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May 27, 2022

Project management methodology overview

Project Management
Jerzy Żurawiecki Content Specialist @BigPicture

Businesses all over the world manage their portfolios, products, and projects in multiple ways. Depending on their complexity, nature (fixed, iterative, or both), the industry, and team size, one project management methodology might serve a much better purpose than others.

This article will help you understand the most popular project management methodologies and frameworks used across various industries. You will learn what each of them is and which environments benefit from them the most. To put a cherry on top, we include a handy cheat sheet giving you a full breakdown of the most critical aspects of each methodology.

Now let’s move on to the first project management methodology – Waterfall (Classic).

Waterfall methodology – what is it?

The Waterfall methodology, also known as Classic, is a process of project development in a linear and sequential manner. For the next phase of the project to start, the previous one must be completed. It’s been used since the 1970s in various industries: manufacturing, construction, and software development, just to name a few. Most project managers use the Gantt chart to visualize the Waterfall projects.

As for the phases themselves, they depend on the project and the industry, but we can discern 5 most frequently used Waterfall phases:

  • Requirement Analysis – the Project Manager gathers information and creates documentation for the team. It contains a detailed description of stages, costs, risks, dependencies, success, and timelines. That way, all team members understand their objectives and the business circumstances before the actual work begins.
  • Design – the team develops the project’s specifications: the scope and the tools needed to complete the project.
  • Implementation – the actual production of the project, either coding in software development or physical creation of a given object.
  • Testing – verifying the results against the requirements provided in the first phase.
  • Deployment and Maintenance – the results of the project are released to customers who provide feedback. If any issues occur, they will be fixed in subsequent releases.

Waterfall – pros and cons

Waterfall is based on the idea that all the participants should have a complete picture of their responsibilities and tasks at hand. On top of that, the project’s success depends on all team members and the ability to finish each stage within the predetermined time constraints.

Like other project management methodologies, it has its fair share of advantages and disadvantages. Most of them stem from the fact that this project management methodology has a fixed structure and relies on the completion of preceding stages to move forward.

Who is Waterfall suitable for? 

Is it for everybody who deals with portfolio, product, and project management on a daily basis? Certainly not. Having said that, Waterfall has a lot to offer in certain contexts. Here are a few cases that make Waterfall the methodology of choice for managers, regardless of the industry.

  • Projects with a clear goal and scope, along with deliverables that are highly unlikely to change throughout their course.
  • Complex projects that require comprehensive documentation.
  • Situations where clients have a hands-off approach to the project or ones that do not require frequent feedback.

Should you find yourself in an environment that ticks these boxes, Waterfall will be your best bet to ensure the smooth and well-organized management of your project.

Now, let’s dive deeper into the next step in the evolution of project management. A methodology that is, in many ways, the polar opposite of Waterfall, a direct result of the changing landscape in software development. And its name is…

Agile methodology – what is it?

According to CPrime: “Agile software development refers to software development methodologies centered around the idea of iterative development, where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing cross-functional teams. The ultimate value in Agile development is that it enables teams to deliver value faster, with greater quality and predictability, and greater aptitude to respond to change.”

In other words, Agile is a flexible approach to product development. Instead of a fixed structure, the Agile methodology embraces rapid changes and fast delivery of a working product that responds to customer needs.

The foundations of Agile were established in 2001. That’s when 17 software developers got together to discuss less rigid methods of development. After much deliberation, they came up with a list of principles to guide managers and developers in creating better software that keeps up with the ever-growing pace of software development.

They were kind enough to write down their findings, and thus, the Manifesto for Agile Software Development was born. It’s a document that summarizes the philosophy behind Agile methodology. The values of Agile are as follows:

Agile – pros and cons

It’s one of the methodologies that has been gaining the most popularity in recent years. But if you’re thinking about going the Agile route, be sure to check if the pros and cons align with your strategy and the environment of your product.

As you can see from the list of pros and cons, applying the Agile methodology in your projects can offer a boost in the way your product responds to the needs of your customers. Aside from that, the final product is likely to be more polished and released faster.

Who is Agile suitable for?

Even though Agile methodology is an umbrella term for many specific frameworks, it’s still possible to determine the circumstances where the agile methodology is the best choice in a given organization.

Generally speaking, Agile works best in projects with the following characteristics:

  • No scope that is set in stone.
  • No specific deadline.
  • Allows for frequent customer feedback.
  • Allows for frequent testing.
  • Ones that can be divided into smaller parts. 

