Project Management Methodologies and Frameworks Every Project Manager Should Know

Updated on: 27 February 2024 | 13 min read
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You might find yourself drowning in information, tools, and processes as a project manager. To stay afloat and thrive, you must choose the right project management methodologies and frameworks that suit your team and project needs.

Many different project management methodologies are available and deciding which one is right for you can be challenging. This article provides an overview of the most popular frameworks to get you started.

What is a Project Management Methodology?

A project management methodology is a set of principles, processes, guidelines, and tools that help to plan, manage, and control a project. The methodology helps to ensure that a project is on schedule, within budget, and that the project goals are met.

A project team or an organization uses a management framework to execute a project. The information generated is usually documented and shared with others. Recording the information is essential as it will help others understand the project requirements and responsibilities.

While most project management methodologies take a standardized approach, some are for specific purposes, i.e., manufacturing or software development.

Project Management Framework vs. Methodology

The terms framework and methodology are often used interchangeably in project management. However, there is a slight yet distinguishable difference between the two approaches.

A framework provides more flexibility and freedom. You can adopt new rules and change or remove existing ones as necessary. As such, a framework provides the structure and direction needed for a project without being too rigid or detailed.

On the other hand, a methodology is a set of principles and processes that guides the management of a project. It is a formal approach that is strictly defined and generally adheres to a strict code complete with steps and rules.

Another way to understand the two approaches is that most of the time, methodologies are for implementing ideas and values, while a framework provides a step-by-step guide to attain that idea or manage that project.

Project Life Cycle Processes

A project management framework includes the whole project management life cycle, which will guide you from the beginning to the end. In a project management life cycle, there are five steps:

Project Management Lifecycle

  1. Initiation: The beginning stage of the project, where the main focus is to narrow down the required key components to kickstart the project. Teams get together to research, brainstorm and conduct analysis and stakeholder mapping/interviews to gather information.
  2. Planning: Here, the teams and members working on the project are identified along with activities, milestones, risks, management structure, and success benchmarks.
  3. Execution: During this stage, the project kickstarts and is implemented.
  4. Management/Monitoring: At each milestone, the progress will be monitored, documented, and reported. Key progress and outputs will be shared with stakeholders as well.
  5. Review/Closing: This stage marks the end of the project. Project leaders and team members will review and analyze how the project progressed and setbacks to identify future improvements. Updates or replacements will be scheduled if necessary before wrapping up.

5 Key Project Management Methodologies and Frameworks

1. Waterfall Framework

Waterfall Framework

The Waterfall Framework is a linear approach that first gathers stakeholder and customer requirements before creating a sequential project plan to address the identified requirements. Consisting of five main stages, each stage is completed before progressing to the next–similar to a cascading waterfall.

The main stages of the waterfall framework are:

  • Requirements: needs and requirements of the business/project are identified, analyzed, and documented.
  • Design: possible solutions are explored before a detailed plan is made to achieve the goals.
  • Implementation: the project plan and activities are set in motion along with progress measurements.
  • Verification/Control: the product is reviewed, and the project plan is compared with the performance to address issues.
  • Maintenance/Closure: the end result is shared with clients for feedback and final fixes. Approval is obtained before the project is closed.

Advantages

  • As project and client requirements are identified and agreed in the very first stage, it sets clear client expectations that are easier to plan.
  • Extensive documentation ensures that each activity and task is well documented and that no knowledge is lost.
  • The project schedule is laid out at the beginning stages. As such, project costs, deadlines, and other resources can be estimated accurately.
  • Easier to measure and understand as you progress through each milestone one after the other.

Disadvantages

  • Identifying all client/customer requirements at the very beginning is difficult.
  • Changes to the product at the end stages are costly and difficult if the customer is unsatisfied.
  • Lack of flexibility due to the linear nature of the framework, which provides minimal room for change and adaptation in case of unexpected events.

2. Lean Methodology

Lean methodology originated in the 1950s in Toyota and currently focuses on eliminating waste, maximizing value, and improving efficiencies. Many organizations have opted to adopt the Lean Framework as it can be applied to any business, regardless of size, to achieve objectives in a sustainable manner.

The two main guiding concepts in Lean are respect for people and continuous improvement. Accordingly, necessary training and tools are provided, constant improvement is encouraged, and management takes on a more active role in understanding and meeting the needs of employees to initiate better work performance.

