The HRIS World Project Insights Series #thwCES

Is ‘Which Project Methodology is Best?’ the Right Question?

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Is this really the right question? Perhaps the better question is…

What project methodology is best suited for your current project???

About The HRIS World Project Insights Series™ #thwCES

This series is focused on approaching HRIS Project Management from outside of the box as experienced and documented by Garrett O’Brien of CGServicesUSA Inc as well as Lauren Gander of HR Software Solutions, Inc.

Let’s be clear right up front that we are not ditching any of the methodologies of Project Management. Instead, we are taking a look at just why some projects go so well while most others do not from our own experiences as well as those documented elsewhere. From there we are focusing on the successful elements that seem to be missing from most Project Management methodologies. The projects that do not go so well happen more frequent than not and it seems most Project Managers just give in to timeline extensions and over budget occurrences as being part of the learning curve to gain for the next project as well as being part of the job.

Garrett did as well until his 5th project and decided there was more to making a project come in on-time and within budget than just luck and more likely the cause of missing skills as well as incorrect perceptions. If some Project Managers could run most if not all their projects on time and within budget while most others could not, then we sought out to find out why some could consistently do so well.

We look into what contributed to those consistent successes in our entire content series The HRIS World Project Insights Series™ with the first 6 posts sharing the professional experiences of Garrett O’Brien. These 1st 6 posts are the foundation of most of this series and it is highly suggested you give them a good read. They are easily found with the short URLs to /thwCESintro6 as well as in the listing of related content in the toggle box at the end of all posts related to this series.

All other content arrives from contributors like you as well as the sharing of experiences from Lauren Gander’s company. Feel free to reach out to us if you wish to contribute some your thoughts via a post by clicking the contact us button on the lower right of any page.

Feedback, debates, discussion, collaboration and conversation are always encouraged in the comments section below... For more information about this series, use the blue contact us button on the lower right of your screen to contact us -- or if you are reading this by our newsletter, then hit the reply button to get back to us!

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Much of the discussion on project management today focuses on project life cycles – especially the various RADs, or rapid application deployment.

Being a software development methodology, RADs involve methods like interactive development and software prototyping.

This has resulted in RADs being a merger of various structured techniques, especially data-driven Information Engineering, with prototyping techniques to accelerate software systems development.

In RAD, definition of users’ requirements and the design of the final system are especially focused upon by structured and prototyping techniques.

Developing preliminary data models and business process models using structured techniques mark the development process.

Next, requirements are then verified using prototyping, eventually to assist in refining the data and process models.

These stages are repeated interactively; further development results in a combined business requirements and technical design statement to be used for constructing new systems.

Here is a simplistic summary of the pros and cons of the various RAD’s…


Agile software development (Agile)

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Minimizes feature creep by developing in short intervals resulting in miniature software projects and releasing the product in mini-increments.


Short iteration may add too little functionality, leading to significant delays in final iterations.

Since Agile emphasizes real-time communication (preferably face-to-face), using it is problematic for large multi-team distributed system development.

Agile methods produce very little written documentation and require a significant amount of post-project documentation.

Extreme Programming (XP)


Lowers the cost of changes through quick spirals of new requirements.

Most design activity occurs incrementally and on the fly.


Programmers must work in pairs, which is difficult for some people.

No up-front “detailed design” occurs, which can result in more redesign effort in the long-term.

The business champion attached to the project full-time can potentially become a single point of failure for the project and a major source of stress for a team.

Joint application design (JAD)


Captures the voice of the customer by involving them in the design and development of the application through a series of collaborative workshops called JAD sessions.


The client may create an unrealistic product vision and request extensive gold-plating, leading a team to over or under-develop functionality.

Lean software development (LD)


Creates minimalist solutions (i.e., needs determine technology) and delivers less functionality earlier; per the policy that 80% today is better than 100% tomorrow.


Product may lose its competitive edge because of insufficient core functionality and may exhibit poor overall quality.

Rapid application development (RAD)


Promotes strong collaborative atmosphere and dynamic gathering of requirements.

Business owner actively participates in prototyping, writing test cases and performing unit testing.


Dependence on strong cohesive teams and individual commitment to the project.

Decision making relies on the feature functionality team and a communal decision-making process with lesser degree of centralized PM and engineering authority.



Improved productivity in teams previously paralyzed by heavy “process”, ability to prioritize work, use of backlog for completing items in a series of short iterations or sprints, daily measured progress and communications.


Reliance on facilitation by a master who may lack the political skills to remove impediments and deliver the sprint goal.

Due to relying on self-organizing teams and rejecting traditional centralized “process control”, internal power struggles can paralyze a team.

PDF Download

The above comparisons are available in a 2-page PDF file which you can see and/or download clicking here.


What PMBOK Says

For good or bad, RAD approaches may entail compromises in functionality and performance in exchange for enabling faster development and facilitating application maintenance.

Citing the Project Management Book of Knowledge, there is no single best way to define an ideal project life cycle.

PMBOK notes that the project manager, in collaboration with the project team, is always responsible for determining (1) what processes are appropriate, and (2) the appropriate degree of rigor for each process, for any given project.

