The Best Project Management Methodology

I received an e-mail from a visitor to my site who described the following situation:

Hope you're fine. I was wondering if you could possibly help me. I'm a final year project management student currently undertaking a university research project as my final year assignment. I was shocked to see that so many methodologies actually exist as we have only been taught Prince2. My question is, what would be an ideal methodology for me to undertake in regards to a university project on children with asthma? My university has received funding from an organization called [company name removed] and we want to create an Expert Patient Program for young children with asthma. This will be done by conducting a number of workshops and drawing conclusions from the children's views. Any ideas?

This sort of question is not all that uncommon. Until you've run a few projects and looked in to different methodologies, it's quite natural to believe that there is a one size fits all process. Unfortunately, there isn't, despite what some vendors would have you believe.

Skill Level and Experience
Your choice of methodology is going to depend a lot on your skills and experience along with the skills and experience of the development team. The last thing you want to do is use one of the modern, agile methodologies with recent graduates that have never worked on a non-academic software project.

Corporate Constraints
Corporate policies may dictate a specific set of steps that can't easily be mapped to all methodologies making the list of options shorter. The pharmaceutical industry is particularly stringent when it comes to documentation. Small startups may have resource limitations that require focusing their efforts on a "good enough" solution to get something out the door as soon as possible.

Team Location
Will the team be offshore? Will they be in house? Some methodologies, with their emphasis on process and documentation, are better suited for projects where interactions between members may be restricted by distance and/or time zones. In house teams, because of constant communication, can sometimes make do with lighter methodologies.

Project Scope
The level of understanding of the finished project will also influence the selection of an appropriate methodology. Looking to simply convert an application from one language to another? A basic waterfall or modified waterfall approach is probably fine. Don't quite know what the end result should be because you're doing something exploratory? Then you better toss out anything that even comes close to looking like the waterfall approach and choose something more agile.

The list of considerations goes on and on, but hopefully the above demonstrates why there is no such thing as the best project management methodology.

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4 Comments

  1. For me one of the biggest distinctions would be between a methodology like agile which is innovation driven and Prince2 which is process and control driven - both of course need a business case. However, if you're building a real bridge you need Prince since the materials/project components are clearly defined with very little room for manouvre after initiation. With agile though, anyone from the top down can suggest making the bridge out of plastercine at just about any time and it might happen if there's an argument for it, which is great for gaming and software development. If you're building that bridge to the 6sigma methodology though you might just need indentured labour.

  2. Marios Alexandrou

    Jeff, You're right that the PMBOK is a good place to start, but I think it still has too many elements that are old-school. Mind you I haven't gone through the latest edition in full so perhaps things have been modernized. In addition, while the PMBOK may be suited for all situations, it still would require extensive knowledge to be able to figure out what can be excluded. There's a lot of overhead with it that isn't appropriate for all projects.

  3. The Project Management Body of Knowledge is as close as you're going to get to a one size fits all and it fits pretty well.

  4. Marios, The good old scientific method also provides another model: Research, build a hypohesis and test. Not one that people tend to talk about in the pm industry but one I have seen people use for process improvement projects quite a few times (and with more success than I see six sigma methods executed.) THanks for the read... now back to the Penski file.

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