Besides the above two concepts, lean has five core principles that support the methodology:

  1. Value: customer defines the value of the product offered.
  2. Value stream: a clear and in-depth understanding of the product’s life cycle from research to development. Each step of the value chain is analyzed to identify waste areas and improvements.
  3. Flow: every process should be in sync with one another, and the value stream should flow seamlessly.
  4. Pull: ensures that products are made only when required, leading to shorter delivery cycles and increased flexibility.
  5. Perfection: always strive for perfection by uncovering quality or waste issues and applying strict measures to address inefficiencies.

Advantages

  • The quality of products is high due to the constant attention to value.
  • Reduced costs and increased profits as Lean focuses on providing value and minimizing waste.
  • Improved customer relations as the focus is to deliver what the customer requires.
  • Regular communications among employees, stakeholders and management pave the way for better decision-making.
  • Emphasis on constant improvement leads to continuous learning opportunities.

Disadvantages

  • Organizations may focus too much on Lean principles that they lose sight of the bigger picture leading to a lack of strategy.
  • If there are bottlenecks or resource issues, delivery can be delayed leading to unsatisfied customers.

3. Agile Methodology

Agile is often used in the software industry, though it has spilled into others recently due to its adaptability. It is an iterative approach that promotes collaboration among team members, emphasizing adaptive planning and early delivery of functional products. In an Agile project, development work is carried out in short-term periods called sprints, and the management focuses on continuous improvement throughout the project’s life cycle.

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Popular frameowkrs such as Scrum and Kanban stem from Agile, which acts as an umbrella term that encompasses several different frameworks. To learn more about Scrum and Kanban, check out The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Scrum and How to Better Manage Your Projects with Kanban Boards.

The Agile Manifesto highlights four core principles that are the building blocks of any agile approach. They are:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

Advantages

  • Agile promotes smaller teams, making it easier to keep up the pace and quickly adapt to necessary changes, leading to faster response times and ample flexibility.
  • Faster turnaround times due to the ability to quickly detect and provide solutions to issues.
  • Low wastage and costs as tasks are always up-to-date with constant feedback and follow-ups, allowing developers to experiment and test ideas.
  • Agile is practiced by many and has a considerable following. Therefore, you can always reach out for help and share knowledge with others if you run into trouble.

Disadvantages

  • Difficult to measure the progress as it is estimated across several cycles, which may take time.
  • Documentation is not given prominence, leading to misunderstandings and difficulty for newer members to be up-to-date.
  • At times, there is no clear end date; therefore, the overall project may seem to go on forever. This can also lead to scope changes beyond what was initially agreed (scope creep).
  • Due to the short cycle times, the design thinking process may be stinted, leading to a lack of cohesion and fragmentation.
  • Teams may tend to avoid key features that may take too long to deliver.
  • The need for constant communication can take a toll on team members who have to spend extra energy and time.

4. Critical Chain Project Management Framework

Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) is a project management framework that helps the planning and managing of projects by monitoring the resources required to execute the project tasks. The framework helps project managers to deliver projects in a cost-effective and timely manner.

Buffers are safety margins that ensure all tasks are completed within schedule. CCPM identifies strategic points in the project and inserts buffers to ensure that project milestones are met on time, regardless of constraints or uncertainties. There are several types of buffers used in CCPM.

  1. Project buffers: this is positioned between the completion date of the project and the last task allowing team members to catch up on any outstanding tasks or delays.
  2. Feeding buffers: this is positioned between the non-critical chain and the critical chain to prevent delays.
  3. Resource buffers: resources that are kept aside in case of extra support in terms of resources are required.

Advantages

  • Team members tend to be more efficient and pace themselves rather than working more as the deadline approaches.
  • Work is scheduled around resource availability, thereby optimizing resource utilization.
  • The insertion of various buffers to address issues on time.
  • The minimum time required to finish the project is taken into consideration.

Disadvantages

  • Major planning packages do not often support the framework.
  • If the team does not understand the endpoint, many losses and setbacks could occur.

5. PRINCE2 Framework

PRINCE stands for “PRojects IN Controlled Environments” and is a process-based framework focused on organization and control. The framework started as PRINCE with a particular focus on the IT industry before expanding into others.

PRINCE2 details what each step of the project should look like, deliverables, roles, and responsibilities, and also structure each stage of the project with no loose ends at the point of completion.

Advantages

  • PRINCE2 is a good beginner framework to start project management as it has a defined process with clear steps.
  • Due to the detailed and step-by-step guide provided, PRINCE2 is relatively easy to understand and follow. Furthermore, the ability to divide the project into manageable stages is helpful in managing the project.
  • PRINCE2 is flexible in nature and can be easily adapted to suit different projects.
  • Roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, which improves accountability.
  • Lessons learned can be tracked and updated for future reference and improvements.

