Technical project managers have many responsibilities. These include defining project responsibilities with stakeholders, managing budget and staff, and creating management, communication plans, and processes for projects. This last responsibility of management and process plans is crucial to on-time project delivery that meets stakeholders' requirements.

Project managers use many project approach plans, including top-down project planning and numerous agile management approaches. These project approach plans serve as templates for running projects which help reduce administrative decisions for managers, freeing them to focus on project-specific requirements.

Let’s review some project approach plans you may use as a project manager.

Waterfall Project Approach

Before Agile management, many organizations used a sequential project management approach known as waterfall. Waterfall management consists of sequential phases of work in which a team completes only one section at a time. Teams must finish their work and get approval before beginning a new phase.

This type of project management works well for repetitive, well-defined tasks where the organization has done each phase before. It relies on managers being able to define the full scope of work before starting, allowing them to ensure they achieve deadlines. Waterfall works well for well-defined projects and smaller projects. The key to using this methodology effectively is working with an understood process, with clearly defined goals and milestones planned from start to finish before beginning the work.

• It allows for clear communication of project goals over time and detailed multi-quarter or year forecasts for resource requirements.

• Prevents scope creep by clearly stating all milestones and project outcomes before work begins.

Highly predictable work and preplanning allow for clean handoffs between each project phase.

• It does not allow for integrating user feedback during the design process, as the product must be complete before feedback is possible.

• The entire process is detailed and planned, making updating features or project plans hard while work is still in progress.

• It can delay testing until all work is complete. Current features may depend on later work and will be blocked while waiting for testing and approval.

Scrum Project Approach

Scrum project management is the first Agile approach that we will discuss. With agile project management, we create an MVP (minimum viable product) and then iteratively add, update, and remove parts of the product based on feedback gained from the user. This iterative approach allows incredible flexibility in how we shape a product to ensure the best possible user experience and market fit.

In Scrum, a product owner or project manager creates a backlog of tasks to update and enhance the product. This backlog could be fixes reported from a bad user experience, a new set of features, or entirely new applications. It is important to remember that all the tasks come from the backlog and are worked on during sprints.

A sprint is an agreed-upon period for completing tasks from the product backlog. Scrum limits the budget and time consumed by constraining the number of items completed per sprint. By setting the expectations for each sprint's work, project managers ensure the tasks get completed in the agreed-upon timeframe. This approach is great for keeping projects on time and within budget.

The general cycle for Scrum projects is as follows:

1. A product owner or project manager creates a backlog of product tasks.

2. The manager works with their team to select and assign several backlog tasks.

3. The team works on these tickets during a sprint. The manager holds a regular cadence to help the work move forward.

4. The team completes the sprint, and a new sprint is planned and begins

The team cannot add new tasks to a sprint once it has begun. The scope of work is not always clear, and it is common for more work to be discovered while working through a sprint task. Though it is tempting to complete the new task immediately, Scrum instead encourages users to add the new work to the product backlog to be added in a later sprint.

• Scrum limits time and money spent on work.

• Scrum allows for quickly implementing user and stakeholder feedback into a project.

• All development and testing tasks are completed during each sprint. This approach prevents code from sitting and becoming stale.

• The final goals are not planned from the start of the process leading to scope creep as an issue.

• Scrum is hard to implement with larger teams.

• Single team members can disrupt projects if they are unwilling or unable to complete their work for each sprint.

Kanban Project Approach

Kanban project management is not a new approach, as it was first developed in 1940 by a Toyota engineer to increase manufacturing process efficiencies. It is in the same Agile family as Scrum but focuses on the completion of tasks continuously instead of through time-bracketed sprints. Over time it has been repurposed to work for IT and operations teams, groups going beyond the initial manufacturing application.

The Japanese word Kanban means billboard and refers to the visual approach this project management methodology takes. This approach consists of a board divided into three sections: to do, in progress, and complete. These are the commonly used sections, but a project manager can add or remove them as they see fit.

Kanban focuses on the visibility of outstanding tasks and their progress to reduce wasted time and resources. A product owner or project manager will create a task backlog. This backlog takes the form of sticky notes placed in the to-do section of the Kanban board. The project manager can assign, or developers can self-assign tasks by moving tasks from to-do to in-progress. When the work is complete, they move the task note to complete and select another task to begin.

This approach allows maximum visibility of which tasks need to be completed, which tasks are in progress, who is working on them, and what tasks are complete.

• Tasks have clear statuses and team member assignments. This clarity cuts down on management efforts to track down ticket statuses.

• Improved efficiency as the visualization of work helps team members prioritize their current and next tickets to complete.

• The just-in-time nature of tasks makes actions reactive for issues instead of proactive for building new features.

• Without clear time guidelines for how long tickets should take, work can move slowly to test and ship.

• Kanban works best for smaller projects as too large of projects or too many tickets can overwhelm this visual style of management.

• Relies on solid communication from all team members to ensure that the status of all work is up to date.

Become a Technical Project Manager Today

There is much more to technical project management than understanding a few approach plans. You will need the hard skills of understanding budgeting, scheduling, resource allocation, and troubleshooting. You must pair these skills with soft skills for dealing with technical team members and stakeholders.

Check out this 5-month Technical Project Management bootcamp from Thinkful to make technical project management your next career!

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