Project Management Evolution
Project management naming and methodology conventions, including project related job functions, were around for decades and supersede our generation. It is unthinkable that the imposing pyramids of the ancient world could have been erected without formal processes of some nature. These and other historical landmarks such as the Eiffel tower and large medieval cathedrals that are today still admired for their precision, quality of workmanship and aesthetics are of such magnitude that they must have required expert planning and onsite and offsite coordination of incredible dimensions. We can safely say that they were successfully completed without the smart methodologies of today. It can be argued that our ancient predecessors had time on their side and perhaps did not have cost pressures. This may have been the case for the pyramids, but other projects such as the Eiffel tower and the Statue of Liberty that were erected by Gustave Eiffel reportedly had tight budgets and cost lines. We do know that they had to master the art of what is today called “project management”.
There are early examples of the use of tools to facilitate process, product and productivity improvement. Henry Gantt developed the Gantt chart approach as early as 1917. The Critical Path Method (CPM) was developed by the DuPont Company in 1957. The 60’s marked change as the internationally accredited PMI (Project Management Institute) and the IPMA (International Project Management Association) were established. It was the start of a new era during which project managers became acknowledged for their contribution and workers in the profession gained self-respect and commanded the respect of business leaders. Intricate project toolsets and transformed processes coupled with automated reporting systems were being implemented and led to increased organisational effectiveness and efficiency. Methodologies such as the “Theory of Constraints” and “Six Sigma” were being employed to isolate and correct important limiting factors in production.
Business leaders increasingly depended on their organisations to support key strategies with predictable delivery of project outcomes in an environment of constrained resources and increasing competitive pressure. The “Third” and “Fourth” Industrial Revolutions demanded expedited delivery of innovation and implementation of breakthrough change in a non-linear world. Innovation capability became a core asset and businesses needed to make informed project investment decisions. Project portfolio management and the project management office (PMO) became an essential tool for success.
In my experience and in today’s world, organisations that rely on projects and programmes to deliver their strategies elevate project governance and rational project priorisation and execution to the highest level in their organisations. To them there is a direct correlation between strategies, financing, budgeting and project planning and prioritisation. These organisations see value in having a solid PMO and are not averse to investing therein. They conclude very quickly that a flexible PMO approach and a blend of methodologies is a better solution. It is not foreign to find them using elements of one or more methodologies such as Waterfall, Six Sigma, Agile, Prince and others. Organisations that do not have a similar strategic requirement for projects and who rely on projects only to deliver a supporting rather than an integrated role often establish PMOs simply to disband them when the project workload decreases.
It is my contention that in today’s unpredictable business environment with more stringent demands from shareholders and where supporting functions come under the spotlight, PMOs, to be sustainable must show evidence that they effectively contribute to the bottom-line and success of the organisation. In addition to rolling out successful projects, PMOs must provide the highest governance bodies and forums with appropriately and trusted portfolio reports to guide them in their management and strategic oversight roles and to facilitate good decision-making. In summary, PMOs must measure, articulated and communicate their value to bottom-line at all levels or face extinction.
Published at pmmagazine.net with the consent of Eileen Marx