Starting an IT project is challenging for the client and the entire team. One of the key elements in its implementation is the selection of an appropriate methodology. Depending on the chosen method, there are differences in delivery time, budget and even the level of decision-making of the client. Is there an ideal method? The approach to an IT project should, first of all, be well thought out. It is important to clearly outline expectations, analyze it together with the team, ask the right questions and estimate the time consumption of the task. It is only possible to select the right method to proceed with the work at this stage.
Popular methodologies for managing IT projects
One of the factors influencing the successful running of an IT project is the use of appropriate methodologies adapted to the nature of the project. For each of them, the methods of implementation may slightly differ. The methodologies tend to focus on different problems and show different ways to achieve the goal.
Among the most commonly used ones, we distinguish between classical methodologies, so-called traditional (waterfall), and agile methodologies.
Traditional methodologies for IT project management
Traditional methodologies include PRINCE2, PMI, PMBOK, and classic Waterfall.
Classical methodologies are often described in a cascade (Waterfall) model, which means that the project is implemented in stages. These include:
- Idea or need: Business requirements (FBR) known in the presales process
- Offer (cost estimation, usually in a fixed-price model), the definition of milestones
- Formation of the team for the various stages (roles: PM, BA, UI/UX designer, then dev, QA, DevOps)
- Detailed project plan, functional analysis, technical design
- Change management, risk management
- Testing (system, integration, security, performance)
- Acceptance testing on the preproduction environment
- Documentation and training
- Deployment to production environment (go-live)
- Technical support and maintenance/development of the solution
- Project closure – handover of all products – code, documentation; obtaining references
The key to the waterfall methodology is, first of all, careful planning of individual works and meeting deadlines. This approach works great when the goal and the technique for achieving it are formulated clearly and understandably, and the chance of changing the scope during the project is low, as any changes are usually associated with considerable risk. That’s why it’s important in the traditional model to start the next steps when the previous one is fully completed. Let’s suppose the client wants to change any of the previous steps. In that case, it is possible to use so-called change requests, which can significantly affect the implementation time, budget or project quality if the change is introduced at a late stage of implementation. Traditional methodologies are usually recommended for longer projects. They are also great for projects where the deliverables and scope of work are fixed. Any changes occur slowly and are limited by all kinds of regulations and procedures, as in the case of the public sector or banking.
Advantages of using traditional methodologies
The use of classical methodologies in IT project management often seems to be a safe solution since the start and end ranges of the project and the requirements necessary for its implementation are clearly defined at the very beginning. This approach also allows better estimation of project costs, and the client is already aware of the next implementation steps at the planning stage. What’s more, IT projects carried out in the classical methodology are usually well documented, which is conducive to controlling the course of the project.
Disadvantages of using traditional methodologies
As we have already mentioned, classical methodologies are characterized by low flexibility, so any introduction of changes involves risks of quality, budget and implementation time. The first difficulties may arise at the very beginning of project planning, as this method requires the preparation of a very precise implementation plan. The fact that the first changes are presented and implemented only after all planned tasks have passed through all project stages can also prove to be a major difficulty. In addition, classical methodologies involve a high level of formalization, and the client’s actual needs may be relegated to the background.
Other traditional methodologies
Among the traditional management methodologies, PRINCE2, PMI and PMBOK are also noteworthy.
PRINCE 2 (Project in Controlled Environment) – a product-based project management methodology. It can be applied to manage and control projects of all types and sizes. This methodology ensures high standardization and repeatability of projects with a common approach, terminology and documentation. However, few organizations currently use this method.
PMI – a comprehensive set of project management principles codified by the Project Management Institute and published as the PMBOK® Guide, widely recognized as the foundation of knowledge for the professional project manager.
PMBOK® Guide – a collection of best practices from projects divided into more than 40 project management processes. These processes use dozens of technologies and tools that can be configured to meet the organisation’s needs. Only their correct selection creates the so-called project management methodology.
Agile methodologies for IT project management
Agile IT project management methodologies include AGILE, SCRUM, SAFe, LeSS, Nexus, PRINCE2AGILE and Kanban.
