Hold on there. You’re only giving me 3? I’ve come to expect something a little more comprehensive from you folks at monday.com!

Never fear, dear reader. You’ll get all you need to know from this article.

There are only really 3 types of project management methodology: Waterfall, Agile, and a hybrid model — and we cover them all in this guide.

Only 3? But, what about Scrum? And Kanban? Or Scrumban, for Pete’s sake?

Ah, but those are frameworks. We know it’s confusing, so your best place to start if you need to know more is in our Project management for dummies article (not saying you’re a dummy, of course!), where we walk you through it.

In a nutshell, methodologies give you the overall approach to how you are going to run your project. It’s the big picture perspective. Frameworks give a greater level of detail about how the project is going to be executed. Think of them as your step-by-step instructions.

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Why is using a project management methodology important?

  • Clarity. One of the key advantages of using a project management methodology is the clarity it brings to the project. Roles are clearly defined, which helps improve the decision-making process and ensures accountability. Confusion over who’s responsible for what can lead to delays and frustration.

Whether there is a decision upfront as to what the project deliverables are, or they emerge as the project progresses, following a project management methodology makes it nearly 20% more likely the project will deliver what it’s supposed to. Meaning happy customers and a smug/relieved project manager.

  • Visibility. Whatever project management methodology you follow, you’ll implement a process for monitoring and controlling the project. Monitoring the project means the project manager can easily see how the project is progressing, and what needs to be done next. With the project plan, they can also see if things aren’t on track and make changes to bring the project back in line.

The workload of the project team can also be checked to make sure that people are being used most effectively and not facing burnout.

  • Efficiency. Following a project management method that’s been tried and tested means you can speed up the project initiation phase and reduce the overall project timeline and budget. Lessons learned from other projects can also be incorporated increasing the chance of project success.

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What are the different project management methodologies?

You’ve got 2 real choices for how to run a project:

  • A linear, sequential way where each step in the project waits for the previous one to finish before it starts — a Waterfall methodology
  • An iterative way where each step in the project brings greater clarity as to what the final outcome will be — an Agile methodology

How do you choose the right project management methodology?

  • Requirements. The first question you have to answer is whether the project requirements need to be fully defined upfront, as part of a scope statement, or whether they’re more flexible and can become clearer over the course of the project. Your answer will influence the project management methodology you choose.
  • Resources. If your project needs a specialist resource, with limited availability, you need to be clear when in the project timeline you are going to use them and make sure you book them. Otherwise, you risk adding a significant delay.
  • Client culture. You’ll need to identify the client’s non-negotiables. If the project scope needs to be tightly controlled, but time and budget aren’t set in stone, a different approach is required than when time and budget are fixed but the end deliverable can be more flexible.
  • Level of stakeholder engagement. How is the client expecting to work with the project team? Will they be close to the project and on-hand throughout to make decisions and offer direction? Or do they want to provide all that at the start and then let the project run with minimal input?

When should I use Waterfall?

A key benefit of using the Waterfall method is the in-depth planning process right at the start. This means that from the very beginning, both the client and the project team are clear on the required outcome and understand how it helps the business deliver its wider organizational goals.

screenshot showing project management plan for initiation and planning phases

Governance and decision-making processes can be clearly established so everyone knows where the responsibility lies for different parts of the project. And everything can be shared in comprehensive project documentation meaning there is little chance of misunderstandings.

If resources are scarce, the upfront investment in quality planning gives you a much better chance getting that resource for the project on time. This decreases the chance of project delays.

With the Waterfall method, each phase of the project runs in sequence, lowering the risk of “scope creep” and creating greater levels of control over project risk.

pros and cons of Waterfall method

Summary: Waterfall works best in a less volatile project environment, and where there can be an upfront investment from the client to ensure a high level of certainty around the final deliverables.

And when is an Agile method better?

An Agile approach is for when requirements cannot be defined at the start of the project. The project team and client work together throughout the project life-cycle  to continuously scope the project deliverables.

Small bits of the project are delivered over short time periods known as “iterations” or “sprints” and then refined based on feedback from the customer. For this reason, it’s crucial that key stakeholders are close to, or embedded within, the project team to collaborate with them on the output.

