Why Methodology Does Not Mean What You Think it Does

Executive Summary

  • The term “methodology” when “method” is appropriate.
  • We cover what these terms mean and their proper use.


The term methodology is used quite frequently on SAP and other consulting projects. In this article, we will dive into the word methodology to see if it means that users of the term imply that it means.

How is the Word Methodology Used?

A methodology is used to justify however a company wants to do something. Often you will hear a consulting company say they have a particular methodology, and this seems to have power over those that receive this message. SAP developed something called an ASAP methodology. The ASAP methodology had the following graphic that was popular in SAP presentations for years.

The only problem with this is that this approach is not unique to SAP. For instance, can there be a different sequence applied to systems implementation?

That is can “Realization” be performed before “Project Preparation”? Probably not right?

Read through the individual bullet points.

  • What is different here from any other systems implementation method or series of steps?
  • How is this methodology any different than any other method that was used to implement SAP before ASAP?

Nevertheless, the generic nature of the ASAP “Methodology” did not stop SAP from claiming that it sped SAP implementations.

We covered this topic in the article Did SAP’s ASAP Methodology Ever Reduce Project Timelines?

Each one of these cups of coffee was brewed using a methodology — at least according to the definition of methodology used by consulting companies. But they would have to have been, as, without a method, nothing can be produced. The very existence of an item requires a method to have produced it. This is true whether any human is involved in the process or if the process is a natural process. 

A World Brimming with Generic Implementation Methodologies

In our evaluation of multiple methodologies by SAP consulting companies, we could not find anything unique or interesting in any of them, as we cover in the article The Real Story on IT Implementation Methodologies.

Yet each of the consulting companies maintained that their methodology gave them a great advantage over other consulting companies.

The Word Methodology is (in The Vast Majority) of Cases Misused

  • People that use the word methodology typically use it because they have heard other people use it.
  • It is a problematic term not only because its users don’t know what it means but because there is a far more simple word that can be used that is also far more accurate. One should be suspicious of people who use words that are more advanced when a more simple word is both available and more accurate.

What Does the Word Methodology Mean?

The word methodology is the combination of two root words.

  1. Method: Is an approach, a pathway to accomplishing an objective.
  2. -ology: Latin for the study of a topic, or scientific discipline.

Therefore a methodology is the study of approaches and pathways to accomplish an objective.

Wikipedia has the following to say on methodology..

Methodology is the systematic, theoretical analysis of the methods applied to a field of study. It comprises the theoretical analysis of the body of methods and principles associated with a branch of knowledge.

Notice how Wikipedia switches to what a methodology isn’t, in the next paragraph.

A methodology does not (emphasis added) set out to provide solutions – it is, therefore, not the same as a method. Instead, a methodology offers the theoretical underpinning for understanding which method, set of methods, or best practices can be applied to specific case, for example, to calculate a specific result.

However, this is not what a consulting company offers customers when they state they have a methodology. They are not offering a study of methods of system implementation. As in, they offer a study of

  • A method versus..
  • B method versus..
  • C method, etc…

Instead, they are merely offering a method of accomplishing the objective.

For the usage of a word to have meaning, it means that the word can be reversed and also has a meaning. If the word cannot be reversed and make any sense, then there becomes little justification for the use of the word in a sentence. 

Using a Method as Opposed to What Exactly?

However, the usage of the term becomes particularly enigmatic if one were to attempt to reverse the term. So would a consulting company ever say they have no method of software implementation? Would a plumber state they apply no method to troubleshooting plumbing problems?

Apparently, this could not be proposed. It is assumed that anyone doing anything for some time, who is trained in a topic will apply some way of doing something, that is a method.

Therefore, why is the statement that one does have a method for accomplishing an objective considered to be a positive or something that needs to be stated? The question is not whether it exists (it does), but why it is good or the right method to use.

The response to this might be that the company has a particular methodology (methods), and it is better than other methodologies (methods), but how do we know that is true. Normally the entity trying to convince you of this will provide a long history of successful implementation of their methodology(method). But how do we know that is true? Much of the reason for using the term methodology is to make it seem more proven than it is. Instead of using a fake word, the proposer should explain why the particular method is good using logic.

It’s always instructive to observe who is using a term. For example, a person who uses the term digital transformation is normally in sales, and will not be actually doing the work. The term methodology is also often used by people that won’t be doing the work. 

Who Uses the Term Methodology in IT?

  • The companies that tend to use the term methodology the most, such as the large consulting companies like Accenture and Deloitte tend to frequently deceive their clients as to the work they actually do. Upon evaluating a large number of methodologies in the large consulting companies, we found nothing unique to advantageous in any of them as we covered in the article The Real Story on IT Implementation Methodologies.
  • SAP introduced a methodology, called ASAP, that did nothing to help attain the stated goal of the methodology, which was to implement SAP faster. I say it was the stated goal, as it is debatable as to whether it was the actual goal. The actual goal now appears to have been to convince prospects that the implementation would be faster and cost less than it would end up being. That is the real purpose of the methodology was marketing and sales advantage and had nothing to do with implementation.

The companies that use the term methodology, and how little they have any impact on the implementations of software, brings up the question of whether methodologies are primarily developed for sales purposes.

This Deloitte partner would like to discuss his “SAP implementation methodology” with you. It ends up with all of your company’s money in his pocket. 

Big Consulting Company Methodology = $$$?

Analyzing the Deloitte methodology for SAP implementation, it was clear that it was simply an excuse to place as many Deloitte services into the methodology as possible.

Therefore, the result of following the Deloitte methodologies was to buy basically everything that Deloitte offered in its SAP practice and other services from other practices. But that is hardly an implementation method, it is a method of income maximization. One has to ask, is this a methodology for the customer, or a methodology for the optimization of Deloitte’s bank account?


The use of the word methodology to describe what is in fact merely a method has a very obvious and specific purpose.

  1. Pretentious Usage: It is to gain the prestige of using a word which sounds more advanced than what the actual thing is that is being provided.
  2. An Evidence-Free Claim of Superiority: A second problem with the use of the term methodology is that while it intends to signal value to the message recipient, it provides no evidence that the methodology is a good one. In fact, it attempts to prestige signal as a way to ameliorate any need to provide evidence of benefit.

Not to be outdone by consulting companies, we developed our methodology.

The Brightwork Methodology for Combining High-Speed Driving and Communication

I will outline a method for communicating while driving.

  1. Start the engine to a big rig truck.
  2. Direct the truck to the highway
  3. Bring the truck to 75 MPH and set the cruise control
  4. Unlock your cell phone
  5. Begin texting friends on the cell phone while steadying the wheel with your knees.
  6. Use as many emojis in the texts as possible (increases symbol search time and the time your eyes will be off of the road but has proportional enhanced pleasure for the text recipients and general message engagement)

This is undoubtedly a method of communicating while driving. However is it a good method?


Does the fact that the method exists make it good?

Again no.

One should never be impressed with the statement that some entity has some methodology. First, they don’t offer you a methodology (they offer a method), but second, this does not provide evidence that the method employed is a good one. Thirdly, it is better if the people you are listening to know what the words they are using mean, rather than repeating what someone told them.

In most cases, the person making this statement does not know what the word they are using means.

Financial Disclosure

Financial Bias Disclosure

Neither this article nor any other article on the Brightwork website is paid for by a software vendor, including Oracle, SAP or their competitors. As part of our commitment to publishing independent, unbiased research; no paid media placements, commissions or incentives of any nature are allowed.

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