel the transparency and trust and can make sure that the outcome is satisfactory.

It is also very important to mention disadvantages:

  • XP is not suitable for companies where developers work remotely. As it implies daily meet-ups, organizing it distantly might be an issue;
  • Code is more important and therefore more perfected than design. That also means it might be harder to satisfy customers;
  • It is harder to document all changes made so sometimes it results in developers allowing similar bugs to leak into the software in the future.

How to choose the best project management methodology for your project

There are several aspects which should be taken into consideration while choosing the right methodology for your project.

Start with analyzing the project itself. Before you make a decision on a type of project management methodology, you should know enough about the desired outcome of a project. Depending on how strict the demands are you can either choose a more flexible methodology (in case the request is not formulated completely) or a stricter one (if customers give you enough details and you have a definite image of an outcome). What also matters is the complexity of the project, as well as the size of the team working on it and the budget the customer offers.

When you are evaluating your team of developers try to discover if they are familiar with the methodologies of your preference. If not, you might have to spend some time explaining the basic principles which delay actual work. Find out if your team is ready to collaborate with each other and organize themselves as well. You might discover that a proper manager is needed or, on the other hand, that the team is better self-organize.

Think about the kind of organization you work in. Is it a big corporation or a smaller company? Are there many departments involved working on a project or are there just several people in a team? The choice depends on these qualities as well. While evaluating your organization pay attention to the resources you have as well as the hierarchy and flexibility and generally the industry your company represents.

Think about your customers as well. As you should have already understood certain techniques require working with customers more regularly than others. If stakeholders won’t always be available for regular check-ins it might be better to pick a methodology which doesn’t rely on them too much.

Last but not least consider the tools you have and plan to use to create a certain product. In a perfect situation you should already have all the tools needed to implement certain methodology, otherwise it may lead to extra expenses. Make a list of project management methodologies and tools they require and see which suits you best.

After such in-depth analysis is complete you can use this data to choose the best methodology for your particular case.

A final word

Choosing from various project management methodologies can be hard, because nowadays many of them are presented at the market. All of them can be perfect for different cases, but if you don’t know enough about each of them, making a decision can become an issue.

We described the most popular types of project management methodologies with the aim to give a brief overview of each of them. It is enough to get basic understanding of the concept and feel if any of them suit your purposes. Knowing enough about advantages and disadvantages can help with making decision as well because you are already prepared for certain things which can go wrong during the project.

If you feel like there are certain concepts of several types of management which would suit your project, you can combine them as it is quite a common practice which allows to get the most out of developers’ work.

The technique of choosing a perfect project management methodology is also included and we advise to study it thoroughly and apply each time a new project starts. It is a simple way to see how core benefits correspond with your current situation as well as remembering the customer and making choices which suit them as well.

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