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Project methodologies: which to choose for your project

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Published by admin
01 June 2020

Have you ever heard the thought “the project manager is a toast-master”? The main task of the project manager is to orchestrate this fun chaos taking place on the project, structuring the work of each team member, establishing communication, and choosing the right words when communicating not only with the customer but also with the team. As a result, this whole fuss turns into well-established processes, where each project participant knows perfectly well his tasks, the area of ​​responsibility and the final result is clear to everyone. 

Each project manager is quite aware that choosing the right methodology is critical to the success of the whole job. While there are lots of project management methodologies, we would like to highlight the most commonly used. 

There are a great many methodologies for project management and each one is designed to standardize work steps and checklists at every stage, because each project is inherently unique and can be implemented by completely different management tools. A methodology can be both a tool if we are talking, for example, about Agile, and a way to use the same tool, if we recall PMBoK.

By the way, Agile has a wide coverage. This methodology has taken root as a PM tool in the modern tech industry. Agile is the most common project management methodology when speaking about iterative and incremental projects. This type of process implies joint efforts of self-organizing and cross-functional teams in cooperation with the client to gather requirements and create a viable solution. 

Initially, Agile was a reaction to the shortcomings of the Waterfall method. The processes within Waterfall did not meet the requirements of highly competitive and constantly changing trends in the tech industry. 

Therefore, customers generally like the idea of ​​Agile because of its obvious flexibility in project management which provides them with more opportunities to change their minds throughout the project.

Project methodologies

Some project management methodologies simply define principles, such as Agile. Others define the “full-stack” methodological structure of topics and processes, such as Prince2. Some methodologies are made as an extensive list of standards with a specific process, such as the PMI PMBOK methodology; another are really simple and defines the process itself, e.g. Scrum.

Let's take a look at Scrum. This is probably the most popular methodology (a part of Agile) at the moment. Indeed, in a world where everything is rapidly developing and changing, it is necessary to be quite flexible and mobile. And exactly Scrum incorporates a progressive and iterative project methodology for project management. What makes Scrum special is the fact that the final result is not exactly defined at the beginning of the project. The same deal with the project life cycle.

Project methodologies

Scrum is based on five values:

  • Focus;
  • Courage;
  • Commitment;
  • Openness;
  • Respect.

The main goal of the methodology consists of developing, supplying, and maintaining complex products through collaboration, accountability, and iterative progress. What sets Scrum apart from other flexible project management methodologies is how it works using specific roles, events, and artifacts.

The team consists of several components. The responsibility for the final result rests with three main roles:

Product owner: a product expert representing interests of stakeholders and acts as "the voice of the customer";

Dev team: a group of professionals involved in the product creation (developers, designers);

Scrum master: a person responsible for the success of the scrum team is successful (Scrum practices carried out, team members are focused on the productive outcome).

You should understand that several problems and issues may arise with no relation to the fact of how flexible the methodology may seem. Here are just the most common:

It is up to you, how

  1. The application of Scrum techniques takes a lot of time - to complete the backlog and work through each task you need a sufficient amount of time. Also, a lot of time is spent on pretty important things, like kick-off sprint meetings or retrospectives. It really simplifies life when processes are in place, but it still takes up a significant portion of your time. Plus, one of the tasks of the project manager is facilitation and ability to organize meetings in such a way that they do not drag out for half of your working day;
  2. It is necessary to clarify many extra requirements. The aspiration for a top-quality product requires an exact number of story points for a particular task, of possible blockers, of implementation details, and f the further development course with subsequent steps. However, initially, it may be necessary to analyze and understand any tasks with unclear and fuzzy requirements, why did it happen. And it may be useful to introduce a status for tasks that are already ready for discussion and to appoint those responsible for its updating;
  3. A lot of tasks are transferred from past sprints. This is quite logical because we try to be as flexible as possible and try to load the sprint as much as possible by adjusting to all kinds of factors. As a result, at the end of each sprint some tasks should be transferred to the next stage. In such a case, we reduce the focus factor and perform a competent tasks assessment, which corresponds to the sprint capacity;
  4. From the customer's perspective each issue is a "blocker". It may be another problem of flexibility, when every new feature and refinement should be developed right here, right now. Such an approach may cause the postponement of delivery dates or the endless transfer of the same tasks from one sprint to another.

to work with the team, and how to organize a productive work process based on the Scrum methodology. As noticed above, any project is unique and requires its approach and tools that will work in a particular case.

Now let's shift to another popular project implementation methodology - Kanban. This is a flexible framework that, like Scrum, focuses on early deliveries with collective and self-governing teams. The concept, which was developed on the production line of Toyota factories in the 1940s, is a very visual method that aims to achieve high-quality results by visualizing the work process so that the most bottlenecks can be identified at the early stage of the development process. The Kanban methodology operates with six common practices:

  1. Visualize - tasks, workflow, risks, metrics and everything else should be visualized;
  2. Limit WIP (Pull system, not Push) - the need to focus, eliminate bottlenecks;
  3. Manage flow - the active use of metrics and discussions;
  4. Make Explicit Process & Policies - clear and accessible rules for everyone;
  5. Implement Feedback Loops / CI - continuous improvement.
  6. Improve Collaboratively, Evolve Experimentally (using models & the scientific method)

Although there are no any established Kanban rules per se, basically the work is performed using the Kanban board to represent the stages of development from the very beginning when ideas are presented, to the moment when the work is in the progress, and to the very last stage when the work has been completed. The main structure of such boards consists of three columns, designated as "To-Do, Doing and Done", which is quite logical. Such a visualized approach enables easy tracking of the issue status and critical moments.

Project methodologies

Like most Agile frameworks, Kanban has contributed to the software development industry. However, due to its flexibility, it has become widespread in other industries. Now Kanban is one of the few project management methodologies applicable to any project that requires continuous improvement during the development process.

Like Scrum, Kanban is suitable for projects with small teams that need a flexible approach to deliver a product or service. Kanban is also great for personal productivity goals.

Wrapping up we would like to note that any methodology and principle of project management will not be a panacea and will not secure you against a fail if you blindly follow instructions and try to squeeze every once of the poor team. The most logical solution is to choose and establish a methodology that will enable you to work productively.

And remember that you are the very "toast-master" and it is you who control the process!

Julia Solomenko
Senior Project Manager
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