project portfolio MAnagement: which method is right for you?

project portfolio MAnagement: which method is right for you?

While all projects are designed to achieve one thing—a successful outcome—how (or if!) an organization gets there often comes down to approach and fit. By shoehorning all projects into one methodology can be problematic at best, or by assuming that teams which are accustomed to one approach are equally as adept another may lead to some difficult discussions in the not-too-distant future.

Matching a project with a suitable methodology is a great start, but the team working on the project also need to be considered so that all the necessary elements mesh well. Not all team members will be familiar with the more traditional Waterfall approach. For that reason, hybrid approaches (i.e., cherry-picking and blending elements from multiple project methodologies) are also becoming more popular, especially as projects expand into cross-functional areas within an organization.

Common Fundamentals

All projects can—and should—be governed by three common fundamentals–the need to plan, prioritize, and approve work, the need to track and report on progress, and the need to encourage collaboration. Also, a gray area sometimes exists between what is considered to be day-to-day operations and what should be considered project-based work. Essentially, any work that falls outside the scope of regular operations is considered a project, regardless of the extent to which any sort of formal project management is applied to it.

Key Differences

Projects come in all shapes and sizes, so scale should necessarily be viewed as a determining factor. While rolling out an entirely new HR system, for example, the team would likely engage with a Waterfall or Agile approach. However, for something more contained such as running the annual benefits enrollment process, some groups would determine that a task list or basic card wall would be better suited. One of the biggest issues in project management is getting the team to use the framework and platform. When the chosen methodology is too complex for the job at hand, there is little chance to get the team onboard.

Understanding Methodologies

With all the project management methodologies available to you, it’s helpful to understand the key differences between some of the more popular options so that you choose the right match for your next project.

  • Waterfall: Waterfall is a more traditional methodology that’s still widely used today, if it’s the right fit. A Waterfall approach works well for projects with a fixed scope, timeline, and set of deliverables.
  • Agile: Agile started in software development but has become increasingly popular in other areas. It’s best used for more iterative projects or those with outcomes that are less known or defined initially. Kanban, Scrum, and others are variations of the Agile methodology.
  • Card wall: For smaller and/or less complicated projects, using sticky notes on a board to track project tasks through the various stages still works, but it’s limited. A card wall is essentially a virtual version of this approach and it also offers the ability to add more detail to notes on the fly and can be accessed from anywhere.
  • Hybrid: There may be situations in which a single methodology cannot fit a project (or portions of it) sufficiently. In those cases, many are turning to hybrid approaches that incorporate parts of different methodologies into one complete plan.

One size does NOT fit all when it comes to project portfolio management. Learn more

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