Project management methodologies have to adapt to projects and never the vice versa (and others thoughts).
We have just reviewed an international publication whose research base was a survey of project management practitioners. It has been an interesting read as it provides what should never be lost sight of: project management tools only make sense if they ultimately provide a practical and facilitating character, improving efficiency in the application of resources, always limited, to achieve the project's objectives.
One of the aspects that most caught our attention is that when asked the question "What project management methodology / method do you use in your organisation?", more than half of the respondents answered "internal methodology", or in other words a methodology developed "ad hoc" within the organisation itself.
This result is linked to a principle in project management that, on many occasions, far from being fulfilled, complicates the tasks to be carried out by project managers. This premise reminds us that: it is the project management methodology that has to adapt to the project and never the vice versa".
Starting from this point, characteristics that are requirements for any project management methodology are that it should be simple, easy to apply and adaptable to any type of project, whatever the type and scope in which it is developed.
In other words, the use of complex methodologies with vast extensions, complex conceptual frameworks and a multitude of components can be a waste of resources and a cause of project failure. We must not spend efforts out of where we really need: the project deliverables and the satisfaction of the client and the rest of the stakeholders.
Another trend in project management, derived from digitalisation and the possibilities of virtual communication, is the formation of work teams that are geographically and culturally diverse. These teams need methodologies not excessively complex (if something has to be complex, it should be determined by the nature of the project and not by the own methodology) and that share a common language to avoid communication problems and misunderstandings.
The prevalence of a particular project management methodology is often determined by the geographical location of the project (PMI-USA; OpenPM2-IPMA-Europe; AIPM-Australia; PRINCE2 - UK; AJPM-Japan; etc.). If in the coming years the members of a project management team may work in different places around the world, it is necessary that the project management methodologies are lightweight, and have as many elements in common as possible. It will make easier to find a core body regardless of which methodology is finally chosen for a project.
In recent years, the importance of change management capacity has become increasingly important in the day-to-day management of projects. This circumstance obliges both professionals and tools to have a structure that internalises change management as one of the fundamental elements.
This fact has accelerated in recent times by the latest events that, worldwide, have substantially changed the way we relate to each other, the way we communicate and the way we carry out our work.
A methodology in which the whole community can contribute experiences, challenges and lessons learned is a benefit, as it provides an up-to-date tool that adapts to the changing needs of organisations and the projects they undertake.
All of this gives meaning to open source initiatives in which contributions and proposals for improvement could come from very different cultural and working contexts.
This consideration makes sense when the same language is shared and used, allowing the participation of the greatest number of agents and stakeholders in project management (professionals, organisations, public institutions, etc.).
However, there is still some way to progress in this respect. The development of a common glossary of terms and meanings related to project management would be very useful. This glossary could be developed and supported by the international well-known organisations in the project management arena. All of them could commit to using it in all the documentation, methods and tools.
In conclusion, the project management community is coming to accept that the discussion of whether to work with traditional (waterfall) or agile methodologies needs to finish. Not all projects are the similar and not all teams find the ideal solution in one type of methodology. This is why hybrid use has gained a lot space in recent years and will continue to do so for the near future.
This trend reflects the fact that is “ad hoc methodologies” that provide the best service and efficiency in project management. The principle that gives the title to these reflections will be fulfilled: the methodology has to be adapted to the project and not vice versa. The adaptation could be built by highlighting the positive aspects of each of the traditional and agile worlds.
This work has been made possible thanks to the collaboration of the European Commission, through the Erasmus + Programme, Jean Monnet Actions and Project No. 619648-EPP-1-2020-1-ES-EPPJMO-CHAIR.
Alvarez-Dionisi, L. E., Turner, R., & Mittra, M. (2016). Global Project Management Trends. International Journal of Information Technology Project Management (IJITPM), 7(3), 54-73. https://doi.org/10.4018/IJITPM.2016070104
APM (2019) Projecting the future. A one-year-on update on the big conversation. The adaptive project professional. Download from https://www.apm.org.uk/projecting-the-future/ (3rd February 2021)
Bogojević, P. (2017, December). Comparative Analysis of Agile Methods For Managing Software Projects. European Project Management Journal, 7(1).
Clegg, S., Killen, C, Biesenthal, C & Sankaran, S. (2018) Practices, projects and portfolios: Current research trends and new directions. International Journal of Project Management, Volume 36, Issue 5, Pages 762-772, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijproman.2018.03.008
Gemuenden, Hans & Schoper, Yvonne. (2015). Future Trends in Project Management. Conference: IRNOPAt: UCL The Bartlett London.
J. J. Ng (2019) "Understanding Project Management Directions From Project Management Trends," in IEEE Engineering Management Review, vol. 47, no. 2, pp. 128-132, 1 Second quarter, june 2019, https://doi.org/10.1109/EMR.2019.2903183
Kloppenborg, T. J., & Opfer, W. A. (2002). The Current State of Project Management Research: Trends, Interpretations, and Predictions. Project Management Journal, 33(2), 5–18. https://doi.org/10.1177/875697280203300203
KPMG, AIPM & IPMA (2019) The future of project management: global outlook 2019. Download from https://www.aipm.com.au/resources/reports/the-future-of-project-management-global-outlook-2.aspx (3rd February 2021)
Kwak, Y. H., and Anbari, F. T. (2008) Impact on project management of allied disciplines: Trends and future of project management practices and research. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.