If your projects fit into that mold, Agile project management is something you should look into. There is a number of practical applications of Agile to choose from called Frameworks. This next part contains a rundown of 7 Agile frameworks most frequently used in project management.

Most popular Agile frameworks

In order to better understand what each framework is like, it’s vital to learn the difference between a methodology and a framework. A methodology is a system of principles, practices, rules, and procedures. A framework is a model that helps classify complex information in a logical manner. To make it absolutely clear, look no further than the explanation of Professional Development: Think of agile as the overall philosophy, and frameworks as tools you use to carry out that philosophy.

There are multiple ways of implementing Agile methodology in your organization. Take a look at some of the most popular frameworks. Maybe one of them will catch your eye and help you get better results, or streamline the management process in your organization.

Scrum

We start with the most popular framework – Scrum. It’s classified as “a lightweight framework that helps people, teams, and organizations generate value through adaptive solutions for complex problems.”

One of the foundations of this framework is lean thinking. It’s an approach that prioritizes the essentials while disregarding elements that aren’t conducive to reaching the specified goal. Scrum is iterative, meaning that work on the product takes place in small increments.

The crucial part of the Scrum framework is the team. The roles of key members are defined very clearly, and the completion of the projects depends on having members with all the necessary skills and competencies. Here are some of the vital roles in Scrum:

The projects are divided into sessions called Sprints. A Sprint can last from a week up to a month. It begins with a Sprint Planning meeting when the stakeholders, clients, and team members discuss the scope of a given sprint as well as requirements and tasks. That is when the work of a Sprint is planned.

Every day, team members discuss progress and issues they have encountered, as well as the plan for the day ahead of them. Those meetings are called Daily Standups.

At the end of every Sprint, the Scrum team and stakeholders review the goals and accomplishments of a Sprint and make decisions on future developments, hence the name Sprint Review. After the review, there is one more meeting that needs to take place.

The Sprint Retrospective marks the end of every Sprint. It’s a meeting where the team discusses the process itself: what went well and what could be improved. Once the meeting ends, the Sprint is concluded.

XP (Extreme Programming)

Developers had already noticed the need for a different management style prior to 2001’s Agile Manifesto. One of the examples of such a vision is called Extreme Programming, also known as XP. This framework was conceived to empower developers to quickly create bug-free code that responds to customers’ most recent needs.

It is founded on five core values: communication, simplicity, feedback, respect, and courage. 

Extreme Programmers rely on constant communication both with customers and other team members. The faster the feedback, the sooner the team can implement new changes.

The design is clean and simple, which makes fixing easier. Frequent testing means that feedback goes through often. Respect is earned through contributions and grows with each new experience. Courage refers to a brave venture into ever-changing requirements, both in terms of customer needs as well as the technology required to achieve the desired goal.

One of the quirks of XP is pair programming. Two developers share a single computer and work on it interchangeably. The driver is the one at the keyboard, while the navigator’s focus is on the direction of the programming. XP is governed by a series of rules shown below.

Kanban

Another Agile framework that has gathered a lot of fans over the years is called Kanban. The name is a Japanese word for “visual signal”, which reflects the idea behind it very well. It was created in Japan, hence the origin of the name, in the late 1940s by Taiichi Ohno.

The main goal of Kanban is to improve work management by creating visual boards that help distinguish various stages of tasks.

There are a few benefits of monitoring your and your team’s work with a Kanban board. First of all, it is easy to start. Work management software like Jira, Trello, and BigPicture have built-in Kanban modules on all plans.

Once you have the Kanban board set for the entire team, you have a clear overview of upcoming tasks and what each team member is currently working on.

Atlassian has a great video on Kanban: what it is and how it works. If you have never had any prior experience with this framework, be sure to watch it.

One thing that keeps Kanban straightforward regardless of the scope of the project is called Work in Progress limit. It’s a tool that restricts the number of tasks a team member can work on at once. Setting WIP limits reduces confusion, limits distractions, and prevents work overload.

Scrumban

It’s an Agile framework created by Corey Ladas in 2009. As the name suggests, it combines elements of both Scrum and Kanban. The framework blends the structure of Scrum with the flexibility of Kanban.

Take a look at the image below to get an idea of how the two frameworks mesh together to create Scrumban.

One of the main examples of Scrumban’s flexibility is the lack of story points. On top of that, teams working in Scrumban don’t have specific tasks assigned to a particular team member. It’s up to the team and their availability to distribute the tasks as the Sprint continues.

You might be wondering how to start using the Scrumban framework. If you do, this step-by-step guide will definitely be of use.

