Project management can get a bad wrap for being a process scattered and riddled with grunt work. While projects can of course range from simple to complex, the most successful projects are marked by a clear and consistent approach to their project management.

When it comes to choosing the best course of action for your team members, it’s best to start with a baseline understanding of both project methodologies and their respective frameworks. In this blog, we’ll cover the distinction between these terms, popular project management methodologies and examples, and of course how to manage it all with the right project management tools.

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What is the difference between project framework and methodology?

A methodology is a group of principles, tools, and practices that can be used to guide processes to achieve a certain goal. A framework tends to be a looser but incomplete structure that leaves room for other practices and tools to be included but provides much of the details about the process required. 

Projects in controlled environments might vary from those in initiatives that allow for continuous improvement rather than mapping things out in detail from the start–but more on that soon.

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Why is using a project management methodology important?

Clarity

Project management methodologies give teams the guidance to clearly define roles, which helps improve the decision-making process and ensures accountability. This reduces confusion down the line, saving your teams time and frustration. 

Visibility

Whatever project management methodology you follow, you’ll implement a process for monitoring and controlling the project as a part of the project lifecycle. Project management methodologies set standards for who and how often these project checks take place, as well as how any resulting actions are incorporated into the workflow. 

Efficiency 

Whether there is a decision up front 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.” 

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.

 

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?

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What are the different project management methodologies?

The two main project methodologies are Waterfall and Agile. Again, these describe larger principles that guide a project’s life cycle—we will get more granular in another section. Here’s an easy way to think about each one:

  • Waterfall methodology: a linear, sequential process where each step in the project waits for the previous one to finish before it can start
  • Agile methodology: functions in an iterative way, meaning work is completed in planned increments and each increment brings greater clarity as to what the final outcome will be

Let’s see how these methodologies each play out in the project management life cycle.

Quick review: 5 steps of the project management lifecycle

While we will be covering a variety of project management methodologies and frameworks, from Scrum and Kanban, it’s important to cover the foundation of project management at a high-level first. This will hold true for software developers and marketers alike. We’ve written a whole guide on the 5 project phases but, here’s a quick summary:

5 steps of project management

Initiation

This is the very start of the project when the business case is put together and senior stakeholders sign off on it. A project sponsor could also be identified and the scope of the project — what’s in and what’s out — is outlined in the project charter.

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 framework, the planning phase is shorter and combined with the project execution phase.

Executing

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.

Closing

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.

When should I use Waterfall?

Waterfall project management works best for projects with long, detailed plans that require a single timeline. It 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. Here’s a look at some of the pros and cons. 

pros and cons of Waterfall method

When should you use Agile?

Agile project management methodology works really well when the product vision or features are not or do not have to be well-defined. Agile allows product owners to tweak requirements and priorities throughout the project to take advantage of opportunities and ultimately deliver a better product to all of the project stakeholders.

Here’s some advantages and disadvantages of the methodology.

pros and cons of the Agile method

Let’s meet in the middle: hybrid project management methodology 

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. 

Be warned, however, that combining them 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.

4 factors for choosing 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?

What are the top project management frameworks?

While the project management field continues to evolve, there are several project management frameworks that continue to be favored among project managers and their teams. Here is a list linked to our more in-depth pieces. Keep reading to get the 411 on each. 

  1. Agile
  2. Waterfall
  3. Prince2
  4. PMBOK
  5. Scrum
  6. Lean
  7. Kanban

1. Agile

Agile is now an umbrella term that encompasses several different project management frameworks, such as Scrum, but it’s worth mentioning a few more details here. It rejects rigid planning and says that teams needs to be able to operate flexibly and iteratively—meaning you don’t “do it once, and do it right,” but rather you work on something small and execute it quickly, evaluate what’s working and what’s not, and then change and adapt from there.

Agile accepts uncertainty as a given, and aims to empower project teams to be super flexible, execute their work quickly, and respond to change without a hitch. This could be a disadvantage to teams working with a tighter budget or timeline because the Agile method can feel fraught with unpredictability. It also requires close and frequent communication—which is made easier with a Work OS like monday.com.

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2. Waterfall model

Again, this isn’t technically a framework. This old-school method asks project managers to list out all the tasks that lead to your end goal, and work on them in order. Progress cascades downwards from one phase of the project to the next. Each phase must be completed before you move on to the next. The Waterfall methodology is great for anyone who makes expensive, physical things in a process that repeats itself. 

