You make hundreds of decisions over the course of a software development project. The first decision you make is which project management methodologies you will be following for the project.
There are a variety of different project management frameworks and some popular ones among them are Agile, Waterfall, Scrum, and Kanban. Some of them, like Waterfall, follow a structured and rigid approach while some others, like Agile, are more flexible and adaptive to the changes. Each one of them has its own advantages and disadvantages, so how would you know which one is the best for a particular project?
In this article we’ll cover the four popular project management methodologies. Also we’ll be discussing the differences between them. So, without further ado, let’s get straight into the business.
Agile Project Management Methodologies
Agile project management methodology is based on an iterative and incremental approach to development. Rather than planning the project in-depth at the beginning, Agile project management methodologies are adaptive to the requirements changes and encourage constant feedback from the client and end-users.
On every iteration, cross-functional teams work together over a certain period of time. The work is prioritised depending on the business priorities and organised into a backlog. The goal of every iteration is to develop a working product. Both the business stakeholders and developers work together to align the product with their company goals and needs.
12 Principles of Agile Project Management Methodologies
Agile refers to the process that aligns to the Agile manifesto. The Manifesto for Agile Software Development was published in February 2001 when 17 software developers met to discuss lightweight development methods. The manifesto has 12 principles to guide development teams on how to execute their project with agility.
- Customer satisfaction is the foremost priority.
- Change in requirements is always welcome even if it delays the deployment.
- Keep the delivery consistent and frequent.
- The business stakeholders and developers should work together on a daily basis till the end of the project.
- Team up with motivated individuals. Provide them with the environment and support they need. And most importantly, trust them to get the job done.
- The most effective way of message conveying within the team is a face-to-face conversation.
- A working software is the initial measure to identify progress.
- Agile project management methodologies rely on sustainable development. Thus, the company owners, developers, and users should sync and maintain a constant pace throughout the development process.
- Development agility requires continuous attention to technical excellence.
- It is essential to have the ability to maximise the amount of pending work.
- Only the self-organising teams can produce the best architectures and designs.
- The team themself adjust their behaviour to increase productivity in regular intervals.
Why should you follow Agile Project Management Methodologies?
Agile methodologies are evolved from several different lightweight approaches from the 90s. It is considered to be a response to some project manager’s disfavor of the Wigid waterfall approach to project management. Here is why agile can be beneficial for your project:
- Changes are welcome: Agile methodology follows shorter planning cycles, making it easier for you to accept and accommodate changes at any time during the project. You can also reprioritise and improve the backlogs which enables your team to work on the changes first, if needed.
- The project goal can be unknown: Agile development methodologies are very suitable for the projects, where the end-goal cannot be clarified at the beginning. As the project progresses, the end-goal will come to light and the Agile development methodologies will easily adapt the change.
- Faster project delivery: With Agile project management methodologies you break down the project into several sprints or iterations. Hence, it becomes easy for the development team to identify and solve bugs more quickly. All of it results in delivery of a high-quality product development within the quickest time possible.
- Effective communication among team members: Agile promotes face-to-face interactions among team members which makes communication effective. This way, team members feel responsible for their own part of work.
- Customers are involved: As the Agile project management methodologies focus on executing the project in several iterations, the customers can see and evaluate every iteration on its completion. This way, they can see the progress and feedback frequently, which improves their satisfaction.
- Consistent improvement: Agile project management encourages customers to feedback on every sprint or iteration. Due to its adaptability to the changes, Agile helps project managers to not only improve the completed iteration but also the future iterations.
When you shouldn’t Opt for Agile?
While the flexibility that Agile provides is of course a positive aspect, but it comes with considerable trade-offs. With Agile, it becomes very hard to set a solid project delivery timeframe. Sometimes, the primary documentation can be neglected due to more focus on the changes suggested by the customer which may lead to a product that is very different from the originally intended. Here are some disadvantages of using Agile and if you feel that these disadvantages can be harmful for your project, then Agile isn’t for you.
- Less concrete planning: The adaptability to the changes and flexibility comes with a price, and the price is that it is very difficult to set a solid delivery date. Agile is based upon time-boxed delivery, project managers often get indulged in re-prioritising tasks which may lead to delay in completion of some items. Sometimes, the project manager will add an entire sprint to the project development schedule, which also delays the delivery.
- Require high-skilled team members: Agile development teams mostly contain small team size that require team members to be proficient in several areas. Also, they must be comfortable to work with Agile project management methodologies.
- Require dedicated team: Agile requires the development team to be completely dedicated to the project. Throughout the agile development process, the team will have to be actively involved and collaborated to achieve success.
- Not much focus on the documentation: As discussed above, the Agile manifesto adapts the changes very quickly and encourages comprehensive documentation for software development. This can result in the team building the product very differently than intended. While the comprehensive documentation cannot lead to the project success on its own, the Agile team is recommended to use the optimum mix of both the documentations.
