7 best project management methodologies for small business

What is a Kanban board? How do you plan a Scrum? We’ll talk you through the top project management methodologies and how to use them for maximum benefit.

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When you’re learning a new software, it can feel like you need a glossary to understand what’s being spoken about.

This is especially true of project management (PM) methodologies – a specialist field that comes with plenty of jargon attached.

If you so much as dip a toe into the PM market then you’ll likely be flooded with advice on using various techniques including ‘Kanban’, ‘Agile’, and ‘Scrum’.

It can be tricky to work out how these methodologies actually work in practice. Each approach comes with advantages and disadvantages, and some pretty fierce defenders and detractors.

Below, we’ll explain the seven top project management methods you should be aware of, as well as how each could be applied and what kind of teams and projects they’re best suited towards. By the end, you’ll be able to make a confident decision about which is the best fit for your business’s goals and objectives.

Which project management methodologies can small businesses use?

One of the biggest challenges of managing a project is communicating your plan clearly and concisely to stakeholders and team members.

How well you do this depends on the project management methodology you decide to use. For example, if you know that multiple people will be collaborating on a project, you might choose to take a Kanban approach as it is both easy to use and flexible.

To help you work out which method is best for your business, our list of the top project management methodologies goes into more detail about what each process offers.

Agile

Best software: Wrike

Agile methodology

Agile Pros
  • Continuous testing means any issues are addressed early on.
Agile Cons
  • Built for complex project delivery - unsuitable for simple client tasks.

Following the agile methodology, your project will be iterative. It will move through a series of cycles one-at-a-time, with all resources being focused on one phase – otherwise known as a ‘sprint’ – at a time.

Agile is a great method for client projects. Customers get a breakdown of the project at various checkpoints. During these meetings, they’ll be able to share their impressions and inputs, so teams have a chance to respond to any suggestions or requests.

There are disadvantages to agile. Naturally, you’ll need to spend a lot of time communicating with clients, which can lead to delays.

But overall this is a great, test-driven technique for streamlining work processes. By addressing customer feedback frequently, you’ll save a lot of time and hassle by identifying and preventing complaints before they occur.

Waterfall

Best software: ClickUp

Waterfall Pros
  • The project scope, cost, and timeline are clearly outlined. Clients know exactly what will be delivered.
Waterfall Cons
  • Phases can’t be edited once completed so you’ll need very detailed briefs from clients.

Like the Agile method, Waterfall involves dissecting a project plan into consumable ‘phases’. However, whereas an Agile approach is iterative, the Waterfall approach is sequential. 

It relies on teams never moving forward until the previous phase in a project has been completed. An example of its use would be a software development team that is working on plans for a new update, but needs customer approval to proceed to the design stage.

An issue with the Waterfall method is that it does not invite customer feedback. Evaluation is deferred until bigger parts of the project are complete. This means that issues can be harder to fix without substantial time and effort.

Still, we recommend Waterfall as a great option for shorter projects with objectives that are easy to define from the start.

Integrated project management (IPM)

Best software: ClickUp

Integrated Project Management (IPM)

IPM Pros
  • Team members share documents and meet regularly, helping to keep everyone in the loop.
IPM Cons
  • You will have to plan extensively upfront, which can strain resources.

Integrated Project Management (IPM) is a project management methodology that’s favoured by creative industries.

IPM is all about coordinating processes across the organisation. Most creative projects are part of a larger campaign and have a long approval process involving multiple departments.

To ensure transparency throughout this process, IPM also encourages open communication. All the information relevant to a project's goals, including spending designs, related documents, and completed assets, is stored on one, easily-accessible dashboard.

Everyone from company director to copywriter can use the dashboard to track a project’s status and direction. To decide what’s inputted into it, regular meetings are held.

Kanban

Best software: Trello

Kanban

Kanban Pros
  • Very short learning curve
  • Ideal for day-to-day task management
Kanban Cons
  • No established timeframe so not suitable for deadline-heavy projects

Meaning Billboard in Japanese, Kanban is an extremely flexible way of planning your project. Tasks are sorted into customisable column ‘queues’ that can be organised by everything from a task’s deadline, to its allocated team member.

The longer a column, the more likely an issue will arise. Teams can therefore easily use Kanban boards to spot potential bottlenecks.

Generally speaking, there’s no time stamp or scheduling feature with Kanban boards. Because of this, it’s not really designed for meeting a specific deadline – it’s better for ongoing projects, such as if you’re providing a service.

