Methodologies

Methodologies define a step-by-step process for delivering projects. Each methodology will describe each step in adequate depth, so that the project team understands what has to be done to deliver their project. This is quite different to a standardised knowledge framework such as the PMBOK® Guide (for more on this see: PMBOK -v- Methodology).

By using the same steps for every project the organisation undertakes risks and uncertainty are minimised and there is likely to be an overall saving of time and effort on projects.

Defining ‘your’ methodology

The key steps to follow are:

  • Define what it is that you want from your methodology, the type of content it should contain and the way in which it will be used.
  • Create a set of specific requirements. Some options include defining:
    • How much of the project lifecycle needs to be incorporated
    • How much detail should be included? What practical templates and examples are needed to help to complete the step quickly and easily?
    • Should it follow one of the worldwide project standards such as the PMBOK® Guide?
    • Can/should the system be easily customised suit all project types and sizes?
  • Determine the best methodology to use:
    • Review the methodologies used currently by your organisation and compare them to your requirements to see if there is a good fit.
    • Review the commercially available methodologies to see if there is a good fit.
    • Select the option with the best fit to your requirements
  • The best methodology is still only likely to have a 90% fit (or less), this is normal. Make sure you can customise the remaining elements to meet your requirements.
  • Ensure adequate flexibility for the range of projects in your organisation.

Implementing the methodology

The key steps are:

  • Create an Implementation Plan supported by a change management plan. Implementing a methodology is a significant organisational change.
  • Run the implementation as a change management program, including customising the methodology for your environment. Stakeholder engagement is vital to the overall success of the initiative.
  • Train the users and support staff in the methodology and ensure ongoing support.
  • Ensure the methodology is followed.
  • Start improving the methodology (for more on measuring and improving the organisations project management maturity see Mosaic’s OPM3 home page).

Improving the methodology

Processes are always capable of improvement. Observing the actual implementation of the methodology will define actions and outcomes within the following matrix.

Unauthorised, unproductive activities need to be stopped and authorised productive processes supported. The two zones for process improvement are refining or removing elements of the methodology that do not add value to the overall management of the project and incorporating unauthorised processes that are not in the methodology but that are being used add value.

The easiest and most important area for action is rectifying the unproductive processes already in the methodology. Care need to be taken to ensure the definition of ‘unproductive’ is understood. Most planning processes don’t produce anything and consume effort; superficially they can be classified as ‘unproductive’. In reality, effective planning contributes significantly to the efficient delivery of the project and its value to assist in the efficient execution of the work being planned is significant.

Excessively detailed planning though is usually counterproductive. Value judgements are needed to assess the point at which adding more detail or rigour becomes ‘planning overkill’ reducing the overall value of the process and conversely, how much detail can be safely removed from a planning processes to improve overall productivity before insufficient planning starts to cause problems.

Adapted from Firdman, H. E. (1991). Strategic information systems: Forging the business and technology alliance. McGraw-Hill, New York.

Adapted from Firdman, H. E. (1991). Strategic information systems: Forging the business and technology alliance. McGraw-Hill, New York.

Ensuring the methodology is seen as ‘productive’ is essential for it to be generally accepted and supported by your stakeholders.

Once the existing methodology is optimised and firmly in the ‘authorised and productive’ segment, the next area is to examine unauthorised processes that aid productivity and progressively incorporate these into your methodology. The ‘unauthorised and productive’ quadrant is where you find genuine innovation and opportunities for organisational gain.

Summary

No methodology works ‘out of the box’ they all need customisation and tailoring. However, the effort is worthwhile. OPM3 has demonstrated standardised processes that incorporate best practices can provide significant benefits to an organisation (see more on OPM3).

The challenge is balancing systemised processes with the need for adequate flexibility to deal with the circumstances of each unique project. An effective project management methodology needs core components, scalable components and optional components designed to meet the needs of your organisation.

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