Before working on any given project, it’s best to consider the most suitable project management techniques and methodologies for your project or your team. Then you want to combine your chosen PM technique with the right specific software tools and best practices to get the best results possible.
This article explores the top ten best techniques for project management that you might want to consider. We’re discussing the benefits and the best scenarios for each, as well as linking to comparisons of specific software providers where possible. That way, you’ll have a thorough grounding in the PM tools and techniques that are most likely to work for you.
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1. Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
Work breakdown structure is when project managers break large and complicated projects down into more manageable tasks. WBS is for project managers that want to plan, schedule, and budget for each component of their project in a way that’s easy to track and follow during a project, and which makes it simpler to communicate progress and needs.
By breaking down a project into smaller tasks, it is easier for you and your team to see which tasks are dependent on others and when you need to complete them. It’s also much easier to estimate how much time and money each task will require, which makes resource planning much easier also.
One of the simplest ways to break down your project or business goals into more manageable tasks is to use a List. Using this tool, you start by listing your main objectives and then breaking them down into smaller initiatives and tasks. Here is what that looks like when using a project management template in Teamhood:
A Gantt chart is used to visualize the tasks required for a project as building blocks. Each block represents a crucial task, and its length indicates how much time has been allocated for its completion. The longer the bar, the longer you have to complete the task.
Gantt charts allow project managers to plan and track the details of specific projects at a glance. Because they can also provide time estimates for multiple tasks, you can automatically reschedule tasks when you make adjustments to your project schedule.
There are many Gantt chart software tools to choose from. Here is our comparison of the features and benefits of the 17 best-known providers in 2022 – 17 Best Gantt Chart Software 2022
PERT stands for Program Evaluation and Review Technique. Scheduling is critical to getting a project completed on time and within budget. This project management technique is designed to help with time estimates specifically.
PERT manages probabilities by using a combination of simple statistical methods. It breaks down tasks into detailed activities, using the WBS discussed above, then adds these to a Gantt chart to identify which activities are interdependent. From that data, you create an illustrative map of the network of activities and their interdependencies.
The map shows project tasks arranged more like a flowchart than sequentially, with nodes that represent each event and arrows between the nodes that represent activities between events.
4. Critical Path Method (CPM)
CPM is used to estimate and monitor a project’s overall duration. When you break down a project into tasks, you give each task an estimated duration. When you add up the duration of the longest sequence of tasks, you get an estimate of the overall project duration.
Once you can calculate the longest potential duration for each planned task, you can also calculate the earliest and latest time these tasks can start and finish without impacting the overall project duration. From that, you can work out which tasks are critical to the project and which have “float” – the amount of time a task can be delayed without impacting subsequent tasks or the project’s overall completion.
Waterfall is a more traditional structured approach to organizing and controlling projects. It is a linear management approach that says the project should be executed in several stages that follow each other. Once one stage is over, the next one can begin, and so on. As such, this project management methodology is easy to understand and follow.
In Waterfall, teams divide a project into distinct phases. Each new phase begins only once the previous one is completed. These phases make project planning simple. It’s also easy to monitor if the project is on track. (To map out these stages on a timeline and divide them into smaller tasks, most teams use the Gantt chart.)
That means Waterfall is well suited to projects that need to commit to a fixed timeline or budget, such as large infrastructure projects. However, a concern regarding the Waterfall project management methodology is the lack of flexibility. Because of the linear approach, it is not easy to introduce changes to the project once it has already begun. For projects that require more flexibility, Agile is often the preferred project management technique.
Agile is a set of values and principles that were written to make software development projects more efficient and has since been adopted more broadly for a wide range of projects in a wide range of sectors and organizations.
The Agile method involves categorizing a series of short-term milestones into deliverables that your team can quickly deliver in time-boxed development periods known as Sprints.
Agile project management is a great technique for projects that require speed and flexibility. Using an Agile method allows your team members to collaborate by making their own decisions that contribute to the desired outcomes, and to rapidly adjust their priorities as necessary.
Scrum is an Agile project management framework that organizes projects in iterations called Sprints. The Scrum team is responsible for delivering value, while the Product Owner communicates with the stakeholders and prioritizes the work.
At the start of a Sprint, teams work out how many items they can commit to and create a sprint backlog – a list of the tasks to perform during the Sprint. This iterative approach allows Scrum to produce work and test it quickly.
These iterations improve the likelihood of delivering a product that fully satisfies customer requirements.
The Scrum board is one of the most important tools that allow us to effectively plan and track the progress that is being made towards the end goal. It is usually composed out of 2 sections that are managed by the Product Owner and the Scrum team.
The first Scrum board section is the Sprint Backlog. This is a place the Scrum team uses to divide User Stories into actionable tasks and estimate their duration for the Sprint.
The second Scrum board section is Progress tracking columns. This is managed solely by the Scrum team and helps them track the progress that is being made during the Sprint. This section can be simple with just two sections – Doing and Done or as elaborate as the team needs to track the progress effectively. Here is a Scrum board example in Teamhood:
Kanban is a project management technique that visualizes each piece of work or task as a task card that is tracked through the project process in steps. The tasks are organized and displayed in this way so that everyone on the team is aware of project’s progress.
On a Kanban board, the task steps are usually displayed as three simple columns:
- To Do
Here is an example of what a simple Kanban board looks like in Teamhood:
Kanban works well as a tool or as a project management technique. It’s particularly useful for simpler projects, or for projects with sequential workflows and limited dependencies that allow team members to concentrate on their own tasks.
Scrumban is a hybrid Agile framework that combines Scrum and Kanban. It was originally designed as a transition step from Scrum to Kanban but has since been used as a standalone framework. Scrumban methodology uses the iteration and meeting structure of Scrum and visualizes work on the Kanban board. This keeps both the order and the flexibility of the two frameworks.
A Scrumban board is composed of three sections:
- Backlog – all the planned tasks are prioritized according to urgency. Team members pull tasks from this section when they have availability.
- Work in Progress – visualizes the tasks as they move through the process, making it easier to track progress.
- Done – this holds all the completed tasks, so it is easy to visualize the total amount of work completed.
Here is an example of how a Scrumban board could look in Teamhood:
SAFe stands for the Scaled Agile Framework, which implements Agile project management at scale. There are 4 levels for organizations of different sizes and requirements — Essential, Large Solution, Portfolio, and Full.
As your organization grows, SAFe’s Agile practices provide a framework that enables teams to develop better products by responding quickly to changing market conditions, customer needs, and newly developed technologies at scale. Using this framework has been shown to increase efficiency by improving collaboration within and between teams. This framework is more relevant to larger organizations but can be hugely beneficial to those who use it well.
What should you do next?
Now you have a good grounding in the top 10 project management techniques and tools, why not look at how you can improve project management in your organization?
To learn more about project management, Agile, or Kanban tools, check out our ever-expanding content library.
Alternatively, why not look at trying out Teamhood’s market-leading PM software solutions in your organization with a free trial:
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2019 - Present Co-founder and CEO @ Teamhood.
2015-2019 Head of software engineering department at Danske Bank.
2017-2018 Partner Associate Professor at Vilnius University. Lecturer of Software Architecture course
2011 - 2015 Managed numerous smaller IT teams at Prewise.
Co-founder of RaveIT, Eylean, No Brakes Games
Certified Agile product owner and practitioner. Managed large scale enterprise projects as well as launch of small startup products.
MSc of Software Engineering at Vilnius University.
Hobbies: Racing, MTB cycling, Windsurfing