Agile methodologies use what is known as an agile approach, in which the team works through short sprints and delivers working pieces of the system. Agile is primarily characterized by efficient and flexible manageability, high productivity and quality in the rapid delivery of software. Like traditional methodologies, a project conducted in agile methodology starts with an idea/need, but in this case, the project is implemented in successive iterations (sprints). Each iteration begins with a summary of the steps already taken and planning of the next steps, and the results of each sprint are presented to the client on an ongoing basis. This allows for continuous control of the progress of the IT project and better planning of the budget and involvement of individual team members. Unlike classical methods, tests are part of sprints, allowing greater control over quality.
There is a saying that in an agile approach, the project is first realized in the form of an MVP (minimum viable product), that is, a version of the product is created with enough features for the first customers to use, and then in subsequent stages, the full functionality is realized. Agile methodologies emphasize documenting only what is necessary and close collaboration between those defining the scope and those delivering the product. They are often recommended for projects with shorter timelines.
Advantages of using agile methodologies
The flexibility inherent in agile methodologies allows for more accurate planning of costs and activities or controlling the scope within successive iterations. This means it is possible to start work on an IT project before the target result is completely planned.
In this case, the client has a greater stake in the project, which allows him to oversee its progress and make changes while it is still in the implementation stage. It is estimated that in agile methodologies, the result itself also appears faster.
Disadvantages of using agile methodologies
Do The main disadvantages of agile methodologies are mainly the overhead on the organization of work (the so-called Project Ceremonies), as well as the not very careful approach to risk management. This can lead to sprawling costs, and the final product may not meet the original assumptions.
Other agile methodologies
- Scrum – a methodology that is an extension and formalizes the Agile manifesto into a set of rules and ceremonies: team members should have similar skills and participate in sprints with regular meetings.
- SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) – a structured set of rules and guidelines for roles and responsibilities, work planning and management. The expertise provided by SAFe supports organizations in successfully bringing services and solutions to market.
- LeSS (Large Scale Scrum) – a framework in which multiple interdisciplinary self-organizing teams work at a single rhythm and create one finished product addition – at least once per sprint.
- Nexus – focuses on scaling teams to streamline processes and communication, for example, by assigning fewer people to a specific task.
- PRINCE2 Agile – a methodology that combines the flexibility and agility of agile methodologies with the well-defined process and governance in PRINCE2.
- Kanban – a methodology that uses lean principles and aims to increase productivity by eliminating wasted time and resources. Kanban project management methodology can be used in conjunction with Agile.
Classical methodologies vs agile methodologies
|CLASSICAL METHODOLOGIES||AGILE METHODOLOGIES|
PRINCE2AGILE Kanban Nexus LeSS SAFe
|Application||Big projects||Small projects, innovative, startups|
|Purpose and scope of the project||Clear, known, defined in the initial phases of the project||Not fully defined and shaped at the beginning of successive iterations|
|Expectation of manufactured product||Long waiting time for the finished product||Work in iterations that culminate in a finished, working product|
|Customer involvement||The initial (analysis, planning) and final stages (testing, acceptance) of the project||Continued business involvement throughout the duration of the duration of the project|
|Resistance to changes||Low resistance to change in scope and budget||Highly resistant to change, scope and budget is reviewed before each iteration|
|Documentation||Accurate, customer-approved||At a minimum, so as to ensure that the team can work|
Hybrid methodology for IT project management
One of the options for choosing the suitable methodology for project management is the hybrid methodology. It involves a combination of classical and agile methodologies (e.g. Prince2 at a high level, Scrum at the executive team level). This allows the selection of the best components, which together make up the delivery of full business value for the customer.
Choosing the suitable method to begin working together to build a digital project depends on several factors, often varying between clients’ needs. Elements such as the size of the product, estimated turnaround time or the requirements dictated by the market are all influential. There is a saying that you can have something done quickly, well or cheaply. When choosing the right method for you, selecting only two of these characteristics is important, as combining them may prove impossible to achieve.