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. Dr. Hany Wells from the University of Hertfordshire Business School has investigated the benefits of 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 to using a project management methodology, so if you aren’t using one now, 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 also offer a control system to see what’s working and what isn’t. 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. Governance and monitoring is a big elements of methodologies. It enables the work to progress in a structured, understood way.
You get language standardization when everyone uses the same methodology in an organization. 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, 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 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 ‘the way we do business’.
4. Helping deal with the unknown
Methodologies also help project managers deal with unknown and inevitable uncertainty when managing projects. Processes like end-of-phase reviews or gate reviews help projects move from one stage to another in a controlled manner. Without this kind of guidance, many managers would find it challenging to navigate the project journey.
The research also flagged methodologies as particularly useful for project managers without extensive experience. They help ensure the newbie project manager goes through the right process, gaining approvals at the right time and following standard procedures. Without a manual to guide them, new project managers would need more management hand-holding and coaching.
That sounds great, but the research picked up something else about methodologies: 47% of people thought they had no benefit for projects. That’s a pretty high number! Dr. Wells’ research further breaks this down to show that methodologies are helpful 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 helpful about methodologies (i.e., not very much) and what organizations think about methodologies at a strategic level (i.e., lots of benefits 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, you appreciate the extra help a method offers. Higher than this, 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 people using the method daily fall into the group of experienced practitioners who see it just as a control mechanism.
So, methodologies aren’t perfect, but they offer many benefits to the individual project manager and the organization. Have you noticed any other benefits? Let us know in the comments.