The first important decision of a project manager? Picking the right project management methodology! Agile, Scrum, PRISM, Waterfall. There are tons of different approaches. Hence, it’s important to know about the pros and cons of each of them, and come to a valid decision.
In this guide, I’ll explain the most important project management methodologies, and when to use them.
So let’s not waste time, and dive into different approaches.
Waterfall is one of the simplest approaches to project management. It refers to a sequential process. It’s called a waterfall system because the tasks flow down, and a task can only be started if the previous task was completed. There are no overlaps, so the requirements of each task should be crystal-clear. This approach is often used in software development, and can be depicted as follows:
- Every task is completed within a specific period of time.
- The model is easy to use.
- Problems can’t be completely solved when working on a task, and reoccur later in the process (when the related task should already be completed).
- If requirements should be changed while the project is already running, these changes can’t be implemented during the current process.
The word agile refers to progressing quickly. This methodology helps you stay flexible while you’re able to respond to changing requirements. In contrast to the waterfall method, the agile approach lets you implement required change requests, even late in the process. Deliverables are frequently completed, and the overall objective is to improve customer satisfaction by constantly delivering small portions of the overall outcome.
The manifesto for agile software development consists of four guiding principles:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
Working software over comprehensive documentation.
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
Responding to change over following a plan.
While crafted for software projects, these guidelines can also be applied to other projects.
- It allows you to flexibly respond to changing requirements.
- Continuous improvements help you quickly progress.
- The agile approach is easy to handle for small projects. When you’re using it for large projects, it becomes harder to estimate the time you’ll need to spend, since there are many unknown variables and no predefined plan.
- This approach requires intense collaboration across different departments.
Scrum is based on the agile methodology. It involves taking the complexity out of project management, and it’s designed to reduce the documentation effort. Tasks can be overlap, and you’ll be expected to make changes during the process. Basically, the scrum methodology is a sequence of sprints:
Before each sprint, you’ll check for changing stakeholder requirements, and you’ll eventually update your product backlog. For example, perhaps new bugs in your software were detected. Afterwards, you’ll prioritize the items in your product backlog and decide on the subject of your next sprint session (and how to break it down into smaller and manageable tasks). During the sprint, you’ll conduct weekly meetings to track your progress and overcome hurdles. After your sprint, you’ll review your performance and see if all prioritized items were completed. A retrospective meeting will help analyze the sprint processes and reveal optimization potential.
- Scrum helps iteratively increase the quality of a product.
- The methodology allows you accept and welcome changing requirements.
- The schedule is clear: Short sprint after short sprint.
- There is no focus on documentation.
- Teamwork is required.
4. Critical Path Method (CPM)
Waterfall, Agile, and Scrum are mainly used for software projects. But of course, all projects don’t involve developing software. Hence, methodologies such as the Critical Path Method arose.
The objective of this method is to identify dependent tasks that can’t start until other tasks are completed. The critical path refers to a sequence of tasks that depend on each other. For example, a Facebook ad can only be published by the PPC manager if the designer provided the ad design. If you as a marketing project manager aren’t calculating this dependency, it could result in an unnecessary wait time, because the PPC expert might expect the design to be ready when it’s not.
In addition, the methodology differs between critical and noncritical tasks. The latter aren’t dependent on other tasks, and aren’t required to start other activities. These items can be completed at any point during the project. Hence, they aren’t prioritized by the project manager. Meanwhile, critical tasks are related to other tasks, and need to be finished first.
- This methodology helps avoid bottlenecks and prioritize important tasks.
- The CPM provides a clear action plan and improves the certainty of planning.
- The CPM shouldn’t be used if you have little knowledge about the tasks, since it requires experience to estimate the dependencies and durations of each task.
PRiSM stands for Projects integrating Sustainable Methods. It differs from other methodologies, since it focuses on a whole asset life cycle, instead of only concentrating on the project runtime. This approach should help optimize the project’s sustainability, while reducing environmental, social, and economic risks.
PRiSM was developed by Green Project Management (GPM) Global, and its approach contains five phases:
Image source: GPM
- PRiSM is a great methodology for projects that require a strategy that’s focused on sustainability (such as the energy industry).
- Every stakeholder needs to share the same vision about the project’s sustainability.
- This methodology is not developed for projects that don’t involve a significant amount of project sustainability.
PRINCE2 stands for PRojects IN Controlled Environments, and it concentrates on separating projects into different stages. Originally, it was created as a standard methodology for project management by the UK government to manage IT projects.
The PRINCE2 methodology is based on seven principles, seven themes, and seven processes. The seven processes are:
- Starting Up a Project
- Initiating a Project
- Directing a Project
- Controlling a Stage
- Managing Product Delivery
- Managing Resources and Boundaries
- Closing a Project
- Extensive documentation results in an efficient use of resources and steady progress in learning.
- The PRINCE2 framework is clearly defined and provides a clear direction.
- PRINCE2 could require too much documentation and overhead for small projects.
- Due to the huge amount of documentation and the strict framework, changing requirements during the process could become a problem.
Most people know that Kanban because of Trello, but what’s the full story behind this methodology? Originally, Kanban was developed by Toyota engineer Taiichi Ohno to improve manufacturing efficiency. Kanban is based on Lean principles, and it lets you create a workflow that’s inspired by a production line.
Every task goes through a sequence of stages. For example, the stages could be Idea Backlog, Prioritized, Pending, and Done. Each task is depicted as a visual card on the Kanban board, which starts in the Idea Backlog and is moved through these stages step-by-step. Of course, these stages depend on your requirements and workflow.
- Kanban helps you to only commit to the amount of work you’re able to handle.
- The methodology provides a high degree of flexibility, since tasks can be easily started and placed on hold if necessary.
- Kanban might not be the methodology for you if you have very tight deadlines that you can’t miss.
- Scrumban - A mix between Scrum and Kanban
- Extreme Programming (XP) - A methodology to improve the quality of software projects
- Project Management Institute’s PMBOK - Waterfall + a couple of standards
- Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) - Similar to CPM, but the beginning and ending are reversed
- Lean - Deliver more with less
- Six Sigma - Reduce the number of errors and improve quality
- Rapid Applications Development (RAD) - Quickly develop software
- New Product Introduction (NPI) - Manage the creation of new products
- Package Enabled Reengineering (PER) - Redesign products or whole systems
- Outcome Mapping - Measure the impact of your activities
- Adaptive - Flexible project scope with defined cost and time
- Crystal - Spotlight on communication and interaction
- Joint Application Development - Heavily involve clients in your process
- Hybrid - A mix between classic and agile project management
Choosing the right project management methodology can be tough. This guide should provide a brief overview of the most important project management methodologies, including the pros and cons of each approach. What methodologies have you successfully used, and what are your favorites? Let us know about them in the comments.
About the author: Max Benz is a marketing manager at Filestage, a content workflow tool that helps you speed up your content review and approval cycles. He loves creating actionable content pieces that simplify your life. Max is passionate about SaaS, growth, and marketing.