A project management methodology is simply the way you apply a set of standards or guidance to deliver a project. For example, your business may have adapted the techniques you learned while studying for your PMP® and made them specific to the way it wants you to run projects. Your PMO will have a defined project change process, for example, standard reporting templates and things like that – they make your methodology.
In many ways, your methodology becomes mandated by the Project Management Office (PMO), or is just the way you do things. You follow the processes prescribed because you know they work and they represent good practice. You might do things that way because that’s the way you’ve always done them.
However, there are benefits to using a project management methodology, and if you’ve never given it much thought, below are 3 of the reasons why you should be following a standard approach. These are drawn from research by Dr Hany Wells from the University of Hertfordshire Business School, who investigated the benefits of different project management methodologies.
If you don’t currently use a standard approach for the way you run projects, maybe Dr Wells’ research will help to change your mind. Let’s look at the benefits now, and you can see for yourself.
1. Providing control
Methodologies help project managers keep track of their projects. They provide a system of control that lets you see what is working on the project and what needs intervention. Checks and balances allow for tracking and governance, which is important for keeping projects moving and delivering value to the organization.
For example, processes like end of stage reviews help projects move from one part of the lifecycle to another in a controlled manner. In the absence of guidance like this, project managers, sponsors and senior decision makers could find it difficult to support a project through the whole lifecycle. Projects may stall because teams didn’t know what to do next or what parameters should be applied to the decision to move the project on to the next stage.
Project governance – and being able to manage projects in a clear and structured way – is one of the major benefits of methodologies, and a big feature of most of them. However you go about doing it, being able to track progress, and course correct as necessary is an important factor for project managers.
2. Covering the basics for bids
If your company bids for work, for example as a government contractor, there will often be hygiene factor requirements that you have to hit. If you don’t tick those boxes, your bid won’t be considered. Those boxes often relate to using methodologies and having standard approaches to managing projects.
The requirements for bids can be things like having all staff working on the project as PMP® certified, or using a particular methodology or a project management tool. While being able to win work for specific clients isn’t the only reason to adopt a methodology, it’s certainly a big one if you work in industries where it matters.
Even if you don’t have to win work on a contract basis, having a methodology adds a layer of ‘getting the basics right’ for your clients, be they internal or external.
3. Helping manage the unknown
Lots of things are unknown on projects, and it seems like the work we do today is more complex and uncertain than ever. A methodology provides processes and procedures for working through problems. Something needs to change? Use the change control process. You need to log an issue? There’s a process for that. Regardless of what happens on the project, methodologies are designed to have your back.
Of course, you still need to make sound decisions and lead with professional judgement, but broadly the process within a methodology help you manage periods of uncertainty on a project.
The research also highlighted that methodologies were particularly valuable for project managers without a lot of experience, as they support newer team members in doing the right thing.
Those 3 benefits are the positive implications of having a methodology in use within your company. A further benefit, also highlighted by the research, is perhaps the most obvious: the benefit of standardisation.
With the whole project management community using the same approach to managing projects, you all use the same terminology and processes. This makes it easier to move between projects, to understand each other and to compare projects. The data shared related to each project is in a common format, so decision makers can more easily apply the same logic to multiple projects and get standardized governance too.
Overall, methodologies create an environment where projects can be delivered in a consistent manner and that’s great for improving success rates.
What methodology do you use? Let us know in the comments.
This article was written by Elizabeth Harrin.