How to choose the right project management methodology

project management methodologies
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Identifying available project management methodologies (PMM) is one thing, deciding which one works best for a particular project is much more complicated. Here's how to make the right choice.

In "How to pick a project management methodology (PMM)," I covered the some of the most recognized methodologies, as well as a few high-level factors, that may impact selection decisions. These methodologies are repeatable, effective and efficient processes that help organizations streamline project activities. Because these processes, once developed, can be documented and repeated, they help organizations to spend less time focusing on how to execute the project itself, and more time on the project objectives and deliverables.

The process required to fully assess, document, and finally select the right methodologies for each project is much more detailed, time-consuming and complex initially, but worth it in the end (assuming the most appropriate PMMs have been selected).

Key considerations when determining the best methodology

PMMs are definitely not one-size-fits all, even within the same company, project type or industry. In one situation a specific methodology may work best, and in others it may be more suitable to have another one, or even a hybrid methodology. The same methodology is unlikely to work in the same organization on all projects; a best practice is to develop and implement a streamlined methodology assessment process (MAP) to determine the best approach for each project. Keep in mind, this process itself may require reassessment and modifications as business factors change.

[ Related story: What's difference between project management and change management? ]

What to include in the assessment

In organizational development, as well as within projects, this list of relevant assessment criteria applies. When it comes to selecting a methodology this same criterion should also factor in. These can be broken down in internal and external criteria, as well as subcategories of each.

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The assessment process

Once the assessment criteria have been factored into the decision, develop a process to identify the best option for a PMM for specific projects. As mentioned previously, this process will need to be revisited and modified from time to time to keep up with the overall business and stakeholder needs. Here are some general steps:

  1. First determine project drivers, identify and weigh primary goals and priorities of the project.
  2. After determining the business drivers/project requirements and goals, identify all the criteria that a methodology will impact and vice versa.
  3. Identify all available/possible methodologies that are most relevant for the project.
  4. Spend some time comparing and contrasting each PMM in relation to the project.
  5. Consider which methodology will yield the best results and offer the least risk.
  6. Gain feedback and buy-in.
  7. Document the methodology and rationale.
  8. Implement the methodology.
  9. Monitor and modify as required.

Although the biggest risk factors are likely to fall within organizational capabilities and preparedness, any other criteria mentioned previously can create significant problems if they are in breach of a key project requirement.

Some methodologies are also geared towards specific types of projects, but may not always work in every instance. This is where hybrid options (combining more than one methodology) should be considered at various stages of a project.

Examples of PMMs

Agile is commonly used in software development projects, it makes it easy to identify issues quickly and make modifications early in the development process versus waiting until testing. Agile offers repeatable processes, reduces risk, allows for immediate feedback, provides fast turnaround and reduces complexity.

moira pm agile Thinkstock

Waterfall offers a more formal planning stage that may increase the chances of capturing all project requirements up front, reducing the loss of any key information and requirements in the initial stages.

moira pm waterfall Thinkstock

The benefits of both can create a case for a hybrid methodology solution.

moira pm hybrid Thinkstock

Recognizing what the priorities are, what the methodologies are, and when, where and how each methodology creates the greatest positive impact is a key to project success. This is where project managers are able to assist organizations in improving how they implement projects in the most effective and efficient way while reducing risks.

It's important to note there is no one solution in all cases, even within the same organization. PM experience comes into play, and this is where a project manager's knowledge of the pros and cons of each methodology can greatly assist organizations in successfully navigating projects in ways that allow them to maximize the potential for stakeholders.

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