Methodology Part I

With the need to reduce the risk in projects, it is becoming increasingly obvious organizations must approach project management in a more conscious manner. Project Offices and professional Project Managers help organizations get it right!

My years as a consultant have given me some insight, into both how ‘methodology’ is sold as a benefit and how it ultimately fails in most cases to deliver on promises of ‘on-time / on-budget’ projects. Generally, it is the client who pays the price for these failures, with project overruns, scope carve outs and worse undocumented technology solutions. I am convinced organizations must own their success rather than rely upon the ‘expertise’ of others if they are to cut the costs of projects and maintenance of their investment in technology and transformation.

Methodology, everybody has one and they all will tell you they have improved Vanilla!

The above statement is true. Depending on what the project is, whether it is the deployment of laptops to a sales force, the upgrade of productivity software, or the implementation of an ERP solution globally; if there is a consulting organization involved there will be a discussion of their proprietary Methodology and why it will improve project performance. In fact, it may be a very large selling point for why an organization ultimately selected the partner to support their undertaking.

What is Methodology?

There are many different versions of methodology, different views of what a methodology should include to be complete. Depending upon whom you ask you would get different answers to the question above.  Business Dictionary.Com defines methodology as follows:

A system of broad principles or rules from which specific methods or procedures may be derived to interpret or solve different problems within the scope of a particular discipline. Unlike an algorithm, a methodology is not a formula but a set of practices.

This is as good as definition as any I have come across, it puts in perspective what is necessary for a PMO to have in place to function properly for the health of projects and the organization.

  • Principles
  • Rules
  • Methods
  • Procedures
  • Practices or Best Practices

You will note in the above list I have broadened the view, instead of ‘Principles or Rules’, I have both included as separate bullet points. This is an important designation; they are not the same thing and should not be confused. Some functions of a project can be ‘ideals’, things that are important for specific types of projects or under specific circumstances: Principles. Other things are process that will be completed are undertaken for every project, no matter the type of project: Rules. In later posts will talk more about these issues.

The other definition I have included as separate items on the list are Methods and Procedures, despite their somewhat squish combination in the Business Dictionary definition. My reasoning is simple, in fact it follows the same reasoning I used for Principles and Rules; Procedures are steps in the process that are expected to be followed while Methods are more ways to solve problems or contain activities. Methods and Procedures are products of Methodology, as the PMO is further explored in later posts examples of these will be provided (I promise).

“What isn’t Methodology?”

PMI – Project Management Institute

Some people would say the standards and methods of PMI constitute a methodology, complete as delivered. Certainly, PMI offers a standard and those members of the institute follow a set of professional practices, including in many cases certification. As a long-standing member of the institute and a PMP (Project Management Professional) I can honestly say the practices delivered while necessary are not a Methodology, rather they are standards, which should be included within the context of projects and a Project Management Office for project control.

Many say I am a heretic for my view of PMI and the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK); I am not. The Body of Knowledge delivered within the PMBOK is absolutely foundational and necessary. Every PMO should adopt a framework that includes the PMBOK in my opinion. Nevertheless, it is not a Methodology and it does not address the critical success factors (CSF) necessary for PMO’s to deliver projects across a range of disciplines and meet organizational demands consistently.

Now the stage is set. PMO’s are the way to go, just one person’s opinion, my own. A broad view of Methodology is established as well, I will refer back to this in later posts.

If you agree or disagree, I hope you will let me know, I am always happy to discuss my ideas and yours.



(c) Linda Valentine-Dean 2012
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About lvalentinedean

Twenty years in the trenches hasn't stopped me from being passionate about the profession of project management.
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