Project management approaches
A structured approach to project management is a traditional project management approach. The prime example is what is called a 'waterfall' approach which typically follows a phase-gate (stage-gate) process, only moving from one phase to the next upon completion of the preceding phase. While the phases may be called different names, there are typically a number of phases like:
- Discovery, conception or ideation phase
- Scoping or requirements phase
- Definition or design phase
- Implementation or development phase
- Testing, validation or verification phase
- Release or maintenance phase
Not just one structured approach
A number of different approached that use a structured project management methodology. The three most popular approaches are Waterfall method, PMBOK and Prince 2.
The Waterfall method is a relatively linear, sequential design approach. It tends to be amongst the least iterative and flexible approaches to project management as progress flows largely in one direction (downwards like a 'waterfall') through the phases of conception, initiation, analysis, design, construction, testing, deployment and maintenance (5).
The PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowlege) is considered to be a global standard of project management, and uses a five phase approach (3). It is a collection of best practices for project management compiled by PMI (Project Management Institute). It is not specific to the development of digital products and is used by many industries.
The PRINCE2 (PRoject IN a Controlled Environment) is claimed to be the most used project management approach globally. It was originally developed for Information Systems projects, but nowadays is used more widely. It emphasises dividing projects into manageable and controllable stages and is based on seven principles, seven themes and seven processes.
A prototype approach differs from a structured approach in that it values getting a version (prototype) of the final solution in front of the user/customer as quickly and cheaply as possible, so that feedback can be gathered to better understand the user's requirements. The approach is cyclical, in that once feedback has been received, the team moves back into the planning stage and start the process again. Typically, these are done in short two to four week iterations. At the end of each iteration the next prototype is shown to the user/customer for further feedback.
The Agile Manifesto is a great example that shows the difference between a prototype approach and a structured approach. The idea embraces responding to change over following a plan.
Not just one prototype approach
Agile software development is based on an incremental, iterative approach. Instead of in-depth planning at the beginning of the project, Agile methodologies are open to changing requirements over time and encourages constant feedback from the end users. Cross-functional teams work on iterations of a product over a period of time, and this work is organized into a backlog that is prioritised based on business or customer value. The goal of each iteration is to produce a working product. (7 - Direct quote)
Scrum is a subset of Agile and one of the most popular process frameworks for implementing Agile. It is an iterative software development model used to manage complex software and product development. Fixed-length iterations, called sprints lasting one to two weeks long, allow the team to ship software on a regular cadence. At the end of each sprint, stakeholders and team members meet to plan next steps. (7 - Direct quote)
Kanban is Japanese for “visual sign” or “card.” It is a visual framework used to implement Agile that shows what to produce, when to produce it, and how much to produce. It encourages small, incremental changes to your current system and does not require a certain set up or procedure (meaning, you could overlay Kanban on top of other existing workflows). Quite often Kanban is done together with Agile and Scrum methodologies. (7 - Direct quote)
Lean comes from Lean Manufacturing and is a set of principles for achieving quality, speed & customer alignment.
Mary & Tom Poppendieck adapted the principles to fit software development.
- Eliminate Waste
- Build Quality In
- Create Knowledge
- Defer Commitment
- Deliver Fast
- Respect People
- Optimize the Whole
Project planning tools
A project planning tool is a means to help facilitate the management of a project. It could be a visual aid, a software tool, or anything else that might help. The following project planning tools are the ones included in the AIT syllabus.
The storyboard is a representation of images displayed in sequence that is used to help visualise a motion video, animation, motion graphic or interactive media sequence. It was developed by Walt Disney Productions during the 1930s and remains in use to this day. The pictures represent scenes or shots and are typically annotated with dialogue and action. The pictures that are drawn show the type of camera shot, angle and blocking of characters. (6)
Advantages of storyboards
Storyboards are a useful in that they are quick and cheap to make, and provide a realistic visual representation of the final product. It is easy to experiment with changes to the storyboard, making them very adaptable to evoke stronger reaction or interest. As a prototype tool, they can be tested with viewers to get feedback quickly. The process of visual thinking and planning allows a group of people to brainstorm together, placing their ideas on storyboards, and then arranging the storyboards on a wall which fosters more ideas and generates consensus between the group. (6)
The term site map can have multiple meanings. It can refer to:
- A planning tool that shows the structure of a website
- A page on a website that has a hierarchical view of all the pages of the website
- A structured listing intended for search engine listings (sitemap.xml)
The focus for the AIT course is on the first meaning listed, although they are all related with each one being a hierarchical view of the contents of a website. The difference between the three is the intended audience of each.
Site maps as a project planning tool
Site maps are a project planning tool that are used during the design phase of website development as a visualisation for the content of a website. A site map is the architectural framework for a web design project and can be shown to developers, designers and customers to clarify the layout of the webpages within a website so that all stakeholders are on the same page (pun intended!).
How to create a site map
A site map includes the name of each page in a rectangular box that will be included in the website. The lines drawn between each rectangular box show that two pages will be a hyperlink from one page to the other. The flow of the page is from top to bottom, with the top box representing the home page, the boxes underneath are typically linked to the home page, and so on. In the picture to the right, there are three pages (About, Products, Contact) that can be accessed through the home page. The pages underneath Products could not be directly accessed through the home page, so the user would need to access the Products page first to be able to access these pages.
A flow chart is a diagram that is used to represent a process, algorithm or workflow. The flow chart shows the steps as a variety of different boxes connected by arrows which show the flow of the process. The diagrammatic representation shows a solution to a given problem.
Flow charts as a project planning tool
Flow charts are used for a number of different reasons. Quite typically, they are used in the requirements analysis and project definition stages of projects to represent the As Is state of a system (the current state) and the To Be state of the planned system (the future state - after the project is completed). Software developers use UML (Unified Modelling Language) which is a variation of flow charts to represent algorithms.
Different shapes have different meaning
Here are a few of the basic shapes used in the ANSI/ISO format.