What is a Project Management Framework?

Updated Dec 2, 2022.

Lack of clear direction is the number one reason why many projects fail. Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does a project.

Changes to project objectives, priorities, dependencies, inadequate requirements, and procrastination subject your projects to project management challenges such as delays, project budget overruns, and scope creep.

Successful projects thrive, navigate, and avoid these challenges using the best project management frameworks and methodologies.

This article will discuss the basis of a project management framework, which is best for your objectives, projects, and teams, and how to use it for project success.

What is a Project Management Framework?

A project management framework is designed to provide project managers with structure and direction over the project management process while being flexible enough to adapt to changes when required.

A project management framework is an extensive map that details methods, processes, tools, and project team tasks that play a massive role in the project's success.

As a valuable guide, the project management framework functions to help see to the entire project completion and ensures the project goals are achieved.

The project management framework focuses on helping organizations with a direction on steps to take in managing projects from the project starting point to its completion stage.

Although most project management frameworks are designed with project management in mind, other unique project frameworks are designed for specific purposes. An example is a project framework designed for software development and all its inclusive processes.

Framework of planning and evaluation of a software development project
Source: Researchgate

Project Framework vs. Project Methodology

Although both project management methodologies and project management frameworks are often taken for one another, many consider project methodologies as an extensive project framework.

Essentially, it concerns how these two approaches can help your project's development processes.

1. Project Management Approach

One of the standout differences between these two approaches is that a project management framework provides project teams with an overview of how to set guidelines to be implemented while also providing room for creative adaptation.

On the other hand, project management methodology is pretty rigid in its rules and practices as there is no room for adaptations.

2. Who Uses What?

The project management framework is used by project experts as their preferred project management approach, unlike project management methodologies used mainly by beginners.

3. Support

While project management frameworks are accommodative, allowing other practices and tools to be used alongside them, project management methodologies do not support other tools and processes.

Difference between framework vs methodology
Source: Activecollab

Project Management Framework Types

Project managers can choose various project management frameworks for their specific project types. Some popular project management frameworks types available to project managers to choose from include:

1. Traditional Project Management

The traditional framework is obtained from the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) guide consisting of a project's input, tools and technique, and output phases.

2. Agile Methodology

Agile project management works best for projects prioritizing speed and flexibility as it relies on short delivery project cycles.

The agile framework is one of the most popular project management frameworks used by business owners, software developers, teams, and project managers.

Some benefits of using the agile framework for your projects include superior product quality, higher customer satisfaction, and better quality control.

Top Five Reasons for Adopting Agile
Source: Zippia

3. Lean Methodology

The lean project management framework initially designed for the Toyota production system focuses on optimizing project processes, continuous improvement, and resource management.

Lean Methodology
Source: Startinfinity

4. Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) Framework

The critical chain framework focuses on allocating and using specific resources instead of the business process timelines.

Critical Chain Project Management
Source: Projectimes

5. Project Headway

The project headway framework is built on a work breakdown structure (WBS) designed according to the Project Management Institute (PMI) standards but required you to be a member of PMI.

Work breakdown structure
Source: Wrike

6. Critical Path Method (CPM)

The critical path method offers a step-by-step guide used by project managers to plan project processes by defining tasks according to how crucial they are to deliver on the project objectives.

7. Waterfall Methodology

As one of the more traditional frameworks, Waterfall works sequentially from the project planning phase down to the project execution phase, where there is a project workflow.

In project management, Waterfall and Agile are two of the most popular software project management frameworks used to manage software development teams.

Waterfall and Agile

8. Scrum Framework

This agile project management framework is best used for complex projects like software development.

With the Scrum framework, tasks are broken down into sprints for better accountability and teamwork. You can use Scrum boards to visualize your project management process and track your project progress.

The Agile-Scrum Framework
Source: C-sharpcorner

9. Kanban Framework

This visual project management improves your project's process by helping project teams better manage their tasks. You can use the Kanban board to visualize and help manage multiple projects successfully.

Visualize your work with Kanban
Source: Kanbanflow

10. Extreme Project Management (XPM)

Extreme programming (XP) focuses on an iterative and incremental approach to project or product development. XPM is the perfect framework for teams handling complex projects in unstable or fast-changing environments.

The emphasis of this project management framework is on stakeholder analysis and stakeholder management. Before project initiation, the project manager holds a crucial meeting with stakeholders to discuss project plans and other unexpected situations.

What's at the core of Extreme Programming (XP)
Source: Activecollab

Key Elements of a Project Management Framework

Some specific critical elements characterize every project management framework that, when utilized together, help your project function optimally.

Here are the key components that every project management framework should have.

1. Tools and Templates

Tools and templates are crucial elements you should look out for in a project management framework. They provide a basis for you to work with without the stress of trying to create your framework from scratch.

With most project management frameworks coming with ready-made templates available online, offering a variety for you to choose from, your choice of the suitable template depends on your organizational structure and specific business needs.

For example, many Gantt charts use the Waterfall methodology for their operations, making it easy for you to make changes between different software types.

