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Ideas, suggestions and general thoughts about project management for development.

Project Management for Development

Why you should use a standard methodology for managing your projects?

A Methodology for Project Management is a strategy that increases the chances for project success; by giving a clear direction, it saves time and improves the quality of the deliverables. Most development project managers use a type of methodology that was either learned by years of experience or is part of the organization’s policies and methods for project management. A common benefit of a methodology is that that it helps manage projects by reducing risks which improve the chances of success of a project.

 
What is a Methodology?
A methodology is "a set of methods, processes, and practices that are repeatedly carried out to deliver projects". The key element is that by repeating the same actions on every project the organization will gain efficiencies in its approach.
 
What is a Standard?
A standard is defined as "a collection of knowledge areas that are generally accepted as best practice in the industry". Standards give guidance, whereas methodologies provide practical processes for managing projects. Standards are not methodologies and vice versa. The two most popular standards used in project management worldwide are the PMBOK® (from the Project management Institute) and Prince2® (a UK standard)

What are the components of a methodology?
A project methodology should contain:

  • A set of processes to manage projects.
  • A set of competencies to build the required skills.
  • A set of tools forms and templates to standardize information.

Why use a Methodology?
A methodology is not a magic wand that can be used to solve every problem in a project, but it helps by the use of a clear set of processes for managing projects that everyone in the organization understands. A good methodology, that is fit to the context and environment where an organization works, is able to provide clear guidance of the what, who, when and how a project should be done.  A methodology also provides a level of flexibility that can be adapted to the special conditions of every project. For instance, for smaller projects, the organization can choose to apply a light version of the management processes. And when managing large projects, it can apply the full processes required to monitor every element of the project in enough detail to reduce risks. Organizations that can manage every project, in the same way, will be able to gain efficiencies; project staff will be able to work smarter and reduce waste. A methodology gives every project team a clear understanding of what is expected from them which in turn increases the chances of success.

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Project Participation

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Participation in project management is a process that allows sharing some of the control on the project with key stakeholders, especially beneficiaries. By giving beneficiaries the opportunity to participate in the decision making elements of project management helps build a sense of ownership on the outcomes of the project.

Ownership of the project outcomes ensures the support and active involvement of stakeholders. When stakeholders know their voices, opinions and preferences are heard, they know the project is meeting their needs. Participation should not be limited to baseline interviews and occasional communication meetings but should be included in all the project phases; from the design, planning, implementation, monitoring, adaptation and closing/evaluation of the project.

Participation is also a political act in which beneficiaries are empowered to have their voices heard and that simple fact changes the power relationships between the project and the stakeholders. Participation is also strategic to the needs of the project as it increases the impact of the project and increases its sustainability beyond the end of the project. But participation is not cheap, requires the use of resources and time, but the benefits of this investment are recovered by the long term impact.

The principle behind participation is that stakeholders are collaborators in the project, not just simple recipients or contributors, but active partners in the project at every phase of the project. All participation approaches are designed to generate an active participation including making key decisions on the project that have a direct influence on the stakeholders and most important they can even help challenge some of the original assumptions the project had about the stakeholders and that can have a significant input in the project design and strategies.

Project managers must built-in participation in the project planning phase, and choose when, what, why, and who will participate; taking in consideration that asking too much participation can also have a negative effect, after all stakeholders have other priorities and activities that the project is competing with. The project manager must be conscious of the time availability and effort needed from stakeholders. Project stakeholders vary and their level of participation also varies depending on who they are and what are their stakes in the project, the project should identify all project stakeholders and evaluate the level of participation needed from each, when the participation is needed, and why the participation will increase the impact of the project. This simple analysis help focus the project resources on the areas that will bring the most benefit.

 

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