However, Kanban is the undisputed methodology champion for flexibility. You can rearrange your workflow easily without impacting the rest of the board.

Scrum

Best software: Wrike

Scrum Wrike

Scrum Pros
  • Teams complete project deliverables quickly and efficiently - great for deadline-focused tasks.
Scrum Cons
  • Discourages project alterations so not a good choice for large teams with 8+ collaborators.

The scrum methodology is organised by a scrum master, whose main job is to remove all obstacles to getting work done.

Scrum is an excellent method for managing rapid development and testing, especially within a small team. Work is done in short cycles called sprints, and the team meets daily to discuss current tasks as well as any roadblocks that need clearing.

Because of this, team collaboration is an important aspect of scrum. Many scrum templates include communication integrations or internal messaging features as a result of this dependency.

Scrumban

Best software: monday.com

Scrumban

Scrumban Pros
  • Great for independent working. Employees have more control over what they complete.
Scrumban Cons
  • Offers project managers less control than Scrum.
  • Is more rigid than Kanban.

Scrumban is a great choice for teams who need to deliver a project fast (as with the scrum method) but to also provide ongoing support (as with the kanban method).

Scrumban users will still work in short sprint cycles. However, project workers have the freedom to choose what task they work on. Instead of holding weekly meetings to discuss workloads you’ll be able to get a constant visual of their progress on a kanban-board.

One issue with scrumban is that project managers have much less control over a project. It can be difficult to closely monitor the efforts and progress of individuals.

Overall, however, the scrumban method means you’ll be able to oversee your project in both a clear and collaborative way – rather than choosing one or the other.

Critical Path Method (CPM)

Best software: Smartsheet

Smartsheet critical path method

CPM Pros
  • Excellent for smaller teams that need to prioritise resources.
CPM Cons
  • During bigger projects, CPM networks can get overly-complicated.

Boiled down, the critical path concept is that you can’t start certain tasks until others are finished – similar to the Waterfall method.

Where CPM differs from the Waterfall model is that you’re selecting key tasks that need to be completed, rather than sorting your entire project into phases.

For example, if you’re a wedding planner you will need to plan a guest list as one of your jobs. However, you can’t know your guest allowance until you’ve chosen a venue.

Both of these tasks will be placed on the ‘Critical Path’ – the list of duties that needs to be attended to in order for the project to ultimately be successful.

It’s important to note that CPM requires close collaboration between coworkers. If one person does not do their job in time, this will have a knock on effect and create delays.

Which project management methodology is right for your business?

Use an Agile management system if your projects require consistent stakeholder feedback, like PR agencies collaborating with stakeholders on a press release.

Use the Waterfall method for short projects (no longer than a month) that follow a set process. For example, if you’re a recruitment firm hiring for a specific role.

Use a Kanban board to organise your project if you need a flexible planning system to cope with last minute changes, such as early-stage brainstorming.

Use the Scrum method if you’re a lean team needing to deliver a project by a certain deadline, eg. a software development firm working on a product release.

Use a Scrumban strategy if you’re working in a non-hierarchical team that needs a simple way to share out tasks and monitor workload, such as a sales team.

Use Integrated Project Management for close collaboration during complex creative projects. For example, a design agency working on a website redesign.

Use the Critical Path Method if you’re a small team with fewer than 5 employees and need to optimise resources.

Project management methodologies FAQs
  • What are the most popular project management methodologies?
    The seven most-popular project management methodologies are Kanban, Agile, Waterfall, Scrum, Lean, Critical Path Method (CPM), and Integrated Project Management (IPM).
  • How do I choose a project management methodology?
    Certain methodologies are favoured by particular industries. Agile project management lends itself well to software firms, for example. File-based systems, such as kanban-boards, will be better for businesses focusing on multiple projects at once, like PR agencies.
  • What is the best project management methodology?
    Our top-rated project management software is ClickUp. This ‘free-forever’ platform is extraordinarily generous when it comes to project management features. This all adds up to an incredibly functional app that can facilitate virtually every approach to project planning.

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Helena Young
Helena Young Senior Writer

Helena "Len" Young is from Yorkshire and joined Startups in 2021 from a background in B2B communications. She has also previously written for a popular fintech startup.

Included in her topics of interest and expertise are tax legislation, the levelling up agenda, and organisational software including CRM and project management systems. As well as this, she is a big fan of the films of Peter Jackson.

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