When too many methodologies … is never enough!

What's a Methodology?

The Oxford Dictionary defines a methodology as a “system of methods used in a particular area of study or activity”. For me, it is a collection of interrelated policies, techniques, procedures and standards that allow for a consistent approach to an endeavour.

Why are methodologies necessary?

My last point gives the clue – if a series of creative activities is to be repeated with the intent of achieving a consistent outcome of function or attribute, the activities themselves must be carried out consistently. A methodology provides the basis of such consistency.

Who uses methodologies?

We usually think of or encounter methodologies in science and engineering, where they are formal and have professional acceptance and endorsement.
But other pursuits employ less formal methodologies. Think of a painter who prepares the canvas, sketches the form, applies paint using techniques and process informed by training, natural talent and the evolution of their own particular style or the prevalent genre. The painter’s approach is followed consistently, and is continuously improved, achieving the desired result. The painter is, to all intents and purposes, following a methodology.

What methodologies are prevalent?

The most prevalent methodologies are of a finance, engineering and information technology nature, particularly the latter if we think of practices commonly referred to as comprising a “methodology”.
Most commonly, we find a “project management methodology” or “PMM”, however there are many more that are used and are useful, although the PMM dominates thinking and practice.
In fact, three methodologies are absolutely critical to success:
  • Project Management Methodology
  • Design and Development Management Methodology
  • Quality Management Methodology
Each is briefly described below, although these are but specific examples of the three categories of methodology applicable to projects. The categories are:
  • Process (e.g. PMM)
  • Product (e.g. DDM)
  • Risk (e.g. QMM)

Process methodologies

Process methodologies relate to how the activity is conducted. As well as project management, this category includes people, product lifecycle, knowledge and project change management methodologies.

Product methodologies

The design and development management methodology is the primary methodology in this category. Other important members relate to product information, verification and validation, configuration and product change management.
Note that in this article, “product” is a general term that covers goods, services and other project deliverables such as a restructured organisation.

Risk methodologies

The primary risk methodology is project risk management. Others are quality management and organisation change management methodologies. Risk management is a very broad concept that is applied across a range of activities – finance, construction, IT and more. In the project context, it involves risk related to delivering projects on time, within budget and with the project intent achieved.

Is there a unifying methodology?

Yes there is! Well, at least, there should be! Any project is fundamentally an act of change - a business, a market, or a product is intended to be different upon project completion to what it is at the inception of the activity. Focusing on process, product and risk will reduce the chance of failure but beginning with a view of the activity as primarily involving change (across process, product and risk) will further enhance the probability of success. A change management methodology should be the unifying or superordinate methodology applied in an organisation.
Change PPR gold circles Exp small
Generally, a narrow view of the scope of “change management” is prevalent in business. It is often seen as purely a product related activity (“Product Change” - for example, controlling changes to the functionality of a software application), a contractual device (“Project Change” - for example, changing the agreed scope, schedule or costs related to a project) or only about communication with stakeholders or training of users of the product (“Organisational Change”). In fact, change management is at the core of a successful initiative and determines the focus of the other methodologies and the extent to which they are applied.

Major methodologies - Process

Project Management

The premier methodology! If an organisation has one methodology, it's a project management methodology (PMM). And it is a critical methodology, necessary for success but not sufficient in itself.
A good PMM, well employed, will assist the delivery of the required product, to schedule and to budget. Its purpose is to guide the planning, organising, staffing, directing and controlling of the initiative. Basically, it helps ensure that all aspects have the resources they need, when they need them, and obtain/consume them at the budgeted cost.
Many organisations extend their project management methodology to incorporate aspects of product and risk methodologies. This is useful but can lead lack of control over the project deliverables and to neglect of the primary purpose of the project – to achieve the desired change on budget and on schedule.

Knowledge Management

Data, information and knowledge is used in designing, developing, testing, installing and operating a product. Sound knowledge management involves timely and cost-effective acquisition, storage, conversion and maintenance of the integrity of process, product and risk related data/information/knowledge.
Project documents requiring management include plans, reports, designs, and test results. The importance of these documents, and the effective management of them, is that they support effective decision making related to all the other management methodologies.

Product Lifecycle Management

Product lifecycle management is concerned with the product across its complete life cycle, from concept to retirement. Its purpose is to ensure that the product achieves its financial and market objectives and sustains these throughout its operational life.

People Management

Also known as “Human Resource Management”, a people management methodology ensures a project always has the people it needs – numbers, competence and engagement.

