Does project methodology change a project’s success, or is a project’s success due to something else?
Before we explore this question, we need some definitions.
According to the PMBOK® Guide, a project is “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique project service or result” .
According to the Project Management Institute PMI, the traditional criterion of project management success is determined by key project design parameters such as:
- project schedule
- and some performance expectations such as completing all planned stages and activities.
A methodology is a system of practices, techniques, procedures, and rules used by those who work in a discipline.
Based on the aforementioned project success factors, it is clear that a project’s methodology impacts – or is impacted – by a project’s schedule requirements, budget constraints, and quality expectations.
Variations on a theme
For example, a project whose sponsor has a very limited budget may require a short deadline to save costs (even if it affects quality). Therefore, the methodology selected would have to consider this constraint to make the project a success as defined by the sponsor.
Such a methodology would predefine and plan as much work in advance, and do it in a particular order. An example of such a methodology includes waterfall project management.
On the other hand, a sponsor’s primary concern – and value for success – may purely focus on the quality of an end-product, and thus have no time constraints. In this case, the methodology chosen would prioritize a focus on iterative development to be able to better accommodate unknowns in development whilst constantly taking into account customer feedback to maximize product quality. Such an example may warrant an agile methodology.
An important choice
The choice of project methodology has a pivotal role to play in project success. It is the vehicle through which a project is realized, and project realization is translated to project success.
The project methodology is not, however, the only essential component to project success.
Moreover, an important consideration is a match between the types of methodology and project scope, including the primary domain of the project work, the skills required by those on the project, the scale of the project, the delivery speed required, and the budget.
“There is a positive relationship between project methodology elements and the characteristics of project success; however, environmental factors, notably project governance, influence the use and effectiveness of a project methodology and its elements with a resulting impact on the characteristics of project success”. The Impact of Project Methodologies on Project Success in Different Project Environments.
This idea is clear when juxtaposed with the alternative; that is, not to adopt a project methodology for a project.
Projects are complex as they are comprised of many people, often from varying backgrounds, with varying viewpoints. To not adopt a methodology would likely lead to failure due to a lack of cohesive orchestration of resources towards the project goal.
In my next article, I will take a closer look at leadership styles and how they connect to project management models.
Project Management Institute, Inc. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, Sixth ed., Project Management Institute, Inc., 2017, pp. 4.
Bannerman, P. L. (2008). Defining project success: a multilevel framework. Paper presented at PMI® Research Conference: Defining the Future of Project Management, Warsaw, Poland. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.
Joslin, Robert, and Ralf Müller. “The Impact of Project Methodologies on Project Success in Different Project Environments.” International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, vol. 9, no. 2, Apr. 2016, p. 364., doi:10.1108/ijmpb-03-2015-0025.