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A Simple Guide to Project Management Frameworks

A Simple Guide to Project Management Frameworks

8 minutes

July 12, 2022

A Simple Guide to Project Management Frameworks

There’s a lot to wrap your head around when it comes to project management frameworks.

There are multiple frameworks available, all of which are helpful for different reasons and can be used for different purposes. So it’s not surprising that things can get a little confusing.

But don’t worry. In this simple guide, we’re going to break down everything you need to know about project management frameworks.

We’ll discuss project management frameworks, the benefits of using them, and three common types. By the end of this article, you’ll have a solid understanding of project frameworks and how to choose one that’s right for your business.

What’s a Project Management Framework?

A project management framework is a template used to plan, execute, and track projects. When done well, it helps project teams collaborate better and deliver their project on time and within budget.

From individual tasks and budgets to external tools and resources, it shows project leaders what’s involved in the project from beginning to end. This allows them to map out project progression clearly and concisely, visualizing all aspects of the project in one location.

It also allows project managers to effectively track and manage progress as the project moves through the different stages of the project lifecycle.

Why Do Businesses Need Project Management Frameworks in the First Place?

Project management frameworks help businesses structure and plan their projects, but they can also be beneficial in other areas.

Before we look at frameworks in action, let’s outline some of the reasons why businesses use them in the first place.

Effectively Manage Resources

Project management frameworks help teams maximize their resources.

Think about it. Everything you need to know about the project is in one location with a project framework. It’s all organized, and you can easily review what resources you have available and how best to use them.

For example, you’d be able to identify how much capacity your project team has. You can see who’s working on what parts of the project and how long each task should take. This allows you to effectively allocate tasks, increase productivity, and create a realistic project timeline.

Example of SmartSuite's resource allocation capabilities

So when it comes to resource allocation, project management frameworks are a plus. They save your business time and money and help your projects run smoothly.

Consistency Across the Business

Project frameworks create alignment across the business, allowing everyone to work on projects as seamlessly as possible. Look at the project planning process as an example.

With a framework in place, it’s clear to everyone what the process is for project planning. There’s no room for misinterpretation or guesswork because the entire process is consistent and well-defined.

As a result, the project planning process becomes easier for project managers to follow.

Import project plan data from CSV, Excel and Google Sheets

With a framework in place, everyone follows the same steps — no matter what.

Simplify Processes

Frameworks provide clarity about your project and the processes involved. Frameworks standardize your processes, making it easier for everyone to understand what should happen throughout the project.

As a result, you can simplify and streamline your project processes. There’s no confusion about what should happen. Everything is clear, streamlined, and easy for your project team to follow.

It also means that project processes should be recognizable to employees who have worked on projects before. It feels familiar, onboarding time is reduced, and you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Simply put, project frameworks simplify your processes and make them easier to follow. Whether a seasoned team member or a new employee, having frameworks in place provides clarity and consistency about what’s happening and why.

What’s Included in a Project Management Framework?

Although there are different project management frameworks, they all have the same vital information. Let’s take a look at what’s included in every framework so you can familiarize yourself with what to expect.

Deliverables and Outputs

Every project management framework has clearly defined deliverables and outputs. Generally speaking, this is known as the project control cycle. It involves outlining your key measurements and outputs from the project.

The project objectives and key results template illustrate some examples of project measurements:

Manage all your objectives and key results

Using these metrics, you can measure project progress, monitor risks, overcome challenges, and manage the expectations of key stakeholders.

Top tip: You might want to consider using a work breakdown structure (WBS) to break down larger deliverables into smaller tasks.

As you can imagine, this is a pretty important part of the project management plan. After all, without these measurements in place, it’ll be pretty hard to tell if you’ve completed a successful project.

Tools and Templates

Project frameworks often outline any tools and templates that are required to complete the project. Project plans, schedules, reports, and risk logs are common tools and templates used to manage projects.

Most of the time, these tools and templates can be accessed using work management software.

With a work management platform, teams can easily visualize the project, allowing them to track progress in real-time.

Take a look at SmartSuite as an example. Teams can choose a variety of project templates, all of which can be customized to suit the specific needs of the project.

Image of SmartSuite's project plan template

From business operations to project management, teams can select a template that’s most suited to their project framework.

How to Structure the Project Lifecycle

The project lifecycle plays an important role in the successful delivery of the project. It outlines how your project gets from start to finish, which includes the following stages:

  • Initiation: This involves outlining project goals and objectives in a project charter and identifying potential risks. By the end of this stage, you’ll have a clear picture of what the project is.
  • Planning: This phase of a project involves creating a project roadmap, which outlines how long each task will take, what the deadlines should be, and how to delegate tasks between team members.
Image of SmartSuite's product roadmap

  • Execution: Now, it’s time to get things moving and put your plan into action. Teams will start working on the project activities you’ve assigned to hit milestones and achieve key deliverables.
  • Monitoring and controlling: When the project is live, project managers will track progress by reviewing project performance, creating shared views and dashboards, and rearranging priorities and deadlines if needed.

Example of a custom dashboard from SmartSuite

  • Completion: The last stage is the delivery of the project. The project manager will review project success and failure to determine the next steps.

