Identifying available project management methodologies (PMM) is one thing; assessing which one works best for a particular project is much more complicated. While there is no “best” methodology that works for all business types, sizes, or industries, there are ways to determine which methodology to use and how to effectively apply it.
Here’s how to go about it.
Previously I discussed how to pick a project management methodology and covered some of the well-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 the way 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 it is worth it in the end (assuming that the most appropriate PMMs have been selected).
Key considerations when determining the best methodology
Even within the same company, PMMs are definitely not a one-size-fits-all project type or industry. In one situation, a specific methodology may work best, and in others, another one or a hybrid methodology might be more suitable. 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 that this process itself may require reassessment and modifications as business factors change.
What to include in the assessment
In organizational development, as well as within projects, this list below of relevant assessment criteria applies; when it comes to selecting a methodology, these same criteria should also factor in. These can be broken down into internal and external criteria, as well as subcategories of each.
Organization maturity level and preparedness
- Setup and hierarchy
- Products and services
- SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats)
- Level of flexibility and agility
- Business drivers
- Risks involved
- Available resources
- Leadership beliefs, value system, expectations, and support
- Industry, performance, competition, costs, productivity, and so on
- Business and project requirements
- Project nature
- Size and complexity
- Stakeholder expectations
- Measurable PMM effectiveness
- Team members and their preparedness
- Team location
- Internal processes, policies, and practices
- Available software and tools
- External factors impacting the project processes
- External stakeholder expectations and requirements
- PMBOK guidelines
The assessment process
Once the assessment criteria have been factored into the decision, develop a process for identifying the best possible option for a project-management methodology 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:
- First, determine project drivers and then identify and weigh the primary goals and priorities of the project.
- After determining the business drivers, project requirements, and goals, identify all the criteria that a methodology will impact and vice versa.
- Identify all available and possible methodologies that are most relevant for the project.
- Spend some time comparing and contrasting each PMM in relation to the project.
- Consider which methodology will yield the best results and offer the least risk.
- Gain feedback and buy-in.
- Document the methodology and rationale.
- Implement the methodology.
- Monitor and modify as required.
Although the biggest risk factors are likely to fall within organizational abilities 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 toward specific types of projects, but they 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.
Agile is commonly used in software development projects. Agile makes it easy to identify issues quickly and make modifications early in the development process rather than wait until the end during testing, such as the case with waterfall.
Agile offers repeatable processes, reduces risk, allows for immediate feedback, provides fast turnaround, and reduces complexity.
Waterfall offers a more formal planning stage that may increase the chances of capturing all project requirements upfront, thus reducing the loss of any key information and requirements in the initial stages.
The benefits of both can create a case for a hybrid methodology solution.
Recognizing what the priorities are, what the methodologies are, and when, where, and how each methodology creates the greatest positive impact is highly valuable 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 truly 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.
To assist in this regard, the Project Management Institute (PMI) developed the Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3)—now a globally recognized standard—to enable organizations to identify, measure, and improve PM capabilities, standardize processes, help solidify successful project outcomes, ultimately determine best practices, and strengthen the connection between strategic planning and execution. OPM3 focuses on overall organizational strategic effectiveness and incorporates project, program, and portfolio management. This standard was updated in 2008 and again in 2013 and is recognized by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as an American National Standard.
In their Implementing Organizational Project Management Practice Guide, the PMI discusses some high-level processes for tailoring PM methodologies.
Organizations should carefully evaluate which methodologies work for various projects based on factors in the PMI Methodology Tailoring Process in order to maximize strategic benefits.
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Moira Alexander, PMP, I.S.P., ITCP/IP3P, is a recognized project management influencer, thought leader, a regular correspondent for PMI’s Projectified podcast, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of PMWorld 360 Magazine, Founder of Lead-Her-Ship Group, and author of “LEAD or LAG: Linking Strategic Project Management & Thought Leadership”. Moira has over 25 years of experience in business (IS&T) and project management for small to large businesses in the US and Canada and has been quoted in various publications including Forbes. She writes thought leadership content for top-tier publications and business blogs and oversees or writes sponsored content and software reviews on PMWorld 360 Magazine.