  1. Set up a Scrumban board.
  2. Set the work-in-progress limits.
  3. Prioritize tasks.
  4. Organize Daily Standup Meetings.

Who is Scrumban for? Teams that have used Scrum before and want more flexibility is the first use case. From the project standpoint, Scrumban works best in long-term situations.

So far, we have discussed Agile frameworks that apply to individual teams. But what about projects that need to accommodate multiple groups? That’s where Agile at Scale frameworks get to shine.

Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®)

It is a structured approach to implementing Agile in enterprise environments. SAFe® guides large companies on multiple levels: organizational, workflow, and value.

The first one means that Scaled Agile Framework helps businesses structure their organization by providing guidelines for specific roles and accompanying responsibilities. The workflow component refers to planning and managing the work, both on single-team and cross-team levels. Last but not least, there are four core values at the heart of SAFe®:

It takes Leadership to apply SAFe® values and processes consistently and across the entire organization.

When multiple teams take part in a single project, there is bound to be some confusion about the scope of work or the goals and the underlying vision of the project. SAFe® teams prevent this from happening with a Program Increment (PI) Planning.

PI Planning is an event where all of the Agile Release Train teams get together to discuss the vision and the deliverables, divide and plan the workload, estimate the capacities as well as map the dependencies across teams. It’s usually an in-person event, which tends to last for about two days.

LeSS

The last framework in this entry is called LeSS, but don’t let this abbreviation deceive you. It stands for Large-Scale Scrum, which means it applies the philosophy of Scrum in environments where multiple teams work on one product under one Product Owner. Unlike SAFe®, this framework doesn’t modify Scrum on a team level. In this case, LeSS really is more.

Here are the principles you should follow if you want to implement LeSS the right way:

Adhering to these principles is a solid foundation for a successful implementation of Scrum in a large organization.

Scrum of Scrums

One of the most popular frameworks – Scrum – wasn’t meant to be used at scale. However, Jeff Sunderland and Ken Schwaber, the framework’s founders, stumbled upon complex projects that required coordination between multiple teams. The duo wanted to see whether a modified version of the Scrum framework would work in such environments, and it did.

The Atlassian Agile Coach defines Scrum of Scrums as “a scaled agile technique that offers a way to connect multiple teams who need to work together to deliver complex solutions.”

Managing large groups of people divided into teams in a way that maintains focus on the product and business goals is done with the help of a Scrum of Scrums meeting.

Each team selects a representative that will discuss accomplishments and issues that occurred since the last meeting, as well as goals and possible inter-team interferences that might take place before the next Scrum of Scrums meeting.

It’s a great opportunity for teams to share experiences, coordinate work, and keep track of Sprint activity. Here is a visual representation of the representatives in a Scrum of Scrums meeting:

Now that you know about Classic and Agile methodologies, you can pick the one that benefits your project the most. However, there are a lot of cases when using either Agile or Classic methodology will not help produce the best results for your business. After all, each methodology has its own limitations. That’s exactly where the latest of project management methodologies – Hybrid – comes into play.

Hybrid methodology – what is it?

In short, it is a set of practices applicable when combining two methodologies in one project portfolio. The goal of the Hybrid methodology is to blend the benefits of both Classic and Agile while eliminating their drawbacks.

In order to provide team members with a clear scope of work, the Hybrid methodology features a detailed Work Breakdown Structure that is created and monitored by a Project Manager who takes responsibility for the entire project.

Just like in Scrum, teams work in Sprints and with the support of the Scrum Master, who is also responsible for the backlog. In an Agile-like fashion, team members communicate frequently and present the finished work to clients for feedback – another Agile feature.

Hybrid – pros and cons 

As a combination of two approaches, Hybrid strives to be the perfect methodology, but is it? Unfortunately, there is no such thing. Every methodology comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and Hybrid is no exception.

Who is the Hybrid methodology for?

One of the great things about the Hybrid methodology is that you can apply it regardless of the size of your team and the complexity of your project. Of course, there are some exceptions. Hybrid relies on roles such as Product Manager and Scrum Master, so if your team is too small to include these roles, this methodology won’t work effectively. This approach to project management will be a perfect fit if you want to be Agile and have a more robust structure in place.

Project management methodology cheat sheet

As promised, here is a handy breakdown of all the methodologies in the form of a cheat sheet.

Now that you have a clear idea of what each methodology is like, it’s time to use it in your projects. To do so effectively, you need the right software. No matter which methodology you choose, Big Picture is going to be the right choice since it works with all methodologies – Classic, Agile, or Hybrid. See it for yourself and start a 30-day free trial.