11 Mar 2021

Top project management methodologies and how to choose

Top project management methodologies and how to choose

A common challenge faced by project managers is deciding which project management methodology or approach to select to ensure your project is managed well from start to finish.

The methodology you choose will be the glue that holds your planning and processes together and it will help you to successfully deliver your project on time and to budget. So which methodology is right for your project and organisation?

With so many methodologies, approaches and mindsets available narrowing down the best match isn’t always easy. Do you go for the methodology that is receiving a lot of hype or do you select a more traditional method that has been around for decades?

To figure out which is your best option, it’s important to get to know some of the methodologies available. If you are just getting started here’s a review of the more popular options and how to choose.



Agile is one of the most well-known methodologies out there. In fact according to the 2020 Annual AIPM/KPMG Project Management Survey, excluding Infrastructure projects Agile adoption sits at 73%, with organisations reporting either full Agile adoption or a mix of Agile and Waterfall.

So what exactly is Agile? While many other methodologies offer a linear approach to project planning and execution, Agile provides a more flexible and iterative solution. The important thing to remember about Agile, is that it is more of a set of principles than a methodology. The principles and values of Agile came to life in 2001, created by 17 technology leaders.

Underneath the umbrella of Agile, a range of project management tools and frameworks have been developed, including Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming (XP) and Scrumban. Read our in depth guide on Agile for a thorough overview of its beginnings, values, principles and what the development process looks like.


Is Agile right for my project?


Before you decide to integrate Agile into your project planning, you will need to consider whether it will work well with the types of projects you manage and the organisation you work for. While Agile has been known to be popular in IT and software development, it is a methodology that can be used across industries by any project manager looking for greater flexibility when it comes to project delivery.

AIPM research from 2019 shows 17% of project managers have Scrum Master, SAFe or another Agile qualification.

Working in an agile way may be the best approach if you are working on projects where changes could happen at any time and you don’t have an absolutely clear picture of what the end of the project will look like. After all, Agile is all about building a process that can be adapted as the situation demands, rather than a pre-planned process.

Of course, Agile isn’t always the best option for all projects or organisations. If you are working with a clear end goal in mind, using a methodology that offers a more linear approach may work better for the types of projects you manage.



Another popular project management approach is Waterfall, which is all about making a good plan, gaining client and stakeholder input from the early stages and sticking to the plan. It focuses on planning with requirements fully defined at the beginning before the project commences.

Work cascades, much like a waterfall through phases of the project, with one phase needing to be completed before the next one can begin. Project stakeholders agree upfront on what will be delivered, which makes planning and design much easier. Progress is more easily tracked as the full scope of the project is known from the beginning.


Is Waterfall right for my project?


If you have a well-defined project, then Waterfall can be a particularly efficient method to choose. The linear approach allows you to carefully plan work and delegate responsibilities, which means that project team members only need to be available for their specific project phase and the client only needs to be involved largely with the initial scoping and then provided with progress updates throughout the project.

According to the AIPM and KPMG Project Management Survey 2020, 40% of project managers use Waterfall or a traditional project delivery method.

However if you have a longer term project or one that is quite complex in nature with many moving parts, then Waterfall may be too rigid a method to follow, as it won’t provide you with the flexibility to shift and pivot as needed, as with a methodology such as Agile.


With a clear outline of how you should approach your projects, PRINCE2 which stands for PRojects IN Controlled Environments, will help you with your project planning stage by stage. PRINCE2 is a process-oriented methodology that provides you with a very clear process to follow when it comes to the planning and execution of your project. If you decide to use PRINCE2 in your project planning you will need to follow seven principles, seven themes and seven processes.

Is PRINCE2 right for my project?


As it’s a very detailed approach, this methodology works well in large, predictable environments.

The AIPM and KPMG Project Management Survey 2020, showed 33% of project managers hold an Axelos PM accreditation (such as PRINCE2®)

Of course, by using the PRINCE2 methodology, it’s important to be aware that if you do not apply all of the principles, then it is not actually considered a PRINCE2 project. So if you’re looking for a more flexible approach, you could consider the hybrid approach of PRINCE2 Agile®.  


As the name suggests the Critical Path Method is all about identifying the critical activities that will need to be completed to bring the project across the line. This approach is typically used for modelling and scheduling project activities in industries like construction, software development, and engineering.

Like PRINCE2, you determine the activities needed to complete a project, the time that each will take, the dependencies between them, and their deliverables or milestones. From there you figure out the longest and shortest paths to completion and how different activities can be delayed without affecting key milestones.


Is Critical Path Method right for my project?


Critical Path Method is an ideal procedure to use if you have a straightforward project, where you can clearly identify all the activities that need to be completed from start to finish. Once you have determined the critical activities that need to be completed, and the time it will take from the beginning of the project to completion, tasks will need to be completed in stages. This means you will need to complete each stage, before moving on to the next.

As you might gather, this won’t work if you need the flexibility to change your project schedule. This method has many similarities with the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) concept that falls under Agile, where every iteration comprises of the critical must-do tasks or actions to achieve the goal of the sprint.



Earned Value Management (EVM) focuses on measuring project performance and allowing you to then forecast when the project is likely to be completed and how much will be spent.

It’s a systematic project management process used to highlight differences in work performed and work planned. EVM is very useful for cost and schedule control and project forecasting. The project baseline is very important as it serves as a point of reference for all project related activities. 


Is Earned Value Management right for my project?


If forecasting is an important part of your project planning, then this could be the approach for you. It will help you foresee and address any potential cost blowouts and help you track your project, so that it is on track to be completed on time and on budget. As EVM largely focuses on time and cost, it may be too specific for some projects.


The 5 methodologies and approaches provide just a sample of the different philosophies and ways of managing a project. This list barely scratches the surface. So you need to do your homework to find the best method or methods for your needs. Here are a few things to keep in mind when making the choice:

  1. Know your project goals. 

  2. Determine the variables, dependencies and activities that are crucial for your project and the impact they have on achieving your goals.

  3. Identify the metrics and success factors the chosen methodology will impact the most.

  4. Compare your shortlist of project management methodologies with one another based on how closely their features and approaches align with your goals, variables and impact points.

  5. Engage your team in the decision-making process. Consult with them on their familiarity and experience with different methodologies.

  6. Apply the selected methodology - and stick to it! But make sure to measure its performance. 



An established trend in project management is the rise of the hybrid approach to project management methodology implementation. This means if you find more than one of the methodologies (listed above) works for you and your team, you can have a mix of methodologies. More and more project managers are looking for methodology flexibility, as they face fast changing environments and technological disruption.

Take the time to find the best method or methods for your project, team and organisation. Once you start down a path - changing course can be difficult. Try not to get too comfortable, instead keep an eye on your methodology’s performance, adaptability and continued relevance, as there will be new and better approaches emerging all the time.



The Future of Project Management: Global Outlook

Access the report