Scrum Project Management Methodologies
Scrum is a subset of Agile project management methodology. It is among the most famous management frameworks to implement Agile. Scrum is an iterative software development model which is often used to manage complex software projects. The project is executed in sprints (fixed-length iterations) which mostly last one to two weeks long. It enables the development team to deliver the software on a regular tempo.
Each sprint in the Scrum project management methodology is formed by four ceremonies -
- Sprint Planning,
- Daily Stand-up,
- Sprint Demo,
- Sprint Retrospective.
Why is Scrum a better choice?
Scrum is a very straightforward framework having specific individual roles and responsibilities. Though it would need several hours for a team to learn the Scrum ceremonies, it is still worth it due to the advantages the rules brings along:
- Brings transparency: The daily stand-up scrum meetings make the development process more transparent for the whole team. They’ll know what their peers are up to and at what stage the project stands. It eliminates the misunderstandings and confusion among the team members. With improved transparency, the team will be able to identify issues even before they appear.
- Encourage accountability: In an Agile project management environment, the project manager won’t be telling the team what to do and when. Instead, the Scrum team will collectively decide what work they’ll complete for each sprint. The entire team works together and encourages team members to be independent while helping each other.
- Adaptable to changes: The Scrum project management methodology focuses on short sprints and asks feedback at the end of every sprint. Thus, if the team or the customer finds a new task which hasn't been included before (i.e. a new user story), they can easily include it in the next sprint.
- Cost-efficient: The communication consistency among Agile team members enables them to be aware of the issues as soon as they arise. With this, they can make sure that the mistakes are corrected early on, before they get severe and expensive to fix. It helps in lowering the cost of development and increases time to market as well.
When you shouldn’t use Scrum?
No doubt that Scrum has several concrete benefits, but it also has some drawbacks. Scrum project management methodologies require teams of highly skilled professionals, which you may or may not afford based on your budget. Thus, there are some scenarios where Scrum won’t be a better pick for your project management. Here are some downsides of Agile:
- Highly experienced and committed teams requirement: Agile project management process doesn’t define clear roles and responsibilities for the team members. Thus, the members are required to be of high-skills to be able to do everything that is required within the scope of the project. The team also will have to be familiar with the Scrum principles, which can be another burden for your training and development department. Scrum requires teams to commit to the daily Scrum meetings and stay on top of the project until the end.
- Require an experienced Scrum Master: There is a significant difference between a scrum master and a project manager. We’ll discuss the scrum master vs project manager topic in detail in the later sections of the article. Hence, having a project manager won’t suffice. You will need an experienced scrum master who can manage the Scrum process.
Waterfall Project Management Methodology
Waterfall has been the most popular version of the software or app development lifecycle in IT project management. In Waterfall, the project managers often plan the project using Gantt charts. The Gantt chart shows the expected and actual start and end date of every individual task. It is created for every part of the software development lifecycle. Once, the part is finished worked on, the team can’t go back to it, it will just proceed forward.
The waterfall model of project management originated in the construction and manufacturing industries, both of where changes are really very expensive or sometimes impossible. Winston W. Royce was the first to give a formal description of Waterfall in his article in 1970 where he explained a flawed software model.
Why is Waterfall a Suitable Model?
Since it’s initiation, Waterfall is a preferable project management strategy for projects that are simple and not prone to change. The name itself suggests that the model is linear and keeps a rigid nature of execution. The value of documentation is inevitable with this project management methodology. The advantages further include:
- Easy to manage: the Gantt charts used in Waterfall methodology make the execution a well structured process. The team won’t require any prior training before getting on the project. Each phase of the project will have pre-specified deliverables, making it a very easy project management method.
- Disciplined: Each phase of the Waterfall project has a defined starting and ending point. Thus, it will be easier for the project manager to share the work progress with customers or stakeholders. The discipline remains intact with the project deadlines too.
- Keep up to the documentation: Waterfall project management methodology requires every phase to be documented for better and clear understanding to the team. It also helps in creating the logic behind the software and run tests. Following the documentation will enable the customer or management for traceability and progress analysis.
Why Waterfall is losing its Predominance
The worst part about Waterfall is that it can’t handle the changes the way a project management method should. Due to its linearity, the development team becomes unable to adopt the changes in between the processes.
- Nearly impossible or expensive to accommodate change: Once you’re done with a phase, you move forward, you go down on the waterfall and shouldn’t come back. For instance, if your development team has reached the testing phase and then you realize that you should add another feature to the requirements, it becomes very difficult and expensive to do so.
- Delivery starts late: As the project will have to be delivered in certain phases and there are several phases before the actual development begins, you won’t see any actual work done until the late in development lifecycle.
- Challenging to gather accurate requirements: The first phase for the Waterfall project management methodology is to gather requirements from the customer or stakeholders. It is hard for the customers or stakeholders to exactly pinpoint the actual requirements so early in the project. Many times I’ve found that the customers don’t have enough clue about what they actually want.
