By now, you’ve heard of project management (PM). Perhaps you’ve even incorporated some techniques and project management methodologies into your current marketing strategy. However, unless you’ve spent years as a project manager—or have had a career in an industry such as IT, architecture, or engineering—it’s unlikely that you are familiar with the many methodologies associated with PM.
To understand the disparate approaches, it’s important to first gain context. While it can be argued that some form of project management has been around as long humans have planned and executed epic projects (the Great Pyramid and the Great Wall of China didn’t build themselves…), it wasn’t until much later that it became its own discipline. Henry Gantt, often viewed as the forefather of PM, is known for developing the Gantt chart in the 1920s, a scheduling diagram used in projects such as the Hoover Dam.
Following Gantt’s development, modern project management came to fruition in the 1950s. Prior to this time, projects were generally managed on an ad-hoc basis, using informal and often, undocumented techniques and tools. As projects in the engineering, military defense, and construction became increasingly complex, a demand for more formalized, disciplined management techniques was created. At its core, PM is a direct response to the need for a structured approach of initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and completing work across a team to achieve specific goals and satisfy success criteria.
These days, thanks to globalization, technology, and other factors, project management has evolved into quite the multifaceted concept. Project managers no longer work exclusively in technical industries. Because of the demand for increased speed-to-market, creative industries now have a major need for sophisticated PM as well. Creative projects are more complex and difficult to manage, and teams are increasingly diverse and spread across the globe. In short, the world is changing—and PM is changing with it.
So, what exactly are some of the different methodologies and how do they help marketing teams work more efficiently? To help, we’ll outline three major ones and how to apply them across your organization.
For many, waterfall project management is synonymous with traditional PM. Originally outlined by Dr. Winston W. Royce in 1970, it is the first established modern PM methodology. It gained immediate support from managers because of its linear, logical approach. Under waterfall PM, managers seek to eliminate risk and uncertainty by outlining the steps of a project in a sequential, top-down order.
Waterfall project management follows a sequential design process in which progress is represented as a downward flow through the phases of conception, initiation, analysis, design, construction, testing, production/implementation, and maintenance (like a waterfall… get it?). Many versions of the model exist, but from a high-level perspective, it includes the following components:
- Requirements specification
- Construction (AKA coding)
- Testing and debugging (AKA Validation)
One of the driving factors behind waterfall management is that by investing time in the early stages of a project, managers ensure design needs and other requirements have been met—thus saving the time and effort generally associated with retroactively correcting problems. This is accomplished by ensuring each stage of a project is 100 percent complete before moving onto the next phase.
While waterfall management is historically the most popular project management methodology, agile has made an impact over the past decade. In 2001, seventeen representatives from several IT specialties and backgrounds—programming, SCRUM, adaptive software, and so forth—developed the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, a response to what they considered to be a “need for an alternative to documentation driven, heavyweight software development process.”
Agile originated as a response to standard project management methods that were unable to meet IT demands of the time. Rather than follow a sequential flow, agile utilizes an iterative, incremental process of managing design and build activities. Although agile was developed for software development, it can most certainly extend itself across marketing and advertisement PM.
In short, agile relies on the rapid, continuous delivery of products and services. Whereas waterfall management depends on a detailed, defined outcome, the former does not rely on a defined end product at the onset of a project. Instead, it embraces change—even late in the project development stage. In fact, agile utilizes value-driven, real-time information to manage cost, time, and scope. It reduces complexity by breaking down processes into small segments that are specified, developed, and tested in manageable two- to four-week cycles.
While technically falling under the umbrella of agile project management, scrum is a lightweight process built around daily stand-up meetings, 30-day sprints, and monthly scrum sessions. Whereas agile describes a set of principles for building products through iterative processes (as seen in the aforementioned agile manifesto), scrum is a specific set of rules to follow. In this regard, agile is the philosophy, and scrum the methodology. While scrum is agile, agile isn’t scrum.
Scrum management encourages teams to manage complex product developments through transparency and project visibility. Thanks to daily stand-up meetings, scrum enables all team members to know exactly who is doing what at any given time. However, interestingly enough, scrum does not have an established project manager. Instead, it incorporates three specific roles that share traditional PM responsibilities:
- Product owner: The product owner often controls the vision for the team, builds and manages the product backlog, and prioritizes work that needs to be done.
- Scrum master: Often considered the coach of the team, the scrum master organizes meetings, deals with roadblocks and challenges, and works with the product owner to ensure the team is ready for sprints.
- Scrum team: Traditionally, the scrum team consists of five to seven members who share traditional responsibilities.
Like waterfall and agile, scrum was developed around a software framework. However, scrum works well for projects that begin with uncertainties or those that tend to evolve over time. In general, it is best utilized when a project requires continuous feedback, when management wants to provide their team with autonomy, or when teams are trying new approaches for the first time.
So, what is the best style of project management?
The answer lies in what is best for your team. After all, each creative team is different.
As can be assumed after reading about them, agile and waterfall approaches are polar opposites. By default, scrum and waterfall are dissimilar as well. Therefore, if pure waterfall, agile, or scrum methods don’t apply to your project, consider a hybrid approach.
For example, if you don’t have a clear picture of your final product, agile methodology may be ideal. Conversely, if you are clear about the final product or have fixed requirements that won’t change, then waterfall is your best bet. Whereas waterfall techniques are straightforward and efficient, agile is designed to accommodate change.
At its core, integrated project management is a combination of traditional PM methods with additional elements thrown into the mix. Integrated PM was developed when traditional agencies began offering in-house digital services. It combines traditional requirements found across account management, production, and PM and then merges them with digitally-based responsibilities. In integrated systems, producers act much like PMs (if we consider the traditional definition of the term): They create and build scope and manage teams.
Integrated producers manage integrated campaigns—or at least big chunks of them. Integrated PM is therefore very similar to agile, but with additional responsibilities, such as coordinating projects across a range of media. While large-scale, traditional agencies may not utilize integrated project management to its fullest ability, smaller, leaner agencies benefit from its flexibility. Integrated agencies dabble in disciplines as diverse as branding, design, digital, and communications and thereby benefit from the flexibility of a hybrid, integrated PM approach.