And you thought there was just one, in fact there are many standard methods and even hybrids to help manage projects.
Here, I'd like to discuss just a few of the more prominent and commonly used methods.
The Traditional, Sequential Methodologies
- Simply put, one task (activity) is completed prior to beginning the next. When all activities are completed in sequence, they can be added up to meet the overall deliverable. Although this method is one of the simplest to implement, it lacks the flexibility of allowing for major changes in scope and customer priorities.
- Critical Path Method (CPM)
- The CPM method is based on the concept that there are some tasks you can't start until a previous one has been finished. When those tasks are strong together from start to finish, it plots out the critical path. Focusing on the critical path allows for the prioritization and allocation of resources to get the high priority tasks completed first, the lower priority tasks accomplished later.
- Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM)
- This method puts focus on the resources needed to complete the project's tasks. The project schedule begins by identifying the most crucial tasks that need to be done, "Critical Chain", and reserving resources for those high priority tasks.
The PMI/PMBOK method
- A project is broken down into five process groups: initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing. The PMI method requires a high degree of planning through the creation of agreed upon plans and subsidiary plans.
The Agile Family
- Project objectives are made clear by the customer while the final deliverable can change. Agile's four main values are expressed as:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
The project team works in iterative cycles, always evaluating results at the end. Depending on the results of these evaluations, the final deliverable may be modified in order to better answer the customer's needs.
- A relatively simple framework which solves a lot of problems that software developers have struggled with in the past such as convoluted development cycles, inflexible project plans, delayed production. A small team is led by a Scrum Master whose main job is to clear away all obstacles to work. The team works in short cycles of two weeks called "sprints", through daily meetings to discuss what's been done and where any roadblocks exist.
- Project teams create visual representations of their tasks often using sticky notes and whiteboards and move these through predetermined stages to see progress as it happens and identify where roadblocks occur.
- Extreme Programming (XP)
- Project work is completed in short work sprints, frequent iterations, and constant collaboration with stakeholders. Change can happen with a sprint, if work hasn't started on a certain feature, it can be swapped out and replaced by a similar task.
- Adaptive Project Framework (APF)
- Begins with a Requirements Breakdown Structure (RBS) to define strategic project goals based on requirements, functions, sub-functions, and features. The project continues in iterative stages, and at the end of each stage, teams evaluate previous results in order to improve performance and practices. Scope changes can be made at the start of each stage in order to produce the most business value.
With the end in mind, take a look at your requirements, your project goals and objectives. What does your final deliverable need to look like? What benefits should it provide? Align the project expectations with the methodology which best fits the project needs.