It might be tempting to think that as project management continues to grow in importance, and as project methodologies continue to improve, project managers around the world will eventually reach a universal agreement on the best way to manage a project. In reality, however, we will never see a single “PM methodology” or similar concept that can be applied to every project in every industry. Rather, the extra attention given to project management in recent decades has resulted in a proliferation of different methodologies, with new approaches being developed every year.
An organization looking to choose a project management methodology should evaluate each of today’s most popular approaches and identify the one (or ones) that appear to be best suited for the organization’s unique goals and challenges.
Waterfall vs Agile
Most discussions about project management methodologies are dominated by the “waterfall vs. agile” debate. The waterfall method is perhaps the oldest approach to project management, and it is still in wide use today. Agile project management has grown more popular in recent decades and is very common in software development and several other fields.
A project managed using the waterfall method consists of a single sequence of tasks, from planning to final delivery, with each step dependent on the completion of the previous step. A waterfall project does not typically allow for a return to the planning stage, for example, once that stage is complete and the next stage has begun. The waterfall method is commonly used to manage very large projects with multiple stakeholders, and on projects that involve familiar requirements and established solutions.
An agile project, on the other hand, consists of multiple “sprints,” or project cycles, in which small components of the overall deliverable are planned, developed and implemented in an iterative process. Agile methodology allows teams to adjust their approach mid-project when requirements change or new information comes to light. The agile approach is popular for projects where there is a relatively high degree of uncertainty about the exact details of the final deliverable.
Critical Path and Critical Chain
Critical path project management and critical chain project management are two related methodologies that focus on the set of activities and resources which are essential for a successful conclusion to a project. The critical path method places high importance on the project timeline and organizes a project around its “critical path,” the sequence of activities which cannot be delayed without affecting the overall project calendar. Critical chain project management, a more recent development, emphasizes the resources which must be available in order for project tasks to be completed on time.
Using Multiple Methodologies
Given the number of effective project management techniques, most large companies prefer to use a combination of methods, rather than attempting to force all projects into one mold. At the enterprise level, project managers that span departments often find themselves operating in multiple methodologies at once, sometimes even on a single project. Large, complex projects often require the efforts of several groups or orgs, each of which might prefer to follow a different approach to managing its segment of the project. While this was a significant business challenge in the past, project management solutions like Clarizen now enable teams to work in their own methodologies while collaborating with teams that use different techniques.
If you’re looking for ways to maximize your team’s performance, find out how Clarizen’s cloud-based project management solution can help your team work more collaboratively and effectively.