4 Benefits of using a Project Management Methodology
Why do you use a project management methodology? You might not have given it much thought – it’s simply something mandated by your department and you follow the processes because they are generally a good thing and because you have to.
However, this is the kind of question that researchers love, and Dr. Hany Wells from the University of Hertfordshire Business School has investigated the benefits on offer from different project management methodologies. Because methodologies are often proprietary, there isn’t much detail in the research about the exact methodologies under scrutiny (except PRINCE2, which is named) but the conclusions are still relevant.
Dr. Wells’ research concludes that there are 4 major benefits from using a project management methodology, so if you aren’t using one at the moment, perhaps her investigations will prompt you to go for it. Look at what you are missing out on…
1. Control and monitoring
Methodologies help managers keep track of their projects. They offer a control system to see what’s working and what isn’t working as well. There are checks and balances in place of one form or another so that it’s clear to see what is going on and to make governance decisions easier. In fact, governance and monitoring is a big element of methodologies. It enables the work to progress in a structured, understood way.
When everyone uses the same methodology in an organization, you get standardization of language. This makes it easier for project managers to understand each other, for team members and stakeholders to switch projects and for sponsors to consistently make good decisions based on common data points. Consistency is important because businesses typically have loads of projects on the go at any one time. If a sponsor has to interpret a project report one way for one project and the same word means something different in another project report for another project then life gets very difficult!
3. Hygiene factor
If your company is bidding for external work, following a standard methodology can win you business, or at least keep you in the running. Many bids require you to use certain tools and certainly in the UK many bids state PRINCE2 as a requirement.
Even if you aren’t bidding, there’s a view that using a methodology (of any sort) is a basic hygiene factor for a large firm. It’s insurance against things that could go wrong on projects and is simply ‘the way we do business’.
4. Helping deal with the unknown
Methodologies also help project managers deal with the unknown and the uncertainty that is inevitable with managing projects. Processes like the end of phase reviews or gate reviews help projects move from one stage to another in a controlled manner, and without this kind of guidance, many managers would find it difficult to navigate the project journey.
Methodologies were also flagged in the research as particularly useful for project managers without extensive experience. They help make sure that the newbie project manager goes through the right process, gaining the right approvals at the right time and following standard processes. Without a manual to guide them, new project managers would need a lot more management hand-holding and coaching.
That all sounds great, but the research picked up something else about methodologies: 47% of people thought that they had no benefit at all for projects. That’s a pretty high number! Dr. Wells’ research further breaks this down to show that methodologies are useful where they “replace and compensate” for project managers not having the experience and knowledge to manage without them. There’s a misalignment, she concludes, between what project managers think is useful about methodologies (i.e. not very much) and what organizations think about methodologies at a strategic level (i.e. lots of benefit here for governance).
There’s a point in the middle, mid-level project managers with average experience and accountability, where methodologies have a limited benefit. Lower on the scale than this and you appreciate the extra help that a methodology offers. Higher than this and you start seeing it from a strategic perspective and appreciate the control and standardization that comes with your methodology. Unfortunately, I would guess that most of the people actually using the methodology day-to-day fall into the group of experienced practitioners who see it just as a control mechanism.
So, methodologies aren’t perfect, but they do offer a lot of benefits to the individual project manager and the organization. Have you noticed any other benefits? Let us know in the comments.