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.

Our Research

Our expert team of writers and researchers rates project management software against the factors small businesses care about most - value for money (for both small and growing teams); depth of features; ease of use; quality of templates and ability to customise them, plus help and support when problems need resolving.
Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young

Startups.co.uk is reader supported – we may earn a commission from our recommendations, at no extra cost to you and without impacting our editorial impartiality.

Project management (PM) methodologies can be difficult to interpret. If you so much as dip a toe into the project management software 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, KPIs and objectives.

How do we carry out our software research?

We’ve been advising SMEs on the top business tools in the UK for over 20 years. As part of our stringent research methodology, we use a combination of user testing and independent analysis to ensure that all of our results are accurate and updated for startups in 2024.

Our most recent round of research included identifying the top 11 best project management (PM) systems on the market using six metrics:

  • Value for money
  • Ease of use
  • Customer score
  • Template customisation
  • Feature offering
  • Help and support features

Once completed, we used these scores to evaluate each software to examine how well its features align with / support specific project methodologies.

Agile project management

Agile methodology

Wrike’s Agile project template gave us an interactive timeline to track progress as we moved through each project phase

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. Because of this:

  • It is time-efficient
  • It has lots of achievable milestones
  • It encourages collaboration

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.

When to use Agile project management:

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.

Best template for agile project management: Wrike

When you’re working quickly, information can get confused. Wrike’s Agile project management template is organised into clearly-defined blocks. We found the app’s simple layout easy to navigate, making it easy for us to stay on top of task deadlines as we moved through each project phase.

Waterfall project management

When testing the ClickUp Waterfall template, we liked that it clearly mapped out each phase of the project timeline

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. Because of this:

  • It is data-backed
  • It has a clear structure
  • It is easy to plan

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.

When to use Waterfall project management:

We recommend Waterfall as a great option for shorter projects with objectives that are easy to define from the start. For example, rolling out a one-off product discount.

Best template for waterfall project management: ClickUp

We recommend ClickUp as the best template for Waterfall project management. Its task dependencies feature is made for the Waterfall methodology. Through it, we were able to add “blocking” or “waiting on” tags to tasks to illustrate a clear order so we knew exactly which card to prioritise.

Integrated project management (IPM)

Integrated Project Management (IPM)

ClickUp’s huge list of features made it easy for us to share lots of project resources in 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. 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.

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. Because of this:

  • It is transparent
  • It is collaborative
  • It encourages open communication

When to use Agile project management:

If you’re managing a creative project that involves a lot of redrafting and edits. For example, when redesigning a website or brand materials.

Best template for Integrated Project Management: ClickUp

Integrated project management means using a mix of methods to arrive at project delivery. Because of this, your software needs to boast lots of different PM features, from file sharing to team messaging. ClickUp scored 4.7 out of 5 in our ranking due to its huge list of features that makes it a great tool for IPM.

Kanban project management

Trello productivity project plan template

During our testing, we liked how effortless Trello’s drag-and-drop interface made Kanban project management

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. Because of this:

  • It is resource-effective
  • It is flexible
  • It is simple to manage

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

When to use Kanban project management:

We recommend Kanban boards for businesses with multiple long-term client accounts with daily management tasks to organise. For example, PR agencies or accountants.

Best template for Kanban: Trello

We recommend Trello as our number one project management software for Kanban boards. During our user testing of the Trello dashboard, we found that the platform surpasses rivals for Kanboard management with its focused, drag-and-drop interfact.

Crucially, Trello makes it easy to customise the Kanban board view by enabling any field to be changed simply by clicking on it, rather than having to menu-dive in settings. This allowed us to change the column names to whatever we needed, drastically simplifying organisation.

Scrum project management

Scrum Wrike

Wrike’s team collaboration features (like the messaging feature shown above) are well-designed for Scrum project management

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

  • It is time-effective
  • It is favoured by managers
  • It keeps stakeholders in the loop

When to use Scrum project management:

We recommend the Scrum method for tech teams. 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.

Best template for Scrum project management: Wrike

One of our top team collaboration tools, Wrike is also number one in our research for Scrum project management. During testing, we discovered that the free Wrike plan, Wrike Free, has a feature called Resources View which shows your team’s workload capacity – excellent if you need to quickly free up an individual to support with other tasks.

Scrumban project management


We found monday.com’s customisable rows and columns were perfect for Scumban project management

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.

When to use Scrumban project management:

Like the Scrum method, we recommend Scrumban to those based in the tech industry. However, its best usage is for freelance tech workers or those in small, two-person teams, as it means you can work across lots of small tasks without having to worry about how you’re impacting colleagues’ workloads.

Best template for Scrumban project management: monday.com

Scrumban project management is essentially Scrum PM, but with more creative freedom. During our testing, we found that monday.com is the champion PM tool for customisation. Its Kanban templates can be tailored to exactly reflect every project change or update, making it ideal for managing short, sprint-based tasks.

Critical Path Method (CPM) project management

Smartsheet critical path method

We used Smartsheet to test the CPM and found its clear layout ideal for spotting resource conflicts

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. 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. Because of this:

  • It is resource-effective
  • It can be copied for repeat projects
  • It keeps tightly projects organised in phases

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.

When to use CPM project management:

We recommend CPM for events or campaign planners. 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.

Best template for CPM project management: Smartsheet

We found Smartsheet’s spreadsheet organisational format ideal for using the Critical Path Method to plan our project. It provides a simple, Gantt chart style layout that makes it easy to see where tasks overlap and which might need to be prioritised.

How we test project management software for small businesses

We tested 14 project management software to evaluate them in terms of functionality, usability, customer support, features, and more so we can make the most useful recommendations to small UK-based businesses.

Our rigorous testing process means these products have been scored and rated in five main categories of investigation and nine subcategories – in fact, we covered 51 areas of investigation in total. We then gave each category score a ‘relevance weighting' to ensure the product's final score perfectly reflects the needs of our Startups.co.uk readers.

Our main testing categories for project management software are:

Customer Score: external customer opinion; the feedback and ratings given by customers who have used a particular project management provider. Also, the market position and reputation a project management tool holds.

Features: the functionalities and capabilities offered by the project management solution, such as task management and team collaboration.

Customer Support: the assistance and resources provided by the project management solution provider to users, such as phone support and email or chat support.

Usability Testing: we get people just like you to test out the products to focus on evaluating the ease of use and user experience of the project management solution.

Cost Factors: the financial considerations associated with using a project management solution, including licensing fees, subscription plans, and storage and user limit.

The Startups product testing process

The Startups product testing process diagram

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.
  • 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.
  • Are there any certifications associated with project management methodologies?
    Project managers can illustrate their expertise with the Certified Project Manager (CPM) certification. Offered by the International Association of Project Managers (IAPM), this is the most well-known certificate for project management in the industry.
  • How can I implement a project management methodology in my business?
    To implement a project management methodology you should first think about two key project traits: length of time and amount of resource. For example, if you have a tight deadline with a small team you might want to use the sprint-based, Scrum method. But if you are a large team and need to plan a longer project over months, you might want to use the Waterfall method as this means breaking down one, big objective into small achievable phases.
  • How do project management methodologies ensure project delivery within budget and timeline?
    Following a project management methodology means your team will adhere to a particular set of rules. This organised approach ensures that team members are regularly checking in with each other, and their deadlines, dramatically reducing the risk of you going over-budget or running out of time.

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Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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