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Project management methodologies are as plentiful as there are problems to solve, but that doesn’t mean that they’re all applicable to each project. As technologies continue to develop and diversify, new methods must be developed to accommodate the immediate need for change. There are generally two main types of methodologies exercised depending on project specs: Classic Project Management and Scrum.

What Is Scrum?

“The Iron Triangle” is a term for the basic foundation of any project management method and refers to the cost, schedule and scope of a project. Much like a triangle, any changes to one of these sides will affect the other two. If the scope is underestimated, for example, the cost and schedule of the project will be thrown off.

Scrum is a process framework that was developed for project management after technology—and more specifically, software—became integral components of major projects. The term itself simply refers to an “ordered formation of players used to restart play,” and the method is all about prioritization and time-boxing over fixing the scope, schedule and cost of a project.

Unlike classic project management methods, Scrum focuses more on personal responsibility. The individuals that are performing the tasks are the ones taking ownership and estimating completion times. Scrum is also about continuous and agile management. Software requires iterative processes and therefore smaller goals must be achieved rather than one large, fixed scope.

How do They Differ?

The main difference between scrum and classic project management methodologies can be summed up as fixed scope vs. iterative decision making. Classic project management calls for project managers to look at the development as a whole whereas Scrum has no problem dividing it up into segments.

One of the largest discrepancies in the two techniques is due to the simple differences in terminology. The following are some ways in which the terms differ:

  • Schedule = Sprint (or Release)
  • Scope = Sprint Backlog
  • Work Breakdown Structure = Task Breakdown
  • Productivity = Velocity
  • Estimate to Complete = Burndown Chart

Unlike a schedule, sprints are shorter cycles of management that permit frequent courses for correction. This is in response to changes in customer or production needs. Sprint allows for a much faster delivery of urgent requests over classic project management.

Each sprint is assigned a uniform length (fixed schedule) to guarantee reliability. Features and tasks are then completed in priority order within each sprint to ensure the results are continually meeting the needs of the customer. Traditional project management focuses on creating a fixed scope, cost and schedule for a project whereas Scrum encourages iterative decision making based on real-time data.

If you are managing any project that deals with software, Scrum should always be high in your considerations for use. Software products evolve incrementally and even modest increments of functionality can be of great use to consumers. Therefore, it is important to understand exactly the needs of the project prior to choosing the best method of management.

Which Works Best for You?

This truly comes down to the task at hand. A methodology should be chosen based on the project itself more than anything else. Examining the needs, expectations and resources of a venture is a good start. It is wise to understand both methodologies thoroughly before choosing your path. The wrong method can kill a project before it even begins.

If you lead a small team in software development, Scrum is probably your best bet. In the modern world, Scrum is usually the first choice but keep in mind if your project is relatively simple with set goals, Scrum may actually end up costing more as an unnecessary overhead. In other words, don’t complicate things if you don’t have to, but always know your options.

Can You Use Both?

If you can’t decide between the two, it’s perfectly acceptable for organizations to use both waterfall and scrum. It’s not uncommon for development teams to use a scrum method, for managers to use JIRA to handle their teams and for project managers within the same organization to use a waterfall method. Regardless of whether you choose waterfall, scrum or a combination of the two, it’s important to find a project management tool that can help you integrate with the rest of your organization. Clarizen, for instance, lets you integrate your JIRA with the rest of an organization, even if they’re not following a scrum or agile methodology. Because, at the end of the day, seamlessly completing a project is key, regardless of methodology.