It is well-known by the experienced Project Manager that best practices of any project life cycle methodology can be used within the overall PMBOK framework of project management processes.

Basically, this means all the PMBOK processes can be performed using an agile project life cycle or a waterfall project life cycle.

I presume everyone has knowledge, and agrees, that every project has a constraint triangle – usually functionality (whether it be system or software), budget, time.

Usually thought of as the more ‘contemporary’ of the project management styles, the agile project life cycle – theoretically – focuses on delivering high value functionality, quickly and often, while keeping the budget and schedule of iterations fixed.

In contrast the waterfall life cycle focuses on features first (that is, the project scope), where they are defined in detail driving the ability to create schedule & cost estimates.

Waterfall approaches works hard to prevent changes in scope, whereas agile expects and embrace scope change and focus on delivering business value quickly instead.

This is contrasted against the agile strategy which is to fix schedule & cost constraints and then work to implement the highest value features as defined by the customer, so that scope remains flexible.

Basically, they are 2 different methods that supposedly provide a delivered product in the best way possible.

Why the fuss about Agile vs. Waterfall?

And why so many times a defensive posture is taken on the preferred project life cycle?

Compared to the Waterfall project life cycle, Agile has simply flipped the triple constraint triangle…and the focus is on delivering high business value quickly.

Anytime anything is done quickly, expediency is given precedence and priority.

The standard practices of scope definition, work breakdown structure (WBS) creation, and scope verification occur interactively in agile.

During agile release planning, the features are defined at a very high level and placed into iterations in priority order.

At this point the agile WBS only has deliverables, not work packages.

These features, or deliverables, can be estimated at a gross level only.

Once the iteration begins, the features slated for that iteration – and only that iteration – are elaborated.

Some like to think of it as just-in-time elaboration that prevents a wasteful buildup of requirements inventory that may never be processed.

Many times, when a Waterfall project life cycle is short or burdened with a requirement inventory then it is not the fault of the life cycle but in the management style and lack of preparation.

Basically, the initial approaches have not been performed correctly.

This is usually a failure to interview the end users that will be ultimately responsible for the use of the system as well as the reporting needed from the system.

Personal Experience

From my own experience, no matter how an ideal project life cycle is defined any time expediency trumps propriety, there is an escalating downwards slide which eventually is impossible to stop until the project crashes from excessive momentum and lack of direction.

This is true for BOTH Agile and for Waterfall project management.

So the defensive posture for either project life cycle, again from my own experience, is more personal than objective.

Business, in the end, is very objective – the service of the business on the other hand should be personalized.

On these topics, I refer you to the articles already published in The HRIS World…

Perspective Counts

Is there a right or wrong way to do things?

As with resolving any problem, the methodology you use must be driven by the problem you are trying to solve.

If the end state is well-known & requirements are clearly defined and documented, then waterfall works well.

However, if the end state is unknown or changing rapidly, then agile works well.

Many project managers have found that generally the Agile Methodology works best for custom software development projects while the implementation or upgrade of enterprise systems the Waterfall Methodology works best.

When comparing waterfall to agile, you really need to look at things differently.

However, the core PMBOK based project management best practices you have worked so hard to perfect are still very much relevant and necessary — even on an agile project.

With special thanks to…

Steve McConnell : Rapid Development: Taming Wild Software Schedules, Microsoft Press Books (1996) ISBN 978-1556159008

Dale Olson Consulting, led by Dale Olson, PMP, an experienced project manager in Business and Information Technology.

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Garrett O'Brien

CEO, Chairman, Publisher, Editor at The HRIS World Research Group

Garrett is the publisher, editor, writer forThe HRIS World Research Group, which includes The HRIS World, The HRIS World Research, The HRIS World Jobs, The HRIS World News, The HRIS World NewsMagazines, and The HRIS World Videos

With more than 20 years in roles as a client executive sponsor (#thwCES), project manager as well as functional/technical lead, Garrett is sought for his expertise for project insights, thought leadership, and team management globally.

He has been involved in large-scale and complex implementations since 1991 and has recently moved his operations to be with his wife in Brazil.

Garrett has had the pleasure of working with some of the greatest talents in the industry, and constantly shares his experiences and knowledge through content and webinars.

He maintains his fluency in Portuguese, German, French, and English with his various endeavors and contacts..

When not working, you will have to be adventurous to stay up with him as Garrett loves motorcycling, gunnery, boating, sailing, flying, and sports fishing -- and accompanying his wife on her various likes

About The HRIS World Research Group

The HRIS World blog, which is read by more than 50,000 from more than 160 countries monthly, manages to have more than 550,000 pages viewed monthly. 40%+ of the audience are decision-makers in their organization (and about half of that being C-levels!).

As CEO for CGServices USA Inc, he focuses on multi-provider, multi-line implementations consultation for HRIS systems

Council and Education Member of Gerson Lehrman Group Council, helping institutions of the world leaders meet, engage and manage experts across a wide range of sectors and disciplines.

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If you'd like to provide a post, a series of posts, or become a regular contributor to The HRIS World, click the blue contact us button on the bottom right of your screen to send us a message or reach us through our social media for details...

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