Starting an IT project can be a daunting task for both the client and the entire team. Selecting an appropriate methodology is one of the key elements in ensuring a successful implementation. Depending on the method chosen, there can be differences in delivery time, budget, and even the level of decision-making required from the client. Is there an ideal method? The approach to an IT project should be well thought out. It is important to clearly outline expectations, analyze them together with the team, ask the right questions, and estimate the time required to complete the task. It is only at this stage that the appropriate method can be selected to proceed with the work.
Popular methodologies for managing IT projects
The successful management of an IT project depends on various factors, including the use of appropriate methodologies tailored to the project’s nature. Each methodology has its own implementation methods, and they often focus on different issues and provide different ways to achieve the goal.
The most widely used methodologies can be classified into two categories: classical methodologies, also known as 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 aspect of the waterfall methodology is careful planning of individual tasks and adhering to deadlines. This approach works well when the goal and the method for achieving it are clearly and unambiguously defined, and the likelihood of changes to the project scope is low. In the traditional model, it is essential to begin the next stage only after the previous one has been fully completed.
Suppose the client wants to modify any of the previous stages. In that case, it is possible to use change requests, but introducing a change at a later stage of implementation can significantly impact the project’s delivery time, budget, or quality. Traditional methodologies are typically recommended for longer projects, particularly those with fixed deliverables and scope of work. Any changes in such projects occur gradually and are subject to various regulations and procedures, such as those found in the public sector or banking.
Advantages of using traditional methodologies
Using traditional methodologies in IT project management has several advantages. These methodologies provide a safe solution because the project’s start and end dates, as well as the necessary requirements for implementation, are clearly defined from the outset. This approach also enables better estimation of project costs, and the client is already aware of the next steps in the implementation phase during the planning stage. Furthermore, IT projects executed using classical methodologies are usually well-documented, which facilitates project monitoring and control.
Disadvantages of using traditional methodologies
As previously mentioned, traditional methodologies have a low level of flexibility, so introducing any changes involves risks related to quality, budget, and implementation time. The initial difficulties may arise during project planning since this approach requires the development of a very detailed implementation plan. Another major challenge is that any changes are only addressed and implemented after all planned tasks have passed through all project stages.
Furthermore, classical methodologies involve a high degree of formalization, which may prioritize meeting formal requirements over the client’s actual needs. As a result, the client’s requirements may be overlooked or not adequately addressed.
Other traditional methodologies
Among the traditional management methodologies, PRINCE2, PMI, and PMBOK are noteworthy.
PRINCE 2 (Projects in Controlled Environments) is a product-based project management methodology that 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, only a few organizations currently use this method.
PMI is a comprehensive set of project management principles codified by the Project Management Institute and published as the PMBOK® Guide. It is widely recognized as the foundation of knowledge for professional project managers.
PMBOK® Guide is 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 organization’s needs. Only the correct selection of these technologies and tools creates the project management methodology.
Agile methodologies for IT project management
Agile methodologies have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their focus on adaptability, customer satisfaction, and quick delivery of products. The most popular agile methodology is Scrum, which focuses on iterative and incremental development, with daily meetings and close collaboration between team members. SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) is a methodology that focuses on scaling agile practices across larger organizations, while LeSS (Large-Scale Scrum) is an approach to applying Scrum principles on a larger scale. Kanban is a visual management tool that helps teams manage their work by visualizing workflow and limiting work in progress. PRINCE2AGILE is a hybrid methodology that combines elements of both traditional and agile methodologies, aiming to provide the best of both worlds.
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 inherent flexibility of agile methodologies enables more precise planning of costs, activities, and scope control within successive iterations. As a result, it is possible to commence work on an IT project before the target outcome is completely planned. In such a scenario, the client has a higher level of engagement in the project, thereby enabling them to oversee its progress and make changes while it is still in the implementation phase. It is believed that the outcome is also achieved more quickly in agile methodologies.
Disadvantages of using agile methodologies
Agile methodologies have several disadvantages, including the additional overhead on the organization of work known as Project Ceremonies. These ceremonies are a necessary part of the process, but they can add extra complexity to the project management. Additionally, agile methodologies do not always prioritize risk management, which can lead to unexpected costs and may cause the final product to deviate from the original project goals.
Other agile methodologies
- Scrum is a methodology that extends and formalizes the Agile manifesto by providing a set of rules and ceremonies. Team members should have similar skills and participate in sprints with regular meetings.
- SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework)is 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 the market.
- LeSS (Large Scale Scrum) is a framework in which multiple interdisciplinary self-organizing teams work at a single rhythm to 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 is a methodology that combines the flexibility and agility of Agile methodologies with the well-defined process and governance in PRINCE2.
- Kanban is a methodology that uses lean principles to increase productivity by eliminating wasted time and resources. The 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
A hybrid methodology is one option for selecting a suitable project management approach. It combines elements of both traditional and agile methodologies, such as using Prince2 at a high level and Scrum at the executive team level. This approach enables organizations to choose the best components from each methodology, resulting in the delivery of full business value to the customer.
Selecting the appropriate project management methodology for building a digital project depends on several factors, such as the product size, estimated turnaround time, and market requirements, which vary between clients’ needs. It is often said that a project can be done quickly, well, or cheaply, and when choosing the right methodology, it is important to prioritize only two of these characteristics, as trying to achieve all three may be impossible.