The essential decisions that a project manager must make when selecting a methodology are below,
Budgets play a big role in any project, and the type of methodology to be used is important. Formulated fairly early in the project’s planning stage, the budget estimate is most often based on analogous estimating. With the budget estimate, we start at the top and work our way down into the project details.
Methodologies are directly proportional to the team size. Use light methodologies for smaller teams and heavy methodologies for larger teams.
The technology used on a project affects the direction and type of methodology selected. Unfamiliar technology slows progress. On many projects today, simulation and testing of new technologies is actually considered a phase of the methodology.
Tools and techniques
Some project methodologies require more tools and techniques than others. For example, some projects need databases, visual modeling tools, and project management tools; while others require hardly anything. If a project manager must manage multiple design changes, he or she will need a configuration management tool and technique.
Any critical project with a “must-deliver” target date needs to have the correct choice of methodology. The project might require additional resources to finish by the required date. If the methodology is too small, the project manager loses control; too large and formal, he or she slows the project down. A project manager’s experience and skills will help in choosing the best approach.
In any company, the maturity and ease of use of existing project processes largely influence the methodology. Some company processes may be totally unreliable and ad hoc, slowing down completion of tasks.
Light or heavy methodology
The choice between using a light or heavy methodology determines the success of the project.
Ever-increasing technological complexities, project delays, and changing client requirements, brought about a small revolution in the world of development methodologies. A totally new breed of methodology, which is agile, adaptive, and involves the client, every part of the way, is starting to emerge. Many of the heavyweight methodologists were resistant to the introduction of these “light weight” or “agile methodologies”. These methodologies use an informal communication style. Unlike heavyweight methodologies, lightweight projects have only a few rules, practices, and documents. Projects are designed and built on face-to-face discussions, meetings, and the flow of information to the clients.
The immediate difference of using light methodologies is that they are much less documentoriented, usually emphasising a smaller amount of documentation for the project. The great thing about light methodologies is that they are learning methodologies. After each build or iteration, the team learns to correct issues on the project and improvement cycles form throughout the project. Additionally, with light methodologies, the project teams are smaller and rely on working more closely, fostering knowledge sharing, and having almost instantaneous feedback. The project manager does not need to develop heavy project documentation, but should instead focus on the absolute necessary documentation.
The traditional project methodologies are considered bureaucratic or “predictive” in nature and have resulted in many unsuccessful projects. These heavy methodologies are becoming less popular. These methodologies are so laborious that the whole pace of design, development, and deployment actually slows down, and nothing gets done. Project managers tend to predict every project milestone because they want to foresee every technical detail. This leads managers to start demanding many types of specifications, plans, reports, checkpoints, and schedules. Heavy methodologies attempt to plan a large part of a project in great detail over a long span of time. This works well until things start changing, and project managers inherently try to resist change.
If the project manager does not obtain a complete list of user requirements from clients for the heavy weight project, it is very likely that the heavy methodology will not work effectively because the project will be racked with change, slippages, and rework on the project documentation. A heavy weight methodology works on the assumption that the more rules and coordination there are, the better the project result will be. A complex project requires sufficient documentation just to jog the memory of the many team members on the project. However, excess methodology is very costly and inept, there are more updates to reports, plans, and schedules. Alternatively, there are times when a heavyweight methodology may be appropriate for super projects where it is necessary to gain stricter control and coordination between phases, and to improve the lines of communication between team members.
Importance of methodology and life cycles
Successful implementation of any project methodology is a project itself. The hard part is to roll it out and make it part of the company’s everyday culture. Although managers can manage projects without a formal methodology, having one can be a big help. Project management methodologies have been around for decades, but first started to become popular in Information System (IS) in the early 1970s . These methodologies usually have two components. The first is an overall process for doing things, while the second consists of templates or forms required at specific portions of that process. While the process itself is the true methodology, most project managers consider the templates and forms to be part and parcel of the methodology.
Project management methodologies are important for two reasons. First, they standardise the way in which an organisation manages its projects. This allows people from anywhere in the organisation to talk with one another using the same terms and the same definitions for those terms. Presenting a consistent approach to project management via standards also allows project managers to cover for one another when the need arises. The second reason that methodologies are important is that they provide novice project managers with the tools to manage projects, without requiring a long learning curve.
Project life cycles generally go hand in hand with project methodologies. Such life cycles break a project’s life into a series of phases or stages. The end of each phase provides a convenient project review point for senior management to institute go or no-go decisions, and also allows project managers to plan the next phases in more detail. While project life cycles can have many phases, the majority have three to five. They include some type of project start-up or initiation, a project construction or implementation stage, and, finally, a project evaluation or postimplementation review [2, 8]. The Project Management Life Cycle has four phases: Initiation, Planning, Execution and Closure as shown in Fig. 3.