Common Project Management Methodologies
Looking for the right project management methodology for your next project? How does Agile compare with Waterfall? And what about Scrum and Kanban? In this post, we’ll look at the key features of the most popular methodologies to help make your choice easier. Let’s get down to business.
Project Management Methodologies – Waterfall
Waterfall dives projects into sequential phases. For each phase there usually is a milestone. Once this milestone is completed, the next phase can begin. If you draw the Waterfall process on paper or use software to render it graphically, it looks like project phases cascade from one to the next. Hence its name.
Waterfall typically comes with the following phases:
- System design
Note that the specific phases of a Waterfall project can vary depending on the type of project.
Waterfall calls for planning. It delivers the best results when each team member knows exactly what they have to do. It’s great for time management and tracking progress so long as you can predict your workflows. On the other hand, Waterfall is not as flexible or adaptable as other methodologies.
Project Management Methodologies – Agile
Agile is in many ways a reaction to Waterfall. It originated as a project management method for software development but today it sees wider applications. An iterative method, it encourages your team to deliver work in short sprints. Each sprint usually lasts from two to four weeks and then the team moves to the next sprint.
The main phases of an Agile sprint look like this:
- Product backlog (tasks are listed and stored in a project management tool)
- Sprint planning involving the entire team (key tasks identified)
- Sprint retrospective (team discusses what went well and what could have been improved)
- Next sprint (cycle begins again)
Agile makes possible faster and more frequent deliveries (iterations) and quick changes and has a dynamic approach to testing. It’s truly agile and flexible. On the other hand, it doesn’t have a strict schedule. Plus, it requires a consistent team and may lead to developments beyond the strict scope of the project.
Project Management Methodologies – Scrum
Scrum is another Agile framework. It uses a Scrum master and involves three key phases. This method focuses on continuous improvement and breaks work into small chunks to prioritize tasks and ship products faster. Sprints typically last two weeks but can be adapted according to the project at hand.
First, the team creates a backlog with all the tasks that need to be done. Then three key phases follow:
- Sprint planning – during this phase, the Scrum master and team select tasks from the Backlog for the sprint
- Daily Scrum standups – teams have a short meeting every day to check progress and ensure work is assigned properly
- Sprint retrospective – a retrospective led by the Scrum master evaluates the work done and prepares the team for the next sprint
Scrum promotes task prioritization and dynamic development. It encourages continuous revision and improvement. Rules and responsibilities play a key role in this project management method, favoring teams that get along well. Scrum works best for small, cohesive teams that stay together during the duration of the project. May not work so well for teams with inexperienced members.
Project Management Methodologies – Kanban
Kanban is a visual project management method originating in Japan. It developed as a subset of Agile and promotes the same dynamic approach with quick delivery and adaptive planning. Kanban uses boards arranged in columns to visually represent tasks and the stage they are in, e.g., to do, in progress, or completed.
Each Kanban board can represent a task and be assigned to one or more members of your team. The board includes information about the due date, priority, tags, related files, and more.
Kanban is very flexible and dynamic and provides quick insight into the state of a project. It’s great for ongoing processes as it makes adding tasks quick and easy without disrupting the workflow of the project. With Kanban, it’s also easy to track who needs to do what and by when. It can also reduce waste and improve delivery flow.
On the other hand, Kanban phases don’t have timeframes. Adding a lot of boards and keeping them updated can also prove challenging. Outdated boards can slow down the workflow and cause problems that derail the project.
Project Management Methodologies – Choosing the Right One
In the end, choosing the right project methodology boils down to understanding your team and your project. For some teams and projects, some methodologies work better than others. Often, you may have to try out different methodologies to see which works best for you.
Additional Project Management Resources
- PMBOK Guide – A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge
- PMI Standards Updates – standards that reflect the most up-to-date practices in the professions of project, program and portfolio management.