Developing software with any team can be a challenge. You have to ensure that everyone on the team knows their tasks and completes them on time.
If you are a software development team or you are working with one to build your custom piece of software, then you’ll need to choose a project management (PM) methodology.
Before we dive into the best PM methodologies for software development, we’ll also present the most popular methodologies and things to consider when choosing a method.
What is a Project Management Methodology?
To complete a project in a timely manner, implement a project management (PM) methodology. PM methodologies are used throughout business operations, academic research, and spiritual practices. Largely, there are defined as a system that structures and defines a practice within a discipline. It might include techniques, rules, procedures, and best practices.
PM methods are commonly used throughout businesses of all types, and software development is one area in which it is required as there are often multiple stages of software development going at one time with multiple stakeholders involved in the project.
There are many different types of methodologies, but what we’re focusing on is business and project management use. Within business and project management, methodologies will establish processes aimed at completing a certain task, navigating the complexity of business and customer relationships, and ensuring worker productivity.
Most Popular Project Management Methodologies
There are around seven to ten common project management methodologies. We will review our top four here and then indicate which we believe is the best methodology for software development.
Widely the most recognizable and most used methodology, Agile is great for processes that need to be implemented in increments. Agile is highly collaborative, so often the problem will be presented and then the group will work collaboratively to find a solution.
The processes of Agile usually involve a cross between an individual approach and a team. Therefore, agile looks for individuals to be self-organized and for cross-functionality within teams, customers, and products.
Agile is also the most popular project management for software development because it was created for developing software as an improvement from the now outdated waterfall technique. Agile was born out of the Agile Manifesto and held the values and principles of the 13 industry leaders that created the methodology in 2001.
To improve the workflow, the quality of the code project, and the establishment of timelines, agile focused on iterative development, change recognition, and team collab. It was established on four values:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
It also uses 12 main principles (including customer satisfaction early on, simplicity, and attention to technical detail) and six deliverables to create and track a project.
If you have a complex project, then Agile is well-suited to keep the project on track and to create a product that is in line with the goals established at the outset. Because other methodologies have been created out of Agile, some view it as a framework.
Scrum is another prevalent project management methodology and is actually a sub-methodology of Agile. Scrum is usually best in a small group setting. The group works in shorter cycles (known as sprints) and is led by a Scrum Master, whose main responsibility is to ensure that the project is completed.
Scrum functions by upholding five key values:
Because of scrums quick-speed and small group style, it is useful for those projects that need to progress quickly. It also allows for more testing for better product quality.
Scrum teams are based on team roles, including the product owner, development team, and scrum master. Each scrum team will have these three roles. The product owner is the product expert and the one who speaks on behalf of the customer. The development team is of course the team working to deliver the product, and the scrum master is the liaison between the two groups to make sure that the execution is followed.
Usually, the team will need two sets of assets to move forward: the product backlog, which details all of the requirements and features of the product, and the sprint backlog, which lists the tasks and requirements needed to be completed during the sprint.
Throughout a scrum PM, the group will undergo the sprint until the goal is completed, which doesn’t usually last longer than a month. There’s also the sprint planning, which occurs beforehand, and the daily scrum, or the 15-minute meetings held every day to discuss the previous day’s achievements.
Once the scrum sprint or project is completed, the team might also review a retrospective to go over the project and improve upon the development process.
Kanban is another popular project management style that is often implemented into PM software, like ClickUp, Trello, and Asana. Kanban is still considered to be a type of Agile methodology and is very similar to a scrum.
The overarching style is usually reflected in a Kanban board, which progresses projects through columns based on task organization. Columns might label project backlog, in-progress, completed, review, and so on. Different individuals and due dates might be assigned to a given task as the task progresses.
Kanban has been around for a while and was actually introduced in the 1940s in production lines. This is a very visual method as it is believed to help people understand how projects are flowing (or if they aren’t) so that hiccups can be resolved early on.
There are six practices that Kanban focuses on:
- Limiting work in progress
- Flow management
- Making policies explicit
- Feedback loops
- Collaborative or experimental evolution
This methodology relies on the Kanban board, which might be a piece of software, whiteboard, sticky notes, or other kinds of markers. Tasks are depicted in Kanban cards that communicate the task requirements and details, and Kanban swimlanes (or the columns) help categorize the visual elements.
Kanban does not operate using a lot of rules really, but it helps for Kanban teams to lay out the stages of development so that each team member can see what is going on in a given project.
Kanban works with small or large teams and is particularly useful for having multiple projects on the go. It also offers a lot of flexibility and is usually a good measurement tool for personal productivity.
Finally, we have lean. Lean methodology is a type of strategy that puts the customer value front and center to eliminate waste. Lean is a derivative of Japanese manufacturing and therefore categorizes its waste on three types: Muda, mura, and muri, or the 3Ms. Its goal is to eliminate waste as this will improve the production cost and time.
Muda: This is about getting rid of waste. It does not necessarily refer to actual waste but wasted activity or processes. Muda might be a physical waste, wasted time, or wasted resources. There are seven types, actually:
- Transport: Movement between operations and locations
- Inventory: Work in progress (WIP) or goods, stock, and raw materials
- Motion: Physical movement, like operating machinery
- Waiting: Waiting for something to finish, like an operating machine or a shipment arrival
- Overproduction: Making too much of a product beyond what the customer ordered
- Over-processing: Producing beyond what a customer needs
- Defects: Defective products or services
Therefore, a team that uses lean might look at each element of the business’ operation in order to identify potential areas of waste.
Mura: Compared to Muda, mura refers instead to those processes or wasted workflows that take up time. If an editor needs to make more edits on a given piece of work, like an article on software design, then the process must be modified so that the timeframes associated with each project are equal.
Muri: Muri looks at not overloading. Overloading might cause a work process to slow down, especially if it places undue stress on an organization or the employees.
Best Project Management Methodology for Software Development
There is no “right” methodology, but there are methods that work better for different project types. You may actually want to switch methodologies within a company and depending on the project, as long as it maximizes the time and resources that you have on hand.
You’ll also need to think about the software that you are using to manage your project. Most of the time, a business will use project management software that has certain PM styles integrated. It could be difficult to use a certain PM methodology if your software does not have that methodology incorporated as a feature.
No matter what, software developers should consistently look to agile methodologies, as this will allow your team to continue to look back at what the client wants and then to consider their input early on in the project.
You might also consider using agile as an overarching framework and then implementing one or more methodology to complete a task. For software projects, you’ll want to consider the size of your team. Scrum might be ideal if you have many large projects, and you can finish a whole software project in one month. From there, you can then revisit your operational workflow using lean techniques.
If the team is well-organized, then you might do well with Kanban, as this provides good visualization for the team and everyone stays organized.
While there are many things to consider, we find that agile methodologies are the best way for software developers to work. Agile keeps the team consistently modifying how it works for the project’s success. The framework keeps production consistent and has a better chance of providing a project that the customer is looking for. From there, you can implement different methodologies depending on task and project needs.