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Project Management Methodology Selection - Critical to Success
Background and Context

Research by the Standish Group shows a staggering 31.1 percent of IT projects will be cancelled before they get completed. Further studies indicate 52.7 per cent of IT projects will cost 189 per cent of their original estimates. The cost of these failures and overruns are just the tip of the iceberg. The lost opportunity costs are not measurable but could easily be in trillions of dollars. Why do projects fail, i.e. overshoot their original budgets? The Standish Report says the factors for failure could be lack of user involvement, lack of executive management support, inadequate planning, resource commitment, and incompetency. This article examines a more fundamental factor-project methodology selection.

A project methodology provides a process for managing projects. There are several project management methodologies such as Projects In Controlled Environments, Unified Project Management Methodology, Managing Information Technology Projects, and Microsoft Solution Framework. There are several development methodologies such as waterfall, prototype, iterative, and agile project management. These methodologies are designed to increase the repeatability of project execution success. According to SPI Research’s 2011 Professional Services Maturity Benchmark study only one-fourth of organizations have their own standardized processes for managing projects and only 15 percent use metrics and controls.

Right Methodology and Collaboration

Methodologies are useful for projects when implemented in the right spirit. However, often one fails to realize that the right methodology must be selected and/or customized to align with the environmental factors covering stakeholders, processes, and tools. Since every project is unique, it is likely that the environmental factors will be unique too. For example, if you intend to follow the Scrum method, where the product owner indicates his unavailability on a daily basis, it could lead to delays during execution. The industry practice today is collaboration, i.e. share and get the buy-in of the methodology/approach from key stakeholders. This prevents future surprises.

Spirit and Intention

Projects today are being delivered using globally distributed teams. Effective communication is essential. The project manager needs to be aware of the cultural issues in working with a diverse and virtual team. Project managers often do not build specific communication requirements into their plan. Although a methodology is present, the tools and techniques are not utilized in the right spirit.

In order to communicate as per the agreed methodology, one must build the necessary infrastructure within the project to: obtain the relevant information at the right time from the right stakeholders, and to communicate the information to others at the right time. In some cases, help is taken from project support offices to derive metrics and reports to share with the stakeholders. The project manager should also be aware of the project performance parameters such as scope, schedule, costs, quality, and staff plans to be able to respond to any unplanned queries. Where projects are quantitatively managed, metrics are used to forecast project performance. This depends on the maturity of the project management methodology being adopted.

Planning Challenges

An experienced manager knows how detailed the planning needs to be. It requires time, especially if one needs to cover all the knowledge areas specified in A Guide to the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). One of the most common bad practices is inadequate time given to planning. Project managers are expected to produce deliverables from day one. Such projects often face challenges later on and time is spent in fire-fighting. In this scenario, despite the usage of the right methodology and the availability of tools and techniques, lack of prioritization on the planning around implementing the project methodology results in fire-fighting situations.

It is important that the right methodology be applied to every project and the procedures are followed in spirit to ensure project success. Moreover, explore and use the necessary tools and techniques that are part of the methodology. Since, the project methodology selection influences procedures and activities for the rest of the project, it is important to get this step absolutely right.

(Mr. Yeldo P Varghese, PMP, has over 15 years of experience in IT services organizations and has delivered engagements of various complexities. He is currently a delivery manager at Capgemini managing geographically distributed multifunctional teams.)
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