What is Project Management?

Project Management Collage

Are you curious to know what project management is? What is a project management methodology? What are the factors affecting the adoption of methodology in an organization? What methodologies does the Industry widely follow? This article will answer these questions and more.

We deal with projects in our daily lives: assembling a study table, fixing the kitchen sink, or as simple a task as preparing a peanut butter sandwich. 

These activities are unique, temporary with a fixed start and end, and have certain objectives to achieve.

One can achieve these objectives by involving the right people with relevant tools. They have to honor the limitations of cost and time and deliver the product to the desired quality in the environment provided.

Projects in a business are similar in nature. The need for a project arises due to varied reasons: business competition, compliance with statutory requirements, improvement in current processes, client requirements, etc.

 Management of these projects is crucial. It plays a major role to direct, manage, and deliver project outcomes within known constraints. 

Project management brings in the skills, tools, and techniques to project activities and achieve the project outcomes.


The definition of Project management is as follows:

The discipline of applying specific processes, principles, tools & techniques, to initiate, plan, execute, and manage the way that new initiatives or changes are implemented within an organization.



Is the application of processes, methods, skills, knowledge, and experience to achieve specific project objectives according to the project acceptance criteria within agreed parameters. Project management has final deliverables that are constrained to a finite timescale and budget.

APM Body of Knowledge.

Organizations use Project management, facilitated by a Project management methodology for their projects to deliver project outcomes. The project is a manifestation of the organization’s strategic plan and business goals.

 The definition of methodology as per the Oxford Dictionary is as follows:

a system of methods used in a particular area of study or activity

-Oxford Dictionary
Project Management

There are several Project management methodologies available in the Industry. Some of the differentiating factors are:

  • Processes & tools
  • Principles & standards
  • Client and Stakeholder involvement
  • Type of product development life cycle (Sequential, iterative, incremental, iterative & incremental, Spiral, and others)
  • Professional bodies that govern a methodology (PRINCE2, APM, Scrum Alliance, Agile Alliance, PMI, and others)

Some methodologies derive from core principles like Agile and Lean: an umbrella term for these. Most of the derived Agile methodologies come under the mix and match category

 Methodologies like PRINCE 2, offer a complete framework of themes, principles, and processes. It provides the flexibility to customize it for a particular project.

The Project Management Institute(PMI ) emphasizes foundational standards and Practice standards with their processes and knowledge areas, defined in their Project management Book of Knowledge(PMBOK)

Some methodologies find immense success in an industry, leading to their adoption in other industries. An example of this is Scrum. It not only has widespread usage in the Software Industry but also in construction and other industries as mentioned here.

Some methodologies are a hybrid, taking their workings from other industries and adopting them. Examples of this are the Kanban method (based on Lean manufacturing principles) and Scrumban(Scrum + Kanban) in Software development.

Whereas, some are a mix of traditional waterfall and agile methodologies (Agile-Waterfall hybrid).


The choice of adopting a methodology for a project in an organization would depend on several governing factors, these are:

  • Type of Project and Industry: One can classify projects by their type and Industry: Construction, Engineering, Software, Management, etc. Project type and Industry drives the choice of adopting a methodology. This is usu. the case for most of the Industry, but not the norm. There has been a move to adopt proven methodologies from other industries to their own. Some case studies can be found here.
  • Customer and Stakeholders Involvement: This factor plays a major role in the choice of the methodology. Usually, customers and stakeholders involve themselves in certain phases of the project; it can be at the requirements phase, stage gates, or on completion of the project. However, in some industries, the customer and stakeholders would like to be involved in every aspect of the project and govern the development of the product.
  • The complexity of Project: The complexity of the project can drive the choice of a methodology. For projects, that are low in complexity, with similar requirements to previous projects, the waterfall model would be a good approach. Whereas for projects that are complex, with changing requirements, Agile methodologies(Scrum, Kanban) can be a better choice.
  • Timescales and budget: Projects have fixed timescales, they can range from a few days to several years. The timelines involved to turn over of the project outcomes to required quality and cost play an important role in the methodology adopted.
  • Corporate Culture: The culture of an organization is crucial in adopting a methodology. A corporate entity may follow a certain methodology for delivering projects and can have defined structures to govern them. The flexibility of decision-makers to adopt a methodology and change its governance structure plays an important role.
  • Team: Methodologies need to fit naturally for the ways the team think, relate, and work. The team needs to have the maturity, skillset, and capabilities for the methodology chosen.