And in terms of smaller endeavors, if you’re an excellent planner working on a project where the scope and requirements are extremely clear, the Waterfall method can help you land on a successful, predictable result. However, it’s a pretty rigid approach to project management. It assumes you have all the requirements upfront and no surprises will come up forcing you to deviate from the plan. For most teams, this simply isn’t a realistic way to work on a daily basis.

 

 

3. PRINCE2

PRINCE2 stands for Projects IN Controlled Environments and is one of the process-oriented Waterfall project management frameworks that emphasizes clear steps and well-defined responsibilities. PRINCE2 places heavy emphasis on planning, business justification, cost analysis, and risk mitigation, and is an incredibly thorough framework for running large and predictable enterprise projects.

It is also the most widely practiced project management methodology in the world, which means that a lot of people are familiar with it, know how it works, and understand its terminology. It’s a tried-and-true classic for mapping out stages of a large-scale project from start to finish, clarifying what will be delivered, by whom, and when. However, it’s also pretty rigid and poses similar challenges that most Waterfall projects have.

4. PMI’s PMBOK

Created by the Project Management Institute (PMI), PMBOK stands for Project Management Body of Knowledge, which breaks down project management into five phases: conception and initiation, planning, execution, performance and monitoring, and closing. It’s another type of waterfall methodology that has you follow these phases from start to finish.

It’s a very thorough approach to managing large-scale projects that cab be helpful for large enterprises who want all departments, or even companies, to work in one standardized way, using the same vocabulary and best practices. That being said, smaller teams who are looking to execute rapidly or even just find a sleek way to manage projects will likely find it cumbersome and complicated.

 

 

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5. Scrum

Scrum is the Agile project management framework of choice of most product development teams today, and it’s one that we loosely follow here internally at monday.com. Scrum is famous for buzzwords such as “sprints,” “scrums,” “backlogs,” and “burndowns.” With Scrum, you don’t focus on projects per se, but you instead focus on time: what can you achieve as a team in the next two weeks?

Small teams (no more than nine people) divide work into two-week milestones known as “sprints” or “iterations.” They meet for daily 15-minute “stand-ups” led by a Scrum Master to discuss where things stand. The Scrum Master acts as a facilitator whose job is to clear away obstacles and help the team work more efficiently. This Agile approach is great for creative projects where goals can be modified midway without derailing the entire project.

monday board

Manage your sprint iteration planning with our scrum management templates

6. Lean

Just as with Agile and PMBOK, Lean methodology wouldn’t be the most accurate way to describe this framework. This philosophy focuses achieving more by working with less. It’s mostly attributed to the Toyota Production System (TPS) who defined three broad types of waste: muda, mura, muri.

Lean aims to systematically eliminate all these forms of waste so you’re working as efficiently as possible. It encourages you to strip away all the fluff of your day-to-day so you’re only left with the essentials that deliver real value. Lean is easy to follow if you work in a manufacturing or production environment delivering a physical product, such as a Toyota car. Unfortunately, Lean is an old-school methodology that’s not relevant for most teams working digitally these days.

circle chart

 

7. Kanban

Speaking of Lean offshoots, Kanban is one of them. The Kanban board is used to visually manage processes with several different columns that represent stages in your workflow. The stages could be as simple as “To-do,” “Working on it,” and “Done” or far more complex, as tailored to your process. You then represent work via cards or sticky notes, moving them from left to right as they progress through your workflow—this way you can easily evaluate points of inefficiency: where are sticky notes building up? 

Like Agile, Kanban was specifically developed for software development, but it people love it because it can be applied to basically any workflow that follows a predictable process. People love Kanban for its simplicity and flexibility, but it doesn’t particularly help you be strategic and really plan ahead. You’re focused on what’s urgent, which may be different from what’s actually important. In addition, many projects follow non-linear processes that can’t be managed by a flat, single-layer display.

kanban monday board

Manage any project with monday.com Work OS

Whatever project management methodology you choose for managing projects, a key project success factor is using the right tools. 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 lifecycle.

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? Use monday workdocs to create documentation and collaborate in real-time without leaving the platform. 

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.

Start your project management engines

Choosing the right project management methodology is all about careful consideration and the right tools to match. If you’ve read this article, you’re already headed in the right direction.

To see how you can achieve your project management goals, get started with our free, 2-week trial—it’s on us! Be sure to try our customizable templates built for these project management methodologies and more.

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