How To Choose a Project Management Methodology

ChelseaWilliams
By Chelsea Williams
Senior Copywriter
Apr 14 2023 read
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Delivering projects on time is challenging under normal circumstances. With more companies allowing employees to work from home, making on-time delivery happen can be even harder.

As a project manager, you’re tasked with creating order despite this distributed — and potentially disorderly — scenario. It pays to know how to apply the principles of each project management methodology.

Here, we’ll review:

The Importance of Project Management Methodology

A project management methodology (PMM) is a set of guidelines that help you structure and manage different aspects of a given project. 

The method you choose as a project manager determines your team’s efficiency and ability to see a project through to completion by the deadline. Therefore, by proxy, a PMM impacts your clients and their satisfaction with deliverables.

Let’s look at the most common PMMs used by project management teams. 

3 Popular Project Management Methodologies

The field of project management continues to evolve, but there are a few tried-and-true frameworks people come back to when it’s time to select a PMM.

Waterfall

The waterfall method is about as classic as it gets. Initially used in the construction and manufacturing industries, this methodology moves projects along a sequential path starting with information gathering and ending with delivery. The waterfall PMM tracks with the system development life cycle (SDLC) and remains popular in software engineering and IT projects.

Waterfall would work well for you if you take on short projects with requirements that are unlikely to change. Other benefits of this methodology include:

  • The ability to establish milestones for measuring and sharing progress
  • Easier planning and assigning due to detailed requirement gathering
  • A clear understanding of final deliverables on the part of stakeholders and clients
  • Strong support for new team members who need to catch up on project history

The downside? The waterfall methodology's linear track can make it feel slow and inflexible, especially on projects in which the parameters suddenly shift. This rigidity makes it harder to deal with unexpected risks or account for sudden changes to a project's scope.

Agile

Agile methodology emerged in the early ‘00s to get around some of the perceived immovability of the waterfall methodology. Industries like insurance, healthcare and government have embraced the agile approach. That makes sense, as organizations in those fields often need to change course suddenly to align with newly established guidelines.

Instead of taking a slow and methodological approach to gather as much information as possible, agile starts with understanding the customer's needs. Teams break projects down into time intervals called sprints, then complete a specific unit of work within the time allocated to that sprint before moving on to the next piece.

Agile makes it possible for teams to accommodate project scope changes quickly and flexibly without having to start everything from the beginning. Customers get the opportunity to offer input at different intervals, making for less rework in subsequent sprints. Scrum and Kanban are two standard agile methodologies used by project managers.

The downside? The success of agile depends on the customer’s ability to communicate what they need and offer feedback as the project moves forward. Without that, constant revisions can create unwanted scope creep.

Adaptive

Adaptive project management helps project managers adjust to the constant changes in today’s business climate. It’s best suited for projects involving a lot of unknowns and potential risks. Teams get the chance to prepare and respond to unexpected shifts in project direction. Critical components may be missing or unclear at the outset of a project.

Adaptive methodology requires a software platform that lets everyone share information as it becomes available and use it to redraw the parameters of a project. This creates an environment characterized by consistent learning.

The downside? Every party must be aware of their roles yet open to change. For the adaptive methodology to be successful, team members, customers and stakeholders must communicate effectively.  

READ NEXT: 25 Pro Tips for Profitable Project Management

Choosing a Project Management Methodology

Some project managers make the mistake of thinking they have to use the same PMM for every project. And while some businesses and teams prefer a certain approach over others, project type should be the driving factor in deciding on methodology. 

Think through the different aspects of the project and your delivery timetable:

  • Are you dealing with a straightforward or complex project?
  • Which variables are driving the delivery of this project?
  • What benefits and risks do you foresee in going with a specific PMM?
  • Does the PMM meet the standards of your industry?

You should also account for:

  • Your team’s skillset
  • The expectations of clients and other stakeholders
  • How much leeway you have with your deadline
  • The projected budget
  • How complex each task is
  • The availability of necessary resources
  • Whether the project may need to scale

‌When choosing a PMM, it’s essential to avoid pre-existing bias and make your decision solely based on the needs of the project in question. Just because a methodology seems to work for one team or business doesn’t mean it will work for yours. Consult with your colleagues to get their input on which PMMs they’ve used in the past, and consider the evolution of project management frameworks to ensure you have a full understanding of each.

➡️ Reference this article to complete a more thorough inventory of your business’s risk tolerance, resources and other factors that could help you determine the best PMM. 

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About the Author

ChelseaWilliams

Chelsea Williams is Senior Copywriter at Accelo, where she shares unique insights with service professionals and tells user stories via blogs, eBooks, industry reports and more. She has over 15 years of B2B and B2C writing experience — primarily in tech, sales, education and healthcare. Chelsea is an AWAI-certified Master Copywriter trained in brand storytelling and microcopy.

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