The purpose of project management is to provide a structured framework for endeavoring to ensure that project goals are realized. It is a discipline with its roots in ancient times. From the construction of the pyramids to a NASA space shuttle launch, project management skills have been employed. But powerful new tools and techniques have been developed to refine the process in just the last 50 years.
Practicing the discipline of project management can be complex. This is due to the polysemic nature of the concept. Project management is a science, with its formal methods, processes, tools, certifications, metrics, and industry standards. Experts insist that it is also an art, where a good corporate project leader is fully engaged in the project vision, and in the organizational politics and people. In fact, the art of leading the people in the project is far more important than the science of the technical tools of the trade.
Project management is a rapidly growing field and is a very necessary part of our complex global society. Major projects all over the world now consume huge resources. Consider, for example, the completion in 2003 of the $22 Billion Three Gorges Dam in China, 18 years in the making. The classical skyline of the Golden Gate Bridge, four and a half years under construction, finished in 1937. Or the Empire State building, still an American icon, whose construction took only 16 months, was completed in 1931. These triumphs took immense project leadership skills!
Yet in contrast to gargantuan construction successes such as these, IT (Information Technology) projects are another story. According to a study by TechRepublic, an IT consultancy firm, nearly half of all IT projects end in failure and that bad news can get even worse. In an article by Steve Ulfelder, contributing writer for Darwin, an IT educational services website, he asserts that, "Fewer than a third of IT projects are completed on time, on budget and with the promised functionality" and some say a lot less. And along with these failures comes a very unfavorable impact to the bottom line.
1. Verzuh, Eric, The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, 1999
2. Bredillet, Professor Christophe. Killing the false gods of Project Management, Project Management & Economics Group UTS / ISGI Gpe ESC Lille - Lille Graduate School of Management,1999, & 17 July 2004 http://www.pmforum.org/library/papers/cbwhitepaper.htm
3. Douglas, Drew and Lisa Wahrmund, IT Project Failures Costly, TechRepublic Study Finds, TechRepublic, Corporate Technology Communications for TechRepublic, 17 November 2000, & 18 July 2004 http://www.xephon.com/news/00111702.html
4. Ulfelder, Steve, Six Ways IT Projects Fail-and How You Can Avoid Them, DarwinMag.com, 2001 & 17 July 2004 http://www.darwinmag.com/read/060101/dirty.html