Typically, the actions taken in a framework would be sequential, which the Waterfall methodology is perfect for, or simultaneous, whereby Kanban boards offer considerable support.

2. Project Life Cycle

The project lifecycle is another critical element of a project management framework that clearly defines how the overall project framework is set up.

By being referenced, your project lifecycle allows your project management framework to be mapped out and occurs in five distinct phases.

5 Phases of Project Management
Source: Smartsheet

Here are the five phases of a typical project lifecycle.

  • Initiation: The project initiation phase involves research, planning, and coordination of ideas among the organization's key stakeholders. An initial plan for inputs guides this phase.
  • Planning: The planning phase comes after all the key components needed for the successful creation of the project have been identified. During the planning phase, the team answers all the relevant questions about how to carry out the project.
  • Execution: The project execution phase is where the project officially kicks off. All team members are provided an idea of the project deliverables and their respective tasks in delivering these set deliverables.
  • Management: This phase is where the project manager monitors, reviews, and provides regular updates to the organization's top hierarchy officials.
  • Review: During this phase, all key milestones and deliverables have been achieved during the specified project schedule, and the project is a success. What is left is usually a review of all the project processes with team members, looking out for areas during the project process that needs to be improved.

The project lifecycle is one of the most crucial components of your project management framework. It helps key stakeholders understand what is required and expected at each stage of the project process.

3. Project Control Cycle

The project control cycle is where your project is extensively monitored and managed. It requires software for effective communication across channels.

Project management metrics are designed for tracking progress, identifying potential drawbacks, and managing the expectations of key project stakeholders.

Projects fail without a project manager designated to manage and monitor a project's risk factors. There needs to be a mechanism to counteract the identified risk factors.

Complex onboarding processes

Project Framework Examples

Many project management frameworks are available for your choosing. Your project framework choice should depend on what works best and can be easily implemented by your organization and its team members.

Here are some of the common project management framework examples.

  • The PMBOK: This model provides a comprehensive guide to project management and is used extensively for project management training programs.
  • PRINCE2: Projects in Controlled Environments (PRINCE2) is an example of an agile project management framework methodology used for projects with fixed project scope, time, and cost.
  • Crystal: Crystal is an example of a software development framework best known for its simple and straightforward business process improvement tools, especially for SMEs.
  • Rational Unified Process (RUP): RUP is an example of a software development framework that provides extensive support to the entire software development process, especially for large and complex IT projects.
  • Primavera: Primavera is an example of a project management framework designed by Oracle as an enterprise project portfolio software tailored for complex and large projects with a primary focus on project planning, scheduling, reporting, estimating, and resource management.
  • Capability Maturity Model Integration (CNMI): CNMI is an example of a software development improvement methodology designed to guide businesses based on standardized software development processes and programs.

How to Choose a Project Management Framework

Project management frameworks work best if a practical approach is implemented. Trying to force a framework on a project would only pay into the hands of ensuring the project fails.

The primary criteria for a successful project with regards to a project management framework are first to understand the workings of the framework and tailor it to fit your organization's specific needs.

Knowing that no single framework is sufficient for all projects is essential. Deciding on the best framework for your organization requires you to consider one of the following:

  • For an organization that is in an industry that is fast changing or uses technology or offers products that are not constant, it is best to opt for an adaptable framework like Scrum.
  • A sprint-based framework like Scrum would suffice as your best choice for intangible projects or one in which the project deliverables are not adequately defined, like in software development.
  • The Waterfall methodology is the right framework for a properly defined and stable project as it is uniquely designed to minimize risks.

In a real sense, the choice of framework to implement should primarily be based on what your organization and team members are most familiar with, as introducing new frameworks comes with its unique drawbacks that you should avoid at all costs.

Benefits of Following a Project Management Framework

Using the proper framework for your project management process alongside best practices offers numerous benefits to your organization and all relevant stakeholders. A project management framework can serve as the defining point for successful projects.

Here are some benefits you can gain from an efficient project management framework.

  • Consistency: Your organization processes are more precise and consistent with a project management framework, especially when it comes to the planning process of projects and setting deadlines.
  • Clarity: Each stage of the project process is well defined in a clear and easy-to-understand manner, providing no room for confusion for the team regarding tasks and the tools required to complete them.
  • Optimization: With a project management framework, project managers are provided with a clear idea of what each project costs and how much time and money is needed. With this relevant information, a project manager can better plan how to allocate and optimize resources for future projects.
  • Communication: Project managers get to communicate better and more effectively with the project team as the framework provides regular meetings to boost the flow of information.
  • Simplification: A project management framework ensures larger projects are broken down into smaller tasks, making it easier for project managers to delegate tasks appropriately.

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Anastasia Belyh

Editor at FounderJar

Anastasia has been a professional blogger and researcher since 2014. She loves to perform in-depth software reviews to help software buyers make informed decisions when choosing project management software, CRM tools, website builders, and everything around growing a startup business.

Anastasia worked in management consulting and tech startups, so she has lots of experience in helping professionals choosing the right business software.