An Agile approach offers flexibility and is useful if the business environment is less certain or the business needs to respond quickly to change. 

Testing of the product happens throughout which means it’s easy to make changes and respond to shifts in markets or requirements.

Some customers find an Agile project management methodology attractive because they see an earlier “return” on their investment as there is a deliverable at the end of each iteration. This can be helpful for keeping stakeholders engaged with the project throughout its life-cycle.

pros and cons of the Agile method

Summary: Agile is effective in a changing environment where the customer and the project team can work in close collaboration to refine the exact deliverable over the project term.

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Sounds like they’re pretty different?

There are definitely differences but whichever project management methodology you choose,you’ll still go through each of the following 5 project phases.

We’ve written a whole guide on the 5 project phases but, here’s a quick summary:

Project initiation

This is the very start of the project when the business case is put together and signed-off by senior stakeholders. A project sponsor will be identified and the scope of the project — what’s in and what’s out — outlined in the project charter.

Project planning

In this phase, the project manager will put together the project plan. When using the Waterfall methodology, this will be comprehensive, with all the project deliverables agreed upon and milestones identified. In an Agile project, the planning phase is shorter and combined with the project execution phase.

Project execution

For Waterfall projects, this phase is all about following the project schedule and putting into action what was agreed in the planning phase. In an Agile project, sprints will begin at this part, Each sprint informs what will be delivered next, edging the project closer to the end goal.

Monitoring & controlling

Projects following a Waterfall model document their governance processes within a project charter. The key thing the project manager and other stakeholders will look out for is scope creep. While changes in scope do happen they should be formally documented through a change control process.

For Agile projects, a sprint retrospective at the end of each sprint gives the opportunity for a quick and dirty review of what is and isn’t working and what should be prioritized next.

Project closure

Hooray, you made it to the end! Whether your deliverables were agreed upfront, or emerged during the project life-cycle, it’s time to hand them over to the business and head off for pastures new.

But, is there a Goldilocks solution?

If neither Waterfall nor Agile really seem like they’ll work for your project, maybe a mix of project management methodologies is the thing for you.

Otherwise known as a hybrid methodology,  this approach attempts to combine the best of both Agile and Waterfall project management methodologies. Despite  the clear advantages in both approaches, combining them into into a methodology unto itself can be challenging.

Teams may have to work in ways they aren’t used to, or comfortable with. Senior stakeholders may need some guidance as to how to get the data they need from unfamiliar metrics. Decisions may take longer, information may need to be repeated several times, and something might get missed if responsibilities are unclear.

But, for an experienced project manager who understands the challenges, the potential for increased efficiency and flexibility, the hybrid approach may just be worth it.

Want to know how monday.com can help?

Whatever project management methodology you choose for managing projects, a key project success factor is using the right tools. We may be biased but the monday.com project management software ticks a lot of boxes.

If you’re using a Waterfall approach, you know that means to plan, plan, and plan some more. . Our project management planning template clearly shows the tasks, timeline, and progress for each stage of the project life-cycle.

And that comprehensive project documentation you need to stop Sally and Mike coming to blows about who was supposed to produce the latest communications update? We’ve got a list right here of everything you need to think about.

If you’re using an Agile project management methodology, you’ll need sprint planning templates. We’ve also got a handy template for your sprint retrospective. Plus, you’ll need tip-top collaboration and communication apps (we integrate with all the usual suspects) and organization tools to prioritize tasks, assign workflows, and seek feedback from stakeholders.

screenshot showing monday.com template with open chat box and project team collaboration

For a hybrid approach, you can mix and match from our wide range of templates.

Ready to get started?

There we have it. All you need to know to pick which project methodology is right for your next project. Whether you prefer grizzly or panda or something that’s “just right” in the middle — I’m thinking Koala? — we’ve got the bear, I mean, approach for you.

With over 200 customizable templates to choose from, monday.com has something to support all different types of projects. We even have an event planner for your end-of-project party.

It might be wiser to start at the beginning though, with our project roadmap. Just a thought.

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