Framework vs. Methodology: What Are the Differences?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 5 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Project managers typically implement both project management frameworks and methodologies to complete projects. Even though people use both these terminologies interchangeably, there are significant differences between both approaches. Learning the difference between the two and knowing when to use a framework or a methodology can help you plan, execute and complete projects effectively. In this article, we explore the difference between framework vs. methodology in project management, explain what each entails and offer tips on choosing between them.

Framework vs. methodology

The framework vs. methodology discussion begins with the understanding that, while a methodology gives detailed steps on how to finish a project, a framework provides a broader view of the project, including the resources and tools a project manager can use. Here are some of the other key differences between framework and methodology:

Definition

A project management framework refers to the combination of tools, tasks and processes a project manager uses to finish a project. Various aspects of a project fall under the project management framework, such as performance evaluation methods, the delegation of roles and tasks and project development. The project manager is responsible for organising the different elements and determining how they contribute to the project's goals and the resulting structure is the framework.

A project manager takes specific steps to attain their pre-defined goals and these steps define a project management methodology. The methodology aligns with the project managers' logic, values and mission and is also in harmony with whatever they might do for the successful completion of the project. Methodologies provide a systematic and detailed structure that the project management team may follow to accomplish their goals.

Risks and outcome

Two key differences between these project management concepts are the outcomes and risks that frameworks and methodologies encompass. Project management methodologies have a rigid structure, because of which their outcomes are consistent. This is why identifying trends is easier if you analyse similar projects from the past. For instance, if a project follows a particular methodology for performance review documentation, you can utilise the same one to create new hire documentation.

With a project methodology framework, the outcomes have less certainty and the risk level is higher. If you change the timeframes between the tasks within a framework, for example, it might directly impact employee productivity or the way they engage. The project managers with less experience typically find it easier to understand methodologies and the ones who have been in the field for longer learn to employ project management frameworks with time.

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Flexibility and creative approach

Since frameworks offer more flexibility in structure, they allow for better creativity than a methodology. Project teams have more flexibility to adjust their actions and use tools based on their strengths and weaknesses. In contrast, some methodologies may limit creativity and support success only when teams follow each step precisely. Due to this, methodologies might also demand more planning to prepare for each stage in your process. Unlike a framework, a methodology may require regular updates to project plans and frequent discussions to verify deliverable status.

Tracking metrics

While a framework is more flexible with regards to implementing metrics depending on the company's goals, a methodology has very specific criteria for metrics tracking. Whether it's performance metrics, necessary resources or turnaround times, a framework is more flexible regarding adjusting dates or adding in more employees from various departments to help with project completion. On project completion, you have more information on which individuals performed their tasks on schedule and budget if you allocate resources as the methodology prescribed.

How to choose a framework vs. methodology

Project managers choose a framework or methodology depending on what's best suited for the project. You might go for a framework that allows more flexibility or select a guided methodology. Projects with low stakes and small businesses or startups usually opt for frameworks, as it allows them to expand their knowledge and understand project parameters. Using a methodology might be more efficient for bigger and more established corporations. Project managers can use a mix of both methodologies and frameworks for their projects. Here are some steps you can take to choose between the two concepts:

1. Define your project

Determine what your project is and what goals you wish to achieve. List the size and timeline of the project and consider the risks and challenges your team members may encounter. Define what each individual's role is going to be and how many team members you might require to complete the project. To better handle the challenges that might arise during the project, discuss the risk parameters and mitigation strategies with your team members beforehand.

2. Identify the resources

Decide which type of resources are necessary to use to complete the project you're initiating. If you're venturing into a project where the responsibilities and resources are flexible, you might benefit from a framework. When your team consists of new members, you might prefer a methodology so that the resources and processes are more clearly defined.

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3. Evaluate your environment

Before you begin the project, it's essential to familiarise yourself with the work environment where you hope to achieve the particular goal. For example, some companies are more collaborative, while others have more independent workers. Evaluate the individual skills and talent of each resource and assign roles accordingly.

4. Select your approach

After you've evaluated the various parts of your project, you can then decide which project management approach is best for your project. While some companies go for either framework or methodology, some also apply a combination of both to achieve a favourable outcome. For instance, the waterfall method offers specific steps towards meeting a goal, but when using it as a framework, you may only consider specific steps that your project requires. Similarly, you may adopt a particular framework because you have a collaborative environment with a low risk of challenges, creating more significant opportunities for creative project approaches.

Examples of frameworks and methodologies

The following are some of the most popular types of project management frameworks and methodologies:

Waterfall model

The waterfall model is a linear project management methodology. In this approach, the project team determines the requirements of the customer and the stakeholder at the very beginning of the project, post which you develop a project plan to attain those goals. It's a thorough methodology often used in IT, construction and software development.

Agile project management

Agile is an iterative project management methodology that ensures a team acts upon the given feedback quickly and implements the changes at every step of the product cycle. Agile teams go through a cycle of planning, evaluating and implementing phases once the project starts. Therefore, constant collaboration is essential both with project stakeholders and group members.

Scrum

Scrum is a framework that encourages a team to work together. When a team is self-sufficient and cross-functional, they use Scrum, since this framework doesn't rely on an overall team leader and instead encourages the entire team to decide how to resolve an issue. This allows every team member to determine how an idea might travel from inception to implementation.

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Kanban

Kanban is a framework that falls under the Agile methodology that allows for flexibility in task management while also enhancing the workflow and pushing for constant improvements. It helps project managers to view the entire progress of a project at a single glance. This approach ensures an alignment between the capabilities of the team members and the amount of assigned work. The Kanban method uses the Kanban board, which lists tasks that the team is currently working on, the tasks to complete in the future and the tasks that are already complete.

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