Bid Management

The qualification of business opportunities for a product, and the pursuit of that opportunity in a measured manner are the core attributes of bid management. A bid management methodology should support efficient and effective selling of a product, and the continuous improvement of the efficiency and effectiveness of the bid process. This methodology is applicable to commercially-oriented activity and internally-oriented change activity (which is often involves “selling” a change or idea).

Project change management

Often nested within project management, in a complex project - for example, one where many subcontracted work is involved - project change control becomes a critical activity. It involves management of changes, or potential changes, to the project budget, schedule and end product arising from internal project activity and external influences and events.

Major methodologies - Product

Design and Development

A design and development methodology (DDM) is essential to ensure that the end product meets its functional, performance and quality objectives.  It should be the core methodology in an organisation as it is the product that creates value for the customer. The project and risk management methodologies are a necessary burden (or “waste”) to ensure that value is indeed created.
Proper use of a DDM ensures that customers get the “right product, built right". That is, it’s a product realisation methodology; the engineering component of the suite of methodologies.

Verification and Validation

Often thought to be just "testing", Verification and Validation supports the DDM in providing a product that meets its functional, performance and quality objectives. It incorporates:
  • Regular verification, during the course of the design and development, that the emerging product continues to meet its evolving specifications (as its context evolves)
    Validation at the conclusion of design and development that the product meets customer/user requirements
    Certification that the product provides the intended benefits at the planned cost.

Product Information Management

All products will have some collateral associated with them - design documentation, brochures, user guides, training material etc - and this must be managed from conception through to publication.

Configuration Management

Configuration management is employed to manage the product and its interim forms. It involves identifying the of the product’s configuration at discrete points of time in its life cycle, controlling changes to the configuration, and maintaining the integrity and traceability of the configuration.

Data Management

Many projects involve the manipulation and/or transformation of data – not only IT projects. A data management methodology is used to manage all aspects of the sourcing, manipulation/conversion/transformation, storage, retrieval and use of data to ensure its continuing integrity.

Product change management

As a product is developed and used, necessary or desired changes will be identified. Product change management ensures that those changes are controlled from concept through to operational use.

Major methodologies - Risk

Project Risk Management

A project risk management methodology encompasses the analysis (identification, estimation and evaluation) of project risks and the decisions on what to do about those risks (in terms of planning, controlling and monitoring relating to aversion and mitigation).

Quality Management

The last, but not least, of the three essential management methodologies, quality management’s purpose is to provide assurance that the product meets its agreed requirements and is able to achieve the customer/user's objectives.
The keystone of an effective and efficient QMM is the incorporation of the philosophy of "investing in success, not spending on failure". That is, that the way to ensure the delivery of the required product, at the required cost, and in the required time, is to invest primarily in the prevention of product defects and secondarily in the detection of defects, so that the minimum is spent on the correction of, and recovery from the damaging effects of, any surviving defects.

Organisation Change Management

One of the most significant risks to the success of any project is that the customer (the "receiving' organisation) is not will, able or ready to properly employ the product. Organisation change management is used to minimise the risk of that all too common outcome.

What should one do about methodologies?

A large organisation will likely have its own methodology – developed in-house or provided by a supplier such as a consulting firm or a technology or service provider. The methodology or methodologies so available are likely to be insufficient in scope to cover process, product and risk.
What are the options for an organisation that requires or desires a complete “set” of methodologies? Some options are discussed below.


This is a very expensive and time consuming approach – both in terms of methodology development and their maintenance. However, any large organisation conducting many complex, critical and risky projects will find the investment well worthwhile.


This is a much less expensive approach than in-house development. The best and most complete package of methodologies I’ve seen is from Oracle – the “Unified Oracle Method” - and it is often provided as part of a software licensing agreement with Oracle. Other major IT vendors may have a similar offering but those I’ve seen are not as complete.

Adopt, adapt and extend

There is wealth of useful source information available that can form a basis of a set methodologies. Those I’ve used in the past include documents from:
  • US Department of Defence
    Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE)
    Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL)
    International Standards Organisation (ISO)
and, of course, there are many excellent text books that can be similarly used. Although some of the above sources are IT-specific, not all are (such as ISO 9001) and even so, these can be used outside of IT – so long as you focus on the concept and build the specifics from them.
Is it really that complex?
It may seem so, until one considers how broad is the scope and impact of most major projects. It is best to consider any project as fundamentally one of change and to be certain that all aspects of the project are well defined, planned, monitored and controlled. Doing so requires a broad view of project methodologies.
Further, in an era of unprecedented change, managers should adopt the view that their fundamental role is change management - all projects being change projects and all management being change management.

This Change Management infographic can be downloaded from here!
Methodologies Infographic