The project lifecycle doesn’t exactly fit into a project framework. Instead, using a project framework helps you identify how best to structure the elements within the project lifecycle.

For example, if your project needs a longer planning period with deliverables defined upfront, the Waterfall methodology (and framework) would be your best bet.

Or, if you’re planning a project that needs flexibility, the Agile methodology (using the Scrum framework) could be the best option. That way, you can break your execution phase into 'sprints' (more on this later).

So by using a project management framework, you can structure your project lifecycle as efficiently as possible. And in doing so, you give your project the best chance of success.

3 Project Management Frameworks That Could Work For Your Business

There are a variety of project frameworks out there to choose from, and ultimately it’s up to you to find the right framework for your business.

Here, we’ll outline three of the most common project management frameworks to give you a solid starting point.

We’ll start by looking at the Scrum framework, which falls under Agile methodology. Before we dive in, let’s clarify what Agile is and how it differs from the Waterfall methodology.

Agile vs. Waterfall: What’s the Difference?

Agile is an iterative project management methodology, whereas the Waterfall methodology is linear.

Visual of the Waterfall and Agile project methodologies

Let’s break down the jargon.

An Agile framework involves splitting the project into several stages. Instead of having an in-depth plan ready before the project starts, Agile frameworks allow for changing requirements and feature continuous improvement.

So when the project is underway, teams move through cycles of planning, executing, and evaluating their work. It requires constant collaboration between team members and stakeholders.

It can be a tricky methodology to master as it doesn’t have a solid structure from the offset, but it’s helpful for teams that need flexibility in their projects.

The Agile methodology includes numerous frameworks. Although we’re covering Scrum in this article, there are other frameworks you can choose to use (such as Kanban, shown below, or XP).

SmartSuite's Kanban board template

Ultimately, which framework you should use depends on the type of project you’re planning. It’s up to you to research these frameworks and figure out what works best for your business.

In contrast to Agile frameworks, the Waterfall methodology is linear. This means all the information from customers and stakeholders is gathered before the project starts. When all the information has been collected, a sequential project plan is created.

It’s less flexible in its approach, but it gives you a clearer picture of how the project looks in its entirety and what milestones you need to hit along the way.

Now, let’s look at the Scrum framework, which falls under Agile project management.

1. Scrum

With the Scrum framework, work is completed in short cycles called sprints. The project manager (or scrum master) focuses on how to get rid of any roadblocks or hurdles that prevent sprints from being completed.

The Scrum framework encourages teams to work flexibly while still meeting key milestones and deliverables.

Scrum is ideal for a small and fast-paced team. Due to its flexible nature, it’s also helpful for projects that are likely to encounter changes as tasks progress.

Because of the back and forth required to create new sprints throughout the project, Scrum requires intense collaboration and teamwork between both the project team and business stakeholders.

Fortunately, work management tools make collaboration easier for project teams. SmartSuite, for example, has a variety of collaborative features to help teams communicate, share updates, and work together as effortlessly as possible.

Customize scrum boards to meet your team's individual needs to ensure everyone stays focused and informed

Take a look at our collaboration features to find out more.

2. Waterfall

The Waterfall framework is one of the more traditional project management approaches. It requires a project to be planned from start to finish and all in sequential order. No task throughout the project can be completed until the previous one has been finished.

Example of the Waterfall project framework

It’s best to use the Waterfall framework for projects with concrete timelines and defined deliverables — especially if it’s a particularly complex project. Having everything clearly laid out and structured beforehand will make the process easier to manage.

But if you need flexibility or think your deadlines and deliverables might change, you’re probably better off with an Agile framework.

As you can imagine, the Waterfall framework requires extensive planning. You need to have a solid grasp of the timeframe and the deliverables before the project begins. Not to mention, you also need to outline all the tasks that need to be completed throughout the entire project.

Using a work management platform makes this process much easier, especially if you use a platform that has ready-made project templates.

Kanban report of tasks by status for a custom process

You can simply choose the template you want and input the information. That way, everything is stored in one location, and you have a clear oversight of the entire project before things go live.

3. Lean

A lean framework applies the Lean manufacturing principles to project management. The goal is to minimize waste by using fewer resources while maximizing value for customers.

Example of the Lean project framework

If you have a strict budget, the Lean framework can be useful. It helps you keep on top of your spending while still focusing on the overall quality and delivery of the project.

And to make budget and resource management even easier, consider using a work management platform to manage your projects.

While the Lean framework helps you plan your spending, using a work management platform means you can track your spending in real-time when the project is live.

Example of a small business budget template from SmartSuite

And when it comes to resources, a work management platform is incredibly helpful. You can easily see what you have available and what’s been used, allowing you to make informed decisions about resource allocation. This is helpful for more accurately planning future projects, too.

Use SmartSuite to Plan, Execute, and Track Your Projects

We’ve outlined three project frameworks in this article, but there are more out there. To find the best option for your business, spend some time understanding each framework. This will help you narrow down the right choice for your business and your project requirements.

When it comes to creating project frameworks, it helps to have an intuitive platform to create your projects.

SmartSuite, for example, allows you to choose a project template that works for your project and customize it with additional features. And to put the cherry on top, our software also allows you to manage all areas of your workflow.

If you want to give it a go, sign up for a free 14-day trial.

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