McGrath, J. & Kostalova, J. (2020) Project Management Trends and New Challenges 2020+. Hradec Economic Days 2020. https://doi.org/10.36689/uhk/hed/2020-01-061
Paredes, Catia & Ribeiro, Pedro. (2018). Future Trends in Project Management. 637-644. https://doi.org/10.1109/IS.2018.8710551
Špundak, M (2014) Mixed Agile/Traditional Project Management Methodology – Reality or Illusion. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, Volume 119, Pages 939-948, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.03.105
Stephen Keith McGrath, Stephen Jonathan Whitty, (2020)," Practitioner views on project management methodology (PMM) effectiveness”, The Journal of Modern Project Management, Issue 23 Vol. 8 No. 1, pp. 188-212. https://doi.org/10.19255/JMPM02310
 Stephen Keith McGrath, Stephen Jonathan Whitty, (2020)," Practitioner views on project management methodology (PMM) effectiveness”, The Journal of Modern Project Management, Issue 23 Vol. 8 No. 1, pp. 188-212. https://doi.org/10.19255/JMPM02310
PM2 vs others PMM
One of the research lines that have been initiated is the comparative study of the PM2 methodology with other project management methodologies (PMM). The analysis of similarities and differences allows to know conclusions in relation to functionality and scope.
Of particular interest are those methodologies used within the European Commission, such as the one developed by Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI). The conceptual framework is the next one:
This framework already shows the use of different language to refer to phases and even control points in relation to PM2. There are also important differences in the documents and tools used. All this analysis will be the subject of a detailed publication.
PMM Future: Open & Blended
Work conditions change fast and continuously. The environment in which we carry out our activities also changes. Project-oriented management is a validated approach that improves success, effectiveness and efficiency of our daily performance.
In order to achieve this success, Project Management Methodologies (PMMs) are essential as they allow us to know the activities and processes to be carried out, when activities have to be carried out, how we have to focus etc. Most of the PMMs include monitoring and control processes that allow us to know the degree of compliance with the objectives and fix milestones, making easier the decision making process that corrects deviations and prevents us from overrun and over budgets.
It is important to remember that PPMs are not bodies of knowledge, frameworks, etc. PMM must be practical and guide the project manager throughout the entire project life cycle. PMM have to ensure that all the activities are carried out within the golden triangle of project management (timeframe, benchmarking, scope plus quality).
Furthermore, PMM should be light and adaptable to different types of projects and different working environments (activity areas, cultural contexts, etc.)
The documents linked to the management of the project must be as few as possible, simple and it has to allow:
- A simple audit (both internal and external)
- To extract, through the lessons learned, the best practices and the mistakes made that allow and ensure a continuous improvement.
It cannot be forgotten that the PMM is just a guess to a play in which the main actor is the project, its outputs, its outcomes and benefits (in the short, medium and long term). If the PMM becomes a protagonist, it is a sign that we are mismanaging the project.
Current PMMs can be classified into the following groups:
- Predictive (linked to the traditional «waterfall» approach)
- Adaptive (aware that there are many changing elements in the project environment and that they must be able to adapt and consolidate work in a precise way).
- Blended, which combine the advantages of both.
On many occasions the choice of an exclusively predictive methodology does not fit the changing and dynamic needs of the project.
In other cases, the choice of an adaptive methodology (such as Agile, Scrum …) means that nts objectives, outputs and outcomes of the project are not well formulated from the beginning of the project (final cost, delivery times, operational constraints, etc.)
For this reason, the possibility of using a methodology that is predictive but whose formulation allows it to engage directly and immediately in an adaptive framework (such as Agile) is a head start in the field of project management methodologies.
This is the case of the PM² methodology developed by the European Commission and in open format – OpenPM², since 2016.
I have analysed OpenPM² deeply and it is blended because two dimensions:
- OpenPM² developes a predictive approach compatible with an Agile extension (when necessary).
- OpenPM² incorporates approaches, concepts, good practices and elements from other bodies of knowledge, standards, methodologies and even competency-based approaches to project management.
Others OpenPM² characteristics make possible to face the future with many possibilities:
- The incorporation of artefacts (templates) that help and guide the project manager throughout the whole process, facilitating the customisation and adaptation of the methodology and its documents to any kind of project.
- The open nature of the methodology. Making the decision to open a methodology to the general public immediately:
- The developer loses prominence by giving it to the community of users of the methodology, who will be able to adapt, reduce and improve the methodology.
- The workforce is too much bigger. A well organised community of users shares experiences, lessons learned, documentation. It allows an asymptotic improvement of the methodology in different contexts.
- Define a governance model that can be adapted to the project in each case. This governance model makes possible to know the roles and responsibilities of all the agents involved in project management. Therefore, the response to the person who has to undertake a certain activity throughout the life cycle of the project is always known.
- Define a clear and strong mindsets. The Mindsets crystallise the philosophy of PM² as a methodology and make it both more effective and complete. Mindsets is a unique feature in the PMMs area and it is extreme useful when we talk about agility.
The OpenPM² methodology is presented with a simple structure that is compatible with the use of all the tools and techniques commonly used in project management. OpenPM² adopts a position of approach and synergy with other standards and methodologies, thus avoiding exclusion in project management.
For all these reasons, I really believe that OpenPM² is a winner bet in the short and medium term future of project management methodologies. I also think that the rest of the well-known international PMMs are going to have to make decisions towards open and blended approach.