Your monthly dose of insightful Project Management articles

Your monthly dose of Project Management articles.

Old versus New Project Management


I love the theme of old versus new project management because it gives us a chance to reflect how our profession continues to evolve. I am actively leading a number of global programs and it is clear that what is expected of me has changed in the 30 years  since I started as a business analyst/junior PM. I think there are 3 key differences:

  1. Emphasis on benefits
  2. Integration of change management into my project plans
  3. Impact of Agile on my relationship with my users

Emphasis on benefits

One of the reasons I have such a successful project management career is my ability to expertly define requirements, coming from my background as a business analyst. However, this skill is far less relevant today.

Now I need my analytical skills to help my customers describe the outcomes and benefits they want to achieve. I also need to guide them through criteria to prioritise these outcomes and use these to evaluate the scope of the project.

I think this is much more demanding than running requirements gathering sessions where "users" would tell me what had to be delivered and it was my job to create a plan that included all of the activities needed to deliver all of the requirements.

If we start with the end in mind (benefits) then by implication, we need to be prepared to experiment to discover those outputs that will realise the greatest business value. I think a scientific mindset, capable of defining a hypothesis and creating an experiment to achieve the desired results is a whole new skill set of modern project management.

Integration of change management into my project plans

I must be honest, 30 years ago change management wasn't even on my horizon as a PM. My role was successful delivery, on time, on budget, meeting all the test criteria. Implementation and successful adoption were something that happened in the business and was nothing to do with the project team. We might be asked for a user guide, and we might train up a few super users but that is where our responsibilities ended. 

Now I don't think you can call yourself a successful PM unless you create an integrated delivery and implementation plan. I might not be fully responsible for all the activities needed to bring my project deliverables into use, but the project plan should include them to show the handover points between the creators and the implementors, especially in Agile projects where this is a regular and frequent event.

Impact of Agile on my relationship with my users

Firstly, they are no longer users - they are my customers, or they are "the business". You might not think a name change is important, but the term Users implies a dependency that I don't think exists anymore. As a PM I serve my customers, but our relationship is that of collaborators and partners.

If we are to achieve the benefits and not just an on-time handover of deliverables, then we have to work together. I now regard SMEs from the business as a key part of my project team, involving them in planning, progress meetings, risk and issue management and testing.

I have always worked with my users, but the emphasis used to be on telling them information, reassuring them everything was under control and giving them completed work. Now the emphasis is on involving them to problem solve and to share the responsibility for getting things done, especially for creating the environment for adopting the project deliverables.

I think this creates a management challenge. The skills needed to lead a dedicated project team, all committed to successful delivery is different to collaborating with resources who are balancing their involvement in the project with heavy responsibilities for "business as usual".

I need to be much more flexible in including their contributions into the project plan, recognising that I am likely to get only half of anytime they promise to the project because of these other demands on their time.


Wow, writing this makes me realise how the role of PM has been expanding by stealth over the years and is far more wide ranging and far more demanding than it has ever been.


Maybe this edition of the magazine is a good point to step back and congratulate ourselves for coping with such a demanding role.

Exclusive 💬

Melanie Franklin

About author

Making the case for Portfolio Management

Melanie Franklin is a globally recognized thought leader in change management who has effected business change programmes across public and private sector organizations. Based in London, UK, she is the Director of Agile Change Management Ltd and Founder of the Continuous Change Community. An impressive array of clients in Europe, the US and the Middle East benefit from her unique insights into change. She designs and runs in-house programs to develop skills in change and transformation and advises boards on strategies for change. She is Chief Examiner for the Agile Change Agent qualification from APMG International and works for several professional bodies to help grow the consulting and change management professions. She is the author of several publications and a regular keynote speaker at various conferences worldwide.
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