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Since we have read numerous blogs on project management techniques, I still feel there is something lacking. “Project” and “Management” are two different derivatives. They embody a concept where two schools of thoughts work together to maintain workflow and productivity. All of this is done to achieve a favorable outcome.
If we talk about the word: “project”, I’d define it as an organization’s unit dedicated to completing a goal. Whereas, if “Project” is followed up by “management”, then we are looking at a manager who is responsible for heading the project within predefine constraints. Technically, these constraints and such other variables are treated as part of the case preface associated with each and every project.
Misconceptions About Project Management Techniques:
This post details popular project management techniques. Majority of these methods are used in the IT industry. However, you may not have heard of some other PM techniques, such as, but not limited to Extreme Project Management, Rational Unified Process, and vice versa.
I also wanted to talk about different variables that compel businesses to adopt project management techniques. How does a business owner determine whether he has to use project management techniques in a project?
Sometimes, it may not be necessary to devise a PM oriented plan – and then follow up afterward. After all, project managers cost a hefty fortune for optimizing businesses. Not every company is in a situation to “invest” in a project manager.
Seeing to the common misconceptions about the application of project management techniques, there is a case study in this post for you. It is not too wordy because I colluded with other departments at nTask to survey the market and answer the most important question. – I.e. How to determine when a project is aching for the latest project management techniques?
Popular Project Management Techniques In IT and Non-IT Environments:
1. RUP – Rational Unified Process:
RUP is an alternate form of Waterfall. The latter is a multistep project management technique that focuses on different milestones; one at a time. As far as RUP is concerned, it is a framework for software development projects. The teams split the project into four different parts.
Following are the main 4 categories of a Rational Unified Process project management technique:
Researchers have also developed AUP; Agile Unified Process, which is a different form of RUP. Agile simply focuses on slacking clutter and replacing it with simpler steps. AUP has 7 categories. They may seem a lot for software developers to go through, but this method is easier than conventional RUP tactics.
You can also squeeze in Scrum methodologies with AUP since they offers a lot of wiggle room for diversified processes.
2. PERT – Program Evaluation and Review Technique:
This one is more of a general project management technique. Program Evaluation is applied to various cases. It is not restricted to an application in the I.T. sector only. If you are running a business in the manufacturing industry, you can also benefit from PERT by hiring a project manager qualified to work in that area. He will do an analysis of pending and already performed tasks.
As part of popular project management techniques, Program Evaluation & Review Technique dates back to the Cold War. It was originally invented by the US Navy to help them gain advantage over adversaries in the battlefield. The process became so famous that managers from the business environment altered it to suit their workflow processes.
PERT is best suited to long term projects with different challenging variables. PERT is compatible with different work timings and routines. This degree of flexibility makes it a perfect substitute for conventional project management techniques.
3. Agile Project Management:
Agile has been discussed a lot at the nTask blog. We think it is one of the best forms of modern project management techniques where a lot could be done with fewer resources. Agile is a mindset that trains teams to maximize productivity while minimizing “clutter”.
For instance, you can break a project into multiple parts. Then you can add ‘Sprints” in it. A typical sprint spans over 14 days, but project managers often add or deduct Sprint days according to project requirements.
The idea of Agile is to react quickly through a flat work environment where communication is at one level. Hierarchical communication is the first issue and often goes against Agile. Since top management has to approve something, and by the time it goes down to the actual team, it creates a huge communication gap. That’s why Agile is not perfect for top-down communication matrices.
Agile is suitable for small software projects. Some project managers apply it to projects with a ginormous scale with very good results. It all depends on the implementation of Sprint, Scrum Meetings in Agile and such other variables that help to offer a customized experience to project managers.
4. Project Management through Waterfall
Yes, it has a cool name with a soothing effect; I know that. As mentioned earlier, Waterfall is an ideal project management technique for software developers. It is also referred to as the SDLC process where the development of a software product is divided over different steps. Each step is preceded by another one that’s higher up the hierarchy.
Waterfall is sequential; just like a typical waterfall effect in nature. The top process outlines the main objective – i.e. project initiation followed by development cycles. The last few steps are normally associated with bug detection and maintenance.
Although Waterfall is ideal for software development, some project managers take the core concept and use this project management technique for the hardware sector. The key is to define all the requirements at the beginning and then create different channels to complete the entire project plan.
5. CCM – Critical Chain Methodology:
Back in 1997, Eliyahu M. Goldratt wrote about Critical Chain Methodology as the process for managing resources without affecting the project plan. This was probably the first time Critical Chain Methodology was discussed by Eliyahu M. Goldratt because his focus was on resources management, rather than project plan and such variables.
By now, you must have read all the aforementioned project management techniques. They constitute project planning, development, and execution phases. However, CCM is one methodology where the focus is on leveling the resource pool without exceeding the project case preface.
This method is important because some projects are prescribed within a certain budget/resource criterion. Stakeholders, in such cases, don’t want to invest more in project development. Therefore, the contractor and the project manager have to work together to finish the project in a timeline – and that too without asking top management for additional funds.
What Should I Look for In Project Management Tools?
By now, we have listed several popular project management tools at our blog. Some of them which are highlighted repeatedly are appended below:
- Atlassian Asana
- JIRA Project Management Software
While Asana, nTask and Jira focus caters to project managers’ needs as a full-fledged software service, the others in the list are supporting category programs. Monday is particularly useful because they are constantly upgrading, the support staff is very helping and I’ve had good experiences with the UI.
Having said that, none of the project management tools in the industry are perfect. They have to be scaled against the business requirements before a large scale budget is sanctioned for the purchase. As an agile project manager, I have seen many cases where companies spend a huge chunk of money on a project management tool without even evaluating it.