There are several other factors like team size, resource availability that can contribute to the adoption of a methodology. With careful consideration and due diligence, one can decide on the project management methodology that best suits the project’s need.


The well-known project management methodologies, followed in software and other industries are as shown below:


The first introduction of this model was in the paper “Managing the Development of Large Software Systems” by Winston Royce in the year 1970.

The model is defective and not suitable for software project management. A misinterpretation, has not only led to its adoption in the management of software projects but also for projects across many industries. It has distinct phases and is sequential

The phases are Conception, Initiation, Analysis, Design, Construction, Testing, Implementation, and Maintenance. It starts from the Conception stage and moves sequentially to the last phase.

The completion of one phase leads to the next. The project would stall(be in a state of limbo), if any phase in the development was hindered due to any reason. 

This model has known to work well with projects that have low complexity and the requirements are well known, or for similar projects that the team has good knowledge about.

It is used in projects where there needs to be a considerable planning phase and each subsequent phase has a dependence on the previous one. It is widely used in the construction industry.

 There are a lot of disadvantages to adopting this methodology. Its emphasis on the inception and conceptualization phase to understand and document the product is a major drawback. 

There is no means of changing or revisiting the requirements once it has been finalized. The structure is rigid and doesn’t allow for any changes. The risk of project failure or redoing a project exists when the requirements are not proper or the product does not meet the specifications.

#2. AGILE:
Agile Practices

The 1990s saw the development of new methodologies to replace the pitfalls of the waterfall model– it was “overly regulated, planned, and micro-managed”.

Agile is a set of values and principles that are used as beliefs to make decisions for the better development of software. It is an umbrella term for the iterative and incremental software development approaches that started during this time.

The founders of these methodologies and visionaries of agile convened, to conceive the “Manifesto for Agile Software Development“. It contains four key values and Twelve Principles of Agile Software.

#3. SCRUM:

It is an iterative and incremental approach of agile development that is based on empiricism ( transparency, inspection, and adaptation ) and has five values ( Commitment, Focus, Openness, Respect, and Courage ) at its core.

 The framework prescribes roles, events, and artifacts. The roles in Scrum consist of a Scrum master (servant-leader for the team), Product Owner (Voice of the customer), and the development team.

The development-team is self-organizing and cross-functional. They commit to the goals of the scrum team and focus on the delivery of the product. 

The Sprint is one iteration of product delivery(usu. 2 to 4 weeks) in Scrum. At the end of each Sprint, a potentially shippable product increment is delivered.

Scrum contains several events that are strictly time-boxed. The Sprint starts off with the Sprint Planning, a Daily stand-up meeting, Product Backlog Refinement, and ends with the Sprint Review followed by a Sprint Retrospective.

 This methodology has found widespread adoption in the software industry and has been consistent in providing positive results. The success of this methodology has prompted other industries to adopt Scrum for their projects. 

Some of the caveats of adopting this methodology are:

  • The team must have the skills and maturity to be cross-functional and self-organizing, else the methodology would fail.
  • Failure to understand and practice Scrum and its philosophy properly would lead to ScrumBut.
#4. LEAN:
Lean Methodology

Lean project management is based on Lean manufacturing principles as applied to Project management. These principles of lean manufacturing focus on maximizing value and minimizing waste. The five guiding principles of Lean manufacturing are:

  • Identify Value: Identify customer’s expectations and needs from the product.
  • Map the value stream: Identify all the steps and processes required to deliver the product. SIPOC can help in identifying the value stream for a product. It helps to identify ‘waste’ and impediments and remove them.
  • Create Flow: Identity improvements in the value stream that can create an efficient production system with no interruptions, delays, and bottlenecks.
  • Establish Flow(Pull): Let customer’s demand drive the product development process. The customer’s need (pull) for the product would drive its production(Just-in-time). It helps in reducing large inventories and work in progress Items. Lean manufacturing tools like Kanban can help businesses establish a pull system.
  • Seek Perfection: This principle can be best summarized as:

“As value is specified, value streams are identified, wasted steps are removed, and flow and pull are introduced, begin the process again and continue it until a state of perfection is reached in which perfect value is created with no waste.”

– Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI)

It is based on the philosophy of continuous improvement.


The Kanban method derives from Lean manufacturing principles of establishing flow(Pull) to deliver a product. This method provides visual feedback of the work on a board ( “Kamban” in Japanese means a billboard or signboard). 

It emphasizes on continuous delivery of products while limiting work in progress, without burdening the development team.

The success of this method in manufacturing Industry, led to its adoption in Agile software practices.

There are six core practices are as follows:

  • Visualize Workflow,
  • Limit Work In Progress,
  • Manage Flow,
  • Make process policies explicit,
  • Use feedback loops and
  • Improve Collaboratively.

A more detailed discussion on the Kanban method can be found here.

#6. PRINCE 2:

It is a generic best practice method derived from feedback from a variety of sources, including end-users, project management specialists, and over 150 public and private sector organizations.

It has seven characteristic processes, supported by seven themes and seven guiding principles. The methodology is flexible; it provides features to customize the framework to meet the requirements of any kind of project. It can also support agile delivery.

PRINCE 2 is well-known across the World and offers the Foundation and Practitioner level certifications.

This methodology has been criticized by its opponents for its document-oriented approach, emphasis on process-orientation, and relevance of the framework for smaller projects. It drew severe criticism in the UK, after several UK Govt IT projects failed.

But, proponents of the methodology maintain that all projects are unique and the framework provides options to tailor it to the needs of the project. They attribute the project failures, to not adapting the framework for the project type. 

PMI Project Processes

 Project management Institute(PMI) is a not-for-profit organization(based in the USA) and is recognized for its standards and practice guides in Project Management.

The Institute is famous for its Certified Associate in Project Management(CAPM) and Project Management Professional(PMP) certifications(apart from other certifications that PMI offers) across the globe.

The Project management body of Knowledge(PMBOK) is a collection of processes and knowledge areas(a complete area of specialization including jargon, tools, concepts, and tasks). The discovery of new methods and best practices in Project management, lead to updating the Body of Knowledge(BOK).

PMBOK recognizes five basic process groups and ten knowledge areas typical of most of the projects. The basic concepts are applicable to projects, programs, and operations.

 In 2017, the PMBOK Guide(sixth edition) packaged the Agile Practice Guide with the PMBOK guide. The statement by PMI can best summarize this inclusion:

“The Guide was developed in response to stakeholder requests asking us for more content on agile and to provide tools, situational guidelines, and an understanding of the various agile approaches available to enable better results.”

-Project Management Institute (PMI)

Further information with regard to the institute (PMI) and its publications (PMBOK) can be found here.


Projects are a means to end, they are temporary and are conceived with an outcome in mind. Project management is the usage of known standards, techniques, and best practices to achieve project outcomes within known constraints. The Project management methodology is the project management practices used to direct and manage the project.

There are several project management methodologies in the Industry. The choice of a methodology adopted depends on many factors including the type of project, stakeholder involvement, governing processes, time, and budget to name a few.

The Waterfall methodology has traditionally been used across Industries to deliver projects. The pitfalls in waterfall led to the adoption of Agile methodology in the Software industry. The Agile methodologies are an umbrella term for the “mix and match” methodologies derived from it. Scrum, DSDM, XP, Kanban are examples of these.

The success of Agile in the software industry has led to its adoption in other industries like construction, food, and many others.

The Agile movement has bought changes in the way projects are managed and delivered. With a flat hierarchy, the emphasis is on product delivery rather than bureaucracy. The focus is on customer collaboration and their interactions driving the delivery of the product.

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