Published here April 2019


Musings Index

Project Management - A Look into the Future

Back in late 2017, I started a set of notes on what I thought we might expect of project management in the future. These thoughts were based on the work of several authors of the day contributing to this web site. Well, that was eighteen months ago. Since then, I think we have certainly seen change, but not particularly in the mode of project management operations. What I think we have learned is how far off the rails project management seems to be, compare to where it should be.

Of course, that's in my humble opinion, but maybe I'm wrong. Dear reader, what do you think? And do let me know.

Meantime, remember that what follows was essentially drafted eighteen months ago.

What can we expect?

In my recent web site postings [in 1917], I have been able to present some interesting forecasts. For example:

  • (October) — I reviewed Tom Kendrick's book: High Impact Techniques for Handling Project Workflow. In it, Tom advocates applying the concepts of Program Management, rather than Project Management for projects above a certain size and complexity.
  • (November) — Oliver Lehman writes a paper: Project Business Management: The forgotten Knowledge Area. In it he postulates recognition of the distinction between In-house projects and Projects under Contract, two very different working environments. The big difference is the matter of "Procurement" and all its legal implications, including profit motive.
  • Stephan Aarstol's writes about his introduction in his company: The Five