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How to manage projects: an overview

3 min, 6 sec read
11:30 AM | 17 April 2015
by Lars Bjornbakk
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Managing projects is something all of us do, whether that’s coursework, a piece of work for your job or a personal thing you’re working on. Projects come in all shapes and sizes.

In project management there are many different methodologies that provides their own individual sets of ground rules for managing projects on time and for the right cost. These act as an adaptable foundation for how you approach a task.

Since undertaking a degree in project management I’ve come to be certified as in PRINCE2 and Agile Project Management (APM). Two of the most used techniques throughout the working world. I wanted to share with you the difference between the two approaches to help assist you on any work you do.

Simply put PRINCE2 would fall within the methodology category that is waterfall, while APM is more obviously an agile methodology.

So what does this mean? Well, I think Phil Bennett, the web team leader at Carswell Gould, summed it up in a easy and concise way:

“Waterfall is like baking; the specs are rigid and once it’s in the oven, you’re stuck with the result.“

So basically in waterfall you have a thorough description of the work which is to be done, then by a fixed number of stages, you progress towards delivering the project outputs. It is very much concerned with control and assuring that minimum change takes place, so that the full planned solution is delivered.

“Agile is like cooking; you roughly know what you want, you can test it and refine it until you have a result you’re happy with.”

APM on the other hand embraces change and accepts that you do not know all the details of the project when starting it. This approach is working from a base of high-level requirements describing what the project will deliver, and accepts that more detail will emerge throughout the project. An advantage APM presents, is that project benefits will be delivered throughout the project life; rather than in the end - as waterfall methods tend to do.

However, one method doesn’t necessarily exclude the other. Where appropriate, they might be combined to compliment each other, as good practise of project management methodologies is very much about finding the appropriate balance. This means you use the aspects of the methodology which is relevant to the work you are set to do.

APM might be the best approach for working on a creative project, as a lot of time is spent on exploring ideas. I personally find it to be the best way of working.

You split APM projects into iterations as this allows for continuous improvement in the final output. The four stages of an iteration are;

  • Identify (what should we achieve this time around)
  • Plan (how will we do it)
  • Evolve (develop the solution in line with the plan)
  • Review (determine if more work is needed; if so, start a new iteration)

Another core ingredient is Scrum; which is a way of getting people together, deciding what to do and who will do it. In this method you break down the work in sprints, focusing on one area for the problem at a time. You can download the Scrum Guide.

This is just a taster for the techniques within project management. There are many different methods, so it is important you find the approach for you and your project at hand. Some times you just need a fraction of the tools a methodology provides in order to understand where to start and how to make a project a huge success.

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