Choosing a Project Management System

There are so many systems, methodologies, and buzzwords that surround project management these days that it can be difficult to know how to choose what to learn and how to apply that in your day to day work.

I read an article recently that while providing a great overview of the top methodologies and systems, didn’t really provide any information on how to actually apply that information as a way to make a choice. So, how do you decide what to use? The answer is, of course, “it depends.” There really is no right choice for a single system, as it all depends on many factors. The company, the project size, the type of project, the deadline, the budget, and many more factors. In many cases, selecting a single method is the wrong choice.

Each method or style of PM tool/methodology/system has its place. However, sometimes companies make the mistake of trying to lock into a single method for everything, regardless of whether that method is right for everything that company does. I feel like it should be up to us as the PM to choose the method (or combination of methods) that will have the greatest advantage in bringing about the successful completion of the project. In my experience, it is rare for a single method to work well to bring about the successful, on-time completion of a project.

Here’s what I mean by this. Given a medium to large scale new software project that includes physical inventory, using a pure Agile method – including Scrum – will have issues. Trying to use only a PMI or PRINCE2 process is likewise going to be a very difficult process to manage successfully. However, the overall project could be organized and tracked using PMI/PRINCE2 methods, with Agile methods being used to organize and complete the portions where those are best applied.

With the more structured methodologies being used to manage specific targets, the individual teams are free to use their preferred process for accomplishing their targets. Development can use an Agile form, creative/packaging can use Kanban or whatever process they prefer, and the master schedule can adjust for critical path elements as required. The lead PM would facilitate the decisions on process choices while allowing the teams some flexibility rather than forcing every team into a process they don’t necessarily agree on. This approach also allows for both team control of team process while still providing visibility and tracking for the master project.

In summary, choosing a Project Management system can be more of an a la carte menu – pick the pieces that work for the project, the team, and the organization to meet the goal. Otherwise, you may end up with a fixed menu that nobody is really happy with, and in itself becomes a risk to the successful completion of the project.