Project Management in the 21st Century: There Isn’t Just One Way

by Sudarsan

How does your company handle project management? Is there a core management principle that your project managers and team members follow? It is often assumed that there only two methodologies for managing projects. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are actually more methodologies than you can count on two hands and both of your feet.

How companies implement project management depends on a whole host of things. For example, project managers might be married to one or two methodologies. Budgets can dictate how projects are managed as well. As with most things in the modern world, a willingness to be flexible gives companies the most options and ensures the best strategy for each project.

Waterfall and Agile Management

Though there may be dozens of different project management strategies out there, most can be divided into two core categories: waterfall and agile. Waterfall project management is considerably older and has a more well-defined core.
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It generally relies on cascading progress.

Under a waterfall scenario, a project is broken down into a number of well-defined steps. Each step is further broken down into a series of goals. Completing those goals eventually leads to completion of a step. Every completed step has the team moving on to the next one in line.

Organization and easily tracked results are two of the benefits of waterfall project management.
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The biggest downside to this method is that each step depends on the success of the previous step. One or two missed deadlines can derail an entire project.

Flexibility and Versatility

Under an agile scenario, a project is divided into processes rather than steps. Different groups or individuals work on separate processes simultaneously. If one particular process develops a hiccup, the entire project doesn’t come to a standstill. The other processes continue while it is being addressed.

Agile project management is considered more flexible and versatile. This makes it a favorite core for digital projects, like software development for example. It’s not a good option for something like commercial construction, where you can’t start working on interior plumbing and electrics until all your walls are up.

Some types of projects do extremely well when they are more flexible. Some projects require a highly responsive management strategy. On the other hand, other types of projects only succeed when they are rigidly controlled. Trying to be flexible and responsive only increases the risks of something going terribly wrong.

In-House or Outsourced Management

In addition to dozens of different project management strategies, companies can also choose to handle things in-house or outsource them. In-house project management is pretty straightforward. A company has its own project managers and dedicated staff to see projects through to their completion. Under an outsourced model, companies have several options, including traditional consulting and project management as a service (PMaaS).

The Janiko Group, an Atlanta-area consulting firm specializes in PMaaS. They say the difference between PMaaS and traditional consulting boils down to responsibility. Traditional consulting firms generally don’t get involved with the project management office. Under a PMaaS arrangement, the service provider can handle as little or as much as the client wishes. Every minute detail of project management can be outsourced to a PMaaS provider if a client so desires.

Anyone who assumes there is only one way to manage a project either hasn’t done it very long or doesn’t spend a lot of time looking around. The fact is that there isn’t just one way to manage a project. There are dozens of ways. The key is finding the right way based on project type and available resources.

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