A Japanese word for ‘billboard’ or ‘‘sign’, Kanban is a Japanese manufacturing system in which the supply of components is monitored by using instruction cards along the production line. Kanban development methodology doesn’t require a new set up or procedure, you can overlay Kanban methodology on top of your existing workflow.
The origin of Kanban is from the 1940s when Taiichi Ohno, a Toyota engineer, noticed that the supermarket stocks just enough goods that can meet demand. It optimises their inventory levels and reduces handling costs. Toyota brought the same inventory management technique to its factory floors. The migrated method allowed teams to create cards (Kanban) to convey that they have extra capacity to work upon or can pull more materials. Hence, it is also called the “pull system.”
The same principles apply for IT project management. In the software development context, new work can be added where there is empty space on the team’s Kanban board. Furthermore the WIP (Work in Progress) takes the place of inventory. The Kanban methodology is focused on improving the team output and brings transparency to the software development process.
It is a tool for Kanban implementation. The traditional Kanban board was a physical board having plastic chips and magnets or a whiteboard with sticky notes on it. In recent times, the project management software tools have also created online Kanban boards that can be used by remote teams.
Kanban board is very versatile and can accomodate more than one type of tasks. For example, the yellow sticky notes (cards) can represent new features while green represents a bug fix. The columns in the Kanban board represent the status of the work i.e. To-Do, Doing, and Done.
Pros of Kanban
Due to its visual nature, Kanban is the perfect framework to support Agile implementation. The teams don’t require exceptional learning ability to understand it. Following are some of the advantages of Kanban methodology:
- Flexible to changes: Kanban is very adaptable to the changes. As there is no set duration for the phases, priorities can be easily reevaluated as per the requirements.
- Eliminate waste of resources: Kanban board makes it possible for the teams to stay in tune with what their peers are doing. It will make sure that no one is working on the wrong kind of work or the work that isn’t needed.
- Easy to learn: A board and some sticky notes, that’s all one has to use to manage and allot tasks. Such simple and visual nature makes Kanban easier to learn and use. Additionally, the Kanban methodology can be implemented on top of existing project management systems.
- Reduces cycle time: In Kanban projects, every member of the development team instantly updates the status of each task at the completion. It makes sure that the task moves fast through the team’s workflow.
Cons of Kanban
Most of the disadvantages of Kanban methodology are associated with the mishandling or misuse of Kanban board. Overcomplicating the board brings many challenges such as inaccuracies and miscommunication.
- Outdated boards are a real issue: Managing the board itself is a task and if not managed properly, it can lead to members working off inaccurate information. Hence, the team should be dedicatedly manage the Kanban board.
- No timeframes: Another complaint about Kanban methodology is that one cannot know the time frame associated with every task and it is even harder to track the due dates. It only tracks the task status in the form of To-Do, WIP, Completed.
Waterfall Methodology vs Agile
We’ve discussed in the article that both the Agile and Waterfall methodologies have their own pros and cons. In a broad manner, they both provide support to manage IT projects. The key difference between both is that Waterfall projects get executed in a linear manner whereas Agile projects are iterative in nature.
As per a recent poll by TrustRadius.com, 81percent of the organizations prefer using Agile methodology instead of Waterfall. Another research by HP claims that 54 percent of the Agile users get motivated by Agile over Waterfall as it helps teams collaborate.
A Quick Faceoff between Agile and Waterfall
Difference Between Scrum Master vs Project Manager
What is a Scrum Master? How do their roles differ from a Project Manager? Isn’t a Scrum Master kind of an Agile Project Manager? You might have several question regarding the difference between a Project manager and a Scrum Master
Just so that you know, the Scrum Master is not an Agile Project Manager. In fact, there is almost no similarity between the role of a Project Manager and the Scrum Master.
Roles of a Scrum Master
- Scrum Master teaches team members about Scrum framework and Agile processes. So, he is a teacher.
- The Scrum Master also may have to coach the customers, managers, and other stakeholders in the organization, in order to make them understand about Scrum. Therefore, he is a coach.
- The Scrum Master facilitates Scrum events such as sprint planning, review, and retrospective. The facilitation includes preparing events, gathering observation, etc. Here you’ll see the Scrum Master as a facilitator.
Roles of a Project Manager
- Managing the project
- Creating and Managing business case
- Creating and managing project plans
- Change management into scope, time, and budget
- Track team progress
- Assure the quality of the software
- Assess and avoid project risk
- Managing the administrative services for the project
- Use project management tools to ensure efficient execution
As you’ve seen that there are no similarities between the role of a Project Manager and a Scrum Master. Hence, both are very different from each other.
Every organization has their own way of managing the projects using these project management methodologies. While Agile is gaining popularity, Waterfall is still a preferable choice for some straightforward IT projects. Scrum and Kanban are used on top of any project management methodology to make it more effective.
If you are not sure which project management methodology will be suitable for your project, connect with us and we’ll help you decide and plan for your project.