As a result, the end users at that company not only develop a negative opinion about the software but also continue to avoid the use of PM tools. This scenario was discussed at length at our previous blog post. You can read it here if you want to get familiar with a real-life use case scenario.
Regardless, a project management tool should have the following features to cover most of the project requirements. If you go down in extra details, you will find many sublevel features in a PM software for refined consumer experience. My only advice is that you evaluate the program before acting on impulse.
Workflow and Project Planning:
The ideal project management tool should have different features for project planners. Likewise, the workflow is increased by many features such as:
- Gantt Charts
- Task Commenting
- Collaboration Tools
- Time Tracking
- Meeting Management
- Risk Resolution
It is not necessary for a project management program to offer everything. You can, however, request the vendor company to issue a dummy account with features that cater to your requirements.
Communication is a no brainer. Many popular project management techniques recommend using project management software with powerful integrations for communication. NTask has a Slack integration feature to keep collaboration as part of the top-notch services that project managers look for.
If your PM tool does not come with a by-default communication mode, make sure that there is support for 3rd party communication app integration. Otherwise, you will have to rely on emails and IMs, which are outdated by today’s project management techniques standard.
Every project runs on a schedule. It comes into play from the day the project is incepted and goes all the way to closing day. When you are working with large teams, scheduling becomes important because every team member is not available at the same time. Some people work in shifts.
If there is an embedded tool to monitor employee level schedule, project milestone submission dates, etc., you could get by with maximum productivity. Other relevant features of an ideal project management software should cover feasibility management, time tracking, and budget allocation.
When Does It Become Important to Use Project Management Techniques?
It is not always important to use project management techniques in a project. To this day, some of the managers use old school tactics to complete a project. And boy, they know how to finish a project with flying colors. It’s just that sometimes the resources are aligned in perfect harmony, and it’s not that hard to finish a project.
However, there are many use cases, criterions if you may call them, where it is important to use project management techniques. These cases are appended below:
Is the project too demanding? Does it require a lot of effort from many different people at various departments? Effort can also be measured in numeric form; it is a matter of perspective. Sometimes, government agencies working on a complex defense system induce project management techniques because they can’t avoid them.
Is the project extremely important for the company? If there is no room for flexibility or the deadline is strict, it is the perfect opportunity to use project management techniques.
Risks are part of the project. Some of them are foreseen, and hence they are already prepared for. Others are unforeseen. In both cases, there has to be a Plan B to overcome adversity that pops up every now and then.
This is the ability of the project manager and his team to present the completion of a project to a management board. Things have to follow a budget and overall project constraints.
Aside from the structure, interrelatedness of the between project tasks and effort are equally important. Sometimes the structure is perfect – i.e. flat ones are streamlined with Agile and Scrum and top-down structures are suited for Extreme Project Management techniques. However, due to a lack of interrelatedness, things can fall apart quickly.
Case Study Time ABC Inc. Faces Peril as Product Sales Dip:
ABC Inc. is a hardware manufacturer. They create peripherals for the retail and corporate sector. Retailers are not that big of an issue since they resell the products at a profit margin. Corporate demands are different; sometimes there are product recalls due to incompatibility and vice versa.
As a result, there is a varying degree of profits that comes in from both sides of the business. ABC Inc. has several branches. The problem is that communication is restricted to site-wide premises. It means one branch cannot communicate with another branch because a.) They are not using project management software, and b.) They haven’t heard of Slack and such other tools.
The last quarter analysis of ABC Inc. financials looks like this:
You can see that they have a trend of batch processing where everything is manufactured in a quantity. Since technology has changed a lot, the top management people decided to transition towards online processing.
The second quarter depicts a grave situation in the scanners lineup:
As a result, old scanners have become obsolete. I am talking about those models where you had to use a broadhead pin connector and a printer for the scanner to work. Other than that, consumers have started using mobile scanning applications which pushes the demand for a scanner a few notches down.
ABC Inc. feels that it is time to manufacture something different instead of conventional scanners. They have decided on the disposition of scanners product lineup. In reality, the disposition is not easy because the company has to get rid of all the scanners that they manufactured before the decision was taken. Selling at half the price, or limited time discount is the only viable option.
Meanwhile, the product contribution analysis reveals that the company will have to suffer a huge loss as a result of this recent decision. For instance, the Scanners are already selling at a – $25,000 in the second quarter. The guys at ABC Inc. also don’t want to completely drop the Scanners product line. It is not an acceptable decision, but they are looking for a middle ground somewhere in between both realities.
This is where they bring in a project manager. He suggests that selling the scanners is relatively safer than simply keeping them up in a storeroom. In addition, the project manager proposes that the company should complete its fiscal year and product scanners to complete sales and profit margin for the current year.
It is a unanimous decision to replace Scanners with some other latest gadgets. The new product line has to be decided. In this scenario, project management techniques will be applied because of the following reasons:
- ABC Inc. is a large company with considerable revenue volume.
- The degree of effort is large. Company staff will require additional help from experts.
- Risks are high. A lot can go wrong from point A to point B.
- The organization structure is hierarchical. Therefore, extreme project management tactics have to be used.
- Finally, this entire transition is important to the reputation of the company and its stakeholders.
In Conclusion, Project Management Techniques Are A Necessity:
I wanted to use “necessary evil” as header text but refrained from doing that. My point is that project management techniques are a means to an end. While they are never necessary for each and every product, it does affect the output if you use them.
Work, productivity and goals acquisition increases exponentially if the right PM technique is applied to a project. If you have benefitted from this write-up, let me know through the comments section below. Have you ever applied, or been part of a company where project management techniques were applied wrong? What were the reasons for that? I look forward to hearing from you.