Disadvantages

  • PRINCE2 is not ideal for projects in fast-changing environments (i.e., technology-driven) due to the extensive documentation required.
  • Requires the buy-in of the senior management for success.
  • Requires experience to be managed and delivered successfully.

Key Steps to Follow when Selecting a Methodology or Framework

1. Assess the project in terms of size and scope

Size and scope play a significant role when selecting a suitable project methodology or framework. Some projects may be small, requiring a team of no more than 3-4 people and a short period. In contrast, others would be large, with multiple teams working together for several years.

Larger projects with several cross-functional teams and extended time frames would benefit from adaptive project management frameworks such as agile. In comparison, smaller projects that are less complex would do well with methodologies such as waterfall.

2. Look into the available project management methodologies and frameworks

Once the project scope and size are determined, look into the available methodologies and frameworks. Compare notes, and weigh the pros and cons as to which one would suit your requirements the best while minimizing risks.

3. Obtaining the acceptance and buy-in of your team

Reach out to your team to see their reaction and input. Make sure you listen to their viewpoints and present your side accordingly to obtain their buy-in. Otherwise, conflicts and challenges may hinder the project’s smooth progress.

4. Confirm the selection

Before starting the project, re-confirm the feasibility of your selection by comparing and assessing the success rate of projects delivered using the same framework.

5. Obtain feedback and conduct self-assessments

As the project progresses, ask for feedback from your colleagues regarding the processes followed. Furthermore, make sure to conduct self-assessments to see if the methodology or framework is proceeding according to your expectations and whether it allows you to manage your team successfully.

Tools and Techniques for Project Management Methodologies and Frameworks

There are several tools and techniques relevant to project management methodologies and frameworks. While some specific tools and techniques are similar across multiple frameworks, there are some that may differ. Below are a few commonly used tools and techniques.

Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

Work breakdown structures can be used to break down the larger deliverables of your project into manageable smaller tasks. This is a productivity technique that uses a step-by-step approach to project management.

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Gantt Chart

Gantt charts are ideal for tracking tasks' start and end dates and milestones. It helps teams to plan their work and jobs to meet deadlines and allocate resources accordingly.

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SWOT Analysis

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. For each project, the SWOT identifies the internal (Strengths and Weaknesses) and external (Opportunities and Threats) drivers affecting your ability to meet the goal. For example, suppose your organization is well known for its expertise in customer service. In that case, improving customer service will be a competitive advantage and a meaningful driver for meeting your goals.

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RACI Matrix

RACI stands for responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed. RACI matrix is used to describe the roles and responsibilities of team members in a project.

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Stakeholder Map

The stakeholder map is a tool to help you understand who your stakeholders are and their needs. Using this tool, you can map stakeholders according to their importance and potential impact on the project.

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Decision Tree

A decision tree is used for effective decision-making and predicting potential outcomes when multiple courses of action exist. It allows the team to explore options and outcomes to understand the risks and rewards associated with each possible course of action.

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Creately for Project Management

Creately has many tools to make your journey effortless and successful regardless of the type of project methodology or framework you decide to follow.

  • Powerful documentation capabilities include doc blocks and attachments and image attachments to create reports and presentations.
  • Built-in project management tools including Kanban boards, timelines, multi-role workflows, visual prioritization tools to enable any kind of workflow.
  • Whiteboard and freehand drawing capabilities to brainstorm and discuss with colleagues and peers.
  • Multiple templates and shapes to prepare project plans and schedules, Gantt charts, roadmaps, and other formats necessary for project management documentation and tracking.
  • Multiple access and role levels to manage, share, edit and review, along with multiplayer editing capabilities to collaborate in real-time.
  • Comment on anything, with context. Full comment threads and discussions for async collaboration.
  • Data, note, and task panels to house information, assign roles and responsibilities, feed in information, and track the progress of activities.
  • Integration with other platforms with 2-way syncing to manage data efficiently.
  • Spotlight and presentation mode to conduct interactive and dynamic presentations right on the canvas.

Start your project management journey with Creately today!

Join over thousands of organizations that use Creately to brainstorm, plan, analyze, and execute their projects successfully.

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Author

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Amanda Athuraliya Communications Specialist

Amanda Athuraliya is the communication specialist/content writer at Creately, online diagramming and collaboration tool. She is an avid reader, a budding writer and a passionate researcher who loves to write about all kinds of topics.

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