How to choose the appropriate methodology in project management

My Exploration | Ted | 2020/07/13

There is not one-size-fit-all methodology in IT project management. Instead, it could be seen as a tailored one dependent on certain context. In order achieve the business goals, project teams could make use of some standard methods with some tailorings based on specific project context and its changes. This article could introduce the way.

One-size-fit-all methodology? No way

Nowadays, Development methodologies is a crucial part in software project management and is considered as a framework composed of a set of activities including planning, executing, and managing the process of developing software systems. For the potential benefit of standardization and value of universality, practitioners and scholars developed some specific standard development methodologies to use, such as PMBoK and PRINCE2, both of which could be used to guide the IT project management. As the complexity of real world increase consistently, project methodologies have been developing and adapting over years such as PMI’s A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) and the UK Office of Government’s Commerce (OGC) Prince2.

However, it is impossible to find a development methodology that suitable to all the methodology. That is because project contexts is always dynamic and complicated accompanying with various contingencies. Since those contingencies sometimes are usually unpredictable, such tailor processes need to adapt constantly during development.

Therefore, it is commonly accepted that any software processes need to be tailored to meet the specific and varying requirements or else project risk could occur. For example, the PMBOK Guide emphasizes that all aspects of project management should be tailored, including the processes, techniques, inputs, tools, outputs, life cycles and all others.

Adopt the appropriate methodology, how?

One of the many challenges within the project management community is how to adopt appropriate methodologies for project success. Commonly practitioners could make use of the standard methodology or approach in guide book and then tailor the process based on the specific project context. Basically, there is four types of approach to use for project management, including agile, traditional, iterative and hybrid. Nowadays many methodologies are developed and popularized, which could be classified as SDLC (software development life cycle) and agile methodologies, including waterfall, prototyping, iterative, rapid, structured, object-oriented, and agile methodologies, each of which has certain good and bad. Practitioners could adopt one of them based on the organizational size, revenue, team size, project criticality and budget. For example, if the project is e-voting system, we should use the waterfall methodology to reduce the potential fault and risk since this project is highly critical.

Further, process tailing can be conducted based on various aspects including the centralized extent of project management office, the challenges that project confronts (contain resource, communication, requirements management, political and technical challenges), the high-level criteria of the project (contain communication, criticality, and priority), the size of companies, the industry domains of companies, the specific catalogues of tailoring criteria, the support of stakeholders and the organizational, project, and team characteristics. In order to better tailor the process, it might be necessary to have a list to review the context and make some changes.

Four steps strategy of process tailoring

As shown below, we could develop a comprehensive strategy for process tailoring of the specific
project. Here I provide a basic thinking framework for inspiration – the four steps strategy of process tailoring.

First, practitioners need to identify project priority and then choose the development
approach. Second, we could develop the basic methodology strategy based on the project priority plus refined organization and team context. Third, we could use the challenge evaluation questions to explore the potential risk and respond to them based on priority. Fourth, we could refer to the extensional methodology criteria to further evaluate and respond for process tailoring.


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