To understand what project management is and what a project management consultant does, you first have to understand what a project is. A term often used in businesses such as engineering, technology, software or product development, it refers to a temporary initiative whose purpose is to create a new and unique product or service through the exploitation of several types of resources (financial, staff, etc.). A project always has a beginning and an end.
To coordinate the work of all project stakeholders, you need a person to supervise all stages of completion and beyond. Called the project manager, this person rarely has, nor does he or she need a specialization, but, fundamentally, must understand the basis of each element to oversee the big picture. It takes the right techniques and knowledge to fill this role with success, hence the importance of educating oneself in a spirit of continuous improvement. After all, what would project management be without coaching and mentoring?
Two Fundamental Project Management Methodologies
Although project management is far too complicated to be reduced to only two methodologies, we can identify two main schools of thought: Waterfall and Agile.
Waterfall is a traditional approach to project management based on prediction: it follows a thorough plan to deliver projects in a structured, controlled and staggered fashion. With roots as far back as the turn of the 20th century, this methodology is mostly applied in fields with stable requirements and priorities such as engineering, construction and manufacturing.
It commonly follows a six-step sequence that begins with requirements specification to lay out the basis for what the product will do and how it is expected to work. Implementation follows the design phase, which details all that is needed to make the project happens, right before testing. Trials and experiments shed light on issues and often bring the project back to the implementation stage, where the team perfects it. When it’s operational, it reaches the installation phase and is released to the client, although it usually requires upgrades that will be covered under the maintenance step.
Agile: More Popular Than Ever
Unlike Waterfall, the Agile project management methodology is perfect for work environments with ever-changing requirements and priorities. While the first is plan-driven, the latter is value-driven and adaptive to deliver projects iteratively, interactively and incrementally. Agile has become a global movement with several tools and practices, including Scrum, Lean, Kanban, and more.
The software developers who penned the Agile Manifesto in 2001 firmly believed that there were ways to work more efficiently and avoid hierarchical bureaucracy. Self-organizing teams continuously work and communicate to deliver value sooner to the client, and they do so by focusing more on individuals instead of processes.
This methodology is based on twelve commandments (or principles) from “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software” to “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.”
Sounds complicated? It isn’t, and it’s great for prioritizing value delivery with reduced project cost and risk. However, it is nearly impossible for a business to become Agile without the help of a coach or a consultant.
Are you team Agile or Waterfall? Or perhaps you are a hybrid mix of the two? Please share your opinion with us!