Project Management in a NutshellThere is no standard project management approach that works for all projects. The choice of the right approach for managing a project depends on various factors, ranging from the complexity and type of project to the experience in conducting projects of the organization, the customer’s willingness to be involved in the project, and the norm in the industry.

Traditional vs. Agile Projects

Essentially, there are two approaches: traditional and agile. Typically, traditional project management works for most construction projects, for example, where the whole project can be completed in one sequence, and the success is defined by completion of the deliverables in time and below budget. Agile project management is better suited to volatile and innovative projects, such as software development, where there are many risks, where the scope of the project is likely to change, and where an iterative methodology is needed so that risks are mitigated and opportunities fully exploited.

Traditional Project Management

Traditional project management is an established methodology for running projects in a sequential cycle: initiation, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing. For each of these five project steps, there are tools and techniques, such as the ones defined by the PMBOK®, the standard methodology for traditional project management. Traditional project management approaches include other methodologies, for example PRINCE2, adopted by the UK government organizations, but also by private organizations, such as Vodafone or Siemens.

Be Agile to Adapt to Changes

More and more projects have requirements that are subject to change as the project progresses, sometimes to keep up with the market conditions. In these cases, a traditional project management approach, in a single sequence of five processes, is not possible in order to take full advantage of the opportunities that may arise. Any projects associated with a high level of uncertainty (such as research and development, software development), or in highly volatile industries (such as IT or oil and gas industry), can benefit from an agile approach.

Progress in Iterations

An agile project progresses in several iterations. At the end of each iteration, the product is controlled, tested, presented to the customer and main stakeholders, and can be integrated into the final project deliverable, if  accepted by the customer. In other words, at the end of each iteration, feedback from stakeholders is incorporated into the next step of the project. The project moves on as a new iteration is approved, and does so until the product is created or the budget is spent. In general, the use of agile practices, as opposed to traditional project management, results in higher productivity, higher quality, improved client satisfaction, and improved team satisfaction. There are many agile processes, and some of the most popular are extreme programming, Kanban, and Scrum.

Empower the Agile Team

Scrum is a popular framework for agile software development. It is less specific than PRINCE2, for example, and how the project is organized and work completed depends on the project team. They are empowered and usually know how to self-organize and solve issues as they arise rather than rely on project manager’s directions and decisions. All agile project management processes, including Scrum, emphasize team work and close collaboration with the customer, welcome changes, benefit from changes. In contrast, traditional project management fears changes and views them as a source of negative risks.

Choose the Project Management Approach that Fits the Project

Both traditional and agile project management approaches can be adapted and even combined to fit the project, the team, and the organization. The project management approach determines the responsibilities and accountability level of the project manager, the power of the project team, the involvement level of the customer in the development of the project deliverables, and, ultimately, the project’s success.

About Cristina Neagu

Cristina Neagu, PhD, is a freelance editor and proofreader, and a Certified Associate in Project Management. She loves creative writing and managed a virtual team of writers for three years. When she's not working, she likes to read, spend time outdoors, and travel. Visit her website, www.languageediting.com, or contact her on LinkedIn.