When we must use a Project Management Methodology

When to carry out a project is decided, it is not always necessary to apply a project management methodology in a structured and formal way, with all its components, processes, tools, documents, logs, etc.

We have to put in the core of our management activities the project’s deliverables, the outputs and definitely the outcomes expected from it.

This means that the most of the efforts must be focus on the scope, quality, cost and time of our project. In other words, the project management activities and documentation must be as simple and reduced as possible.

Most of the project management methodologies can be implemented to large projects that can present a great complexity, in changing and uncertain environments. On the other hand, there are many simple projects where we have not to apply complex management methodologies.

Therefore, when we must use a project management methodology is a key question for two reasons:

  1. It is essential to avoid including additional activities when they are not necessary.
  2. The second is to be able to customize the methodology to the real needs of the project. Perhaps it is not necessary to use the whole framework of the methodology.

The PM2 methodology states that to make sense of its application in a complete way, the project must have certain characteristics such as:

  • Is (above all) a project (i.e. not operations, not a work activity, not a programme, etc.)
  • Has a duration of more than 4–5 weeks and involves more than 2–3 people.
  • Runs within an organisation and can be subject to internal or external audits.
  • Requires a clearly defined governance structure and clearly assigned roles and responsibilities.
  • Requires approval of its budget and scope and more than just construction/delivery activities.
  • Includes transition and business implementation activities.
  • Requires a certain level of documentation, transparency and reporting and a certain level of control and traceability.
  • Has a broad base of internal (and external) stakeholders.
  • May require the collaboration of several organisations or organisational units.
  • Contributes to raising the organisation’s project management maturity.

The tailoring and customization of the project will depend on the number of the above characteristics. In any case, if the activity is not necessary to ensure the objectives of the project, it should not be included as a project management task.

However, the use of a project management methodology ensures at least the following benefits:

  • Effective decision taking – Having clarity on the roles and expected behaviors of the different players in a project enables effective decision taking.
  • Saves money and time.
  • Project scope is under control – An effective method will help manage scope, which is a common cause of cost and time over-runs.
  • The client knows what to expect. The final project deliverable will fit the needs of the client.
  • Better problem resolution – a project management method will ensure many risks can be anticipated and prepared for.
  • The communication processes means no one is surprised if a risk does occur.
  • Costs are controlled – a more clearly defined project with good time and cost estimates all help to keep costs under control.
  • Projects’ issues are more quickly identified – project management methods reveal those projects that have over-run on time or budget, or those that are no longer on track to deliver the expected benefits, so that they can be dealt with early on.

So, as a project manager you have to keep focused on deliverables, outputs and outcomes of the projects and try to use the project management methodology as a tool to optimize the whole process and avoiding to think on the methodology as the core of our work.