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A sequential project management methodology is a traditional approach to project management. It minimizes risk, but this conservative approach can be lengthy and expensive.
A sequential project management methodology is a traditional approach to project management. It minimizes risk, but the conservative approach can be lengthy and expensive.
When to Use Sequential Methodology
A sequential approach is appropriate for high risk projects. By high risk, we mean ones where people die and property is destroyed if the project gets it wrong. In these cases, a careful and thorough risk analysis should be done at each project stage.
A sequential methodology normally divides the project work up by functions. Each function will do their project activity and then pass the project on to the next function. This sometimes is referred to as “throwing it over the wall.” The project management approach determines the best sequence in which to do each function’s work. It also develops standards and best practices to be followed by each function. An illustration of this approach is shown below for a generic software development project.
This approach is characterized by each discipline taking responsibility for their part of the project and managing that well to reduce and eliminate technical risk.
The advantages of this approach are that it does minimize risk. That is the whole focus of this approach. In addition this is the easiest approach to project manage. There is only one group doing work at a time so communication and coordination is easy. That group is clearly responsible for project progress and they are striving to achieve technical excellence.
But there are some weaknesses with this approach. For starters it usually takes a long time and has a high project cost. Since an organization does not start until the previous organization is finished, a delay in one group cascades all the way through the project. Also, as one group is making decisions to reduce technical risk it is often at the expense of adding cost for another group. The heavy reliance on documentation (remember, the team members don’t talk to each other, they just throw things over the wall) can often lead to misunderstanding as the terms and jargon of one department are misunderstood by others. All of these problems come home to roost with the final stage which is integration and test. This stage often uncovers problems and then it is difficult to get the other groups to re-engage and work on them. Another by-product of this approach is that the systems are safe, but they are often expensive to maintain and operate.
Hints and Tips
- Even though each group is working independently, the project manager should still strive to share communication, requirements and status to reduce the likelihood of misunderstanding.
- The use of a requirements traceability matrix is very helpful when using this approach. This technique will reduce the likelihood of a requirements being missed or misunderstood.
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PMI, PMP, CAPM and PMBOK are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.