The project management ecosystem draws a blurry line between “methodologies” and “frameworks” and the former are more common and well-known within the industry.
Methodologies are more strict, yet loosely defined to encompass a broader group of projects. For instance, Waterfall and Agile are generally defined as “methodologies”, the first group defining a project from start to end with its corresponding phases (jumping from one phase to the next one) while Agile is predominantly used as a set of repeatable activities that enable developers to work on smaller sprints over a shorter period of time (with more flexibility in-between).
However, the semantics of a 50-hour web build and a bank software estimated at 20,000 development hours differ wildly – even if both rely on waterfall. Tooling, the ways you measure results, best practices in allocating resources, reporting, and the like are defined internally and rules are usually different within every team depending on the type of project.
This is why Scrum and Kanban are two popular frameworks falling into the Agile methodology, setting different rules and best practices on how to implement agile in different scenarios.
Agile defines an iterative process responsive to changes introduced mid-way and business requirements evolving during the course of development. Scrum and Kanban both obey the agile rules, albeit in different ways. Scrum revolves around sprints distributed across tasks while Kanban builds on top of a Kanban board, a visualization tool that represents clear tasks ready to pick up and move further toward the pipeline.
Frameworks are less prescriptive than methodologies; they provide a basic structure and set of guidelines that can be customized. They lay out “what” needs to be done without necessarily detailing “how” to do it. Scrum and Kanban are examples in the Agile space.
- Flexibility: Frameworks offer more room for customization and adaptation, which is particularly useful in complex or rapidly changing environments.
- Alignment with Organizational Culture: Because of their flexible nature, frameworks can often be more easily aligned with an organization’s existing processes and culture.
- Gaps: Frameworks might require teams to fill in many details, which can be both an opportunity and a challenge.
The overlap between methodologies and frameworks creates ambiguity. For instance, Agile is sometimes classified as a methodology and sometimes as a framework. Similarly, Scrum is a framework, but because of its structured roles and ceremonies, it is often mistaken for a methodology.
Various project management tools often support both methodologies and frameworks. These can range from specialized software to simple spreadsheets and are often crucial for implementation, regardless of whether an organization chooses a methodology or a framework.
Frameworks are not necessarily clearly defined within organizations, although there are some popular ones out there that organizations use. Overall, once a methodology is selected, agile advocates usually go for scrum or kanban, or align them with a set of internal processes that represent a custom-built framework.
While methodologies and frameworks offer ways to structure project management, they differ in flexibility, detail, and adaptability. Methodologies tend to be more prescriptive and are thus widely recognized, while frameworks offer more leeway for customization. The project context often dictates which is more suitable for a given situation.
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