According to PMI (2013), project management develops and implements plans to achieve a specific scope that is driven by the objectives of the program or portfolio it is subjected to and; ultimately to organizational strategies. One area of project management that is of considerable importance to the success of any project is the methodology that is utilizes to guide its execution, monitoring, control and closing. Alexander (2015) asks, with so many different and, in some cases, overlapping approaches to managing the complexities of any given project, how can you know which one is right for your project, team or organization?
Based on the scenario presented, where a client is seeking consultation on selecting a project management methodology, it seems to suggest that this best practice is not quite upheld in his or her organization. Therefore, as a professionally certified project manager at a consulting company tasked with assisting this client, a first approach would be to understand the nature of their organization, its goal(s) and objectives; core values and; the organizational strategic goal(s) that are driving the project; the size of the project and its complexity; the risks and constraints and; the level of influence from internal and external stakeholders. This approach was chosen as it aligns with PMI (2013) organizational project management maturity model (OPM3), now a globally recognized standard that focuses on overall organizational effectiveness and incorporates projects, programs and portfolio management (p. 7).
Alexander (2015) explains that no one project methodology fits all project types. Therefore, a recommended best practice for the client is to develop and implement a rationalized methodology assessment protocol to determine the best methodology for each project. Two project management methodologies are the Waterfall or Traditional and the Agile. As the name suggests, the Waterfall methodology sees the project cascading as one task is completed and moves into the next through to the end of the project. It has clearly defined goals and a set timeline. Extensive planning usually goes into this approach and so results in more accurate timelines and budget. It offers a more formal planning stage that increases the potential to capture all project requirements and reduces the loss of any key information at the initial stage. The drawback with this methodology is the difficulty to adapt to project changes, either to modify or correct project specifications (Bonnie, 2014). As such, the need exists to be proactive in anticipating inadvertent or unforeseen changes and make allowances in this regard. The waterfall methodology is used by many industries, especially in software development, manufacturing and building construction. It comprises static phases as requirements, design, implementation, testing and maintenance executed in this order (Bonnie, 2014).
The planning stage of the Agile methodology sees the client describing how the end product will be used and what its benefits are. This becomes the expectations of the client and; is quite understood by the team. When the project begins, the team cycles through the processes of planning, executing and evaluating, that may change the final deliverable. As such, continuous collaboration is essential among team members and stakeholders alike to make fully-informed decisions (Bonnie, 2014). The agile methodology is suitable for projects that require significant flexibility and speed with short delivery cycles called sprints. This methodology may be used by projects requiring less control and real-time communication as it is highly interactive, allowing for rapid adjustments throughout the project (Alexander, 2015). The drawback to this methodology is that timelines and budgets are difficult to define and; stakeholders must have the time and desire to be actively involved in the day to day work (Bonnie, 2014).
The characteristics of any methodology are important to determine the best fit for particular projects as one size does not fit all. Both the water fall and the agile are similar in that they are the most prominent project methodologies for software development. Other similarities are: a requirement has to be agreed upon; coding has to be completed; system and unit testing needs to be completed and; the customer signoff have to be approved (Townsend, 2012). Their differences are that while timelines and budget are clearly defined for the waterfall approach, they are difficult to define in the agile approach. Whereas stakeholders need to be actively involved in the day to day activities of the agile approach, this is not required for the waterfall approach. For the agile approach, it is easy to adapt to project changes but, for the waterfall approach it is difficult to adapt to any changes once the project has started (Bonnie, 2014).
In conclusion, having analyzed the organizational strategic goals and objectives that are driving the project; with an understanding of the full nature of the project and; having examined the similarities and differences between the Waterfall and the Agile methodologies, it is hoped that the client will have a good insight into which will be more appropriate for a given project. It is also hoped that going forward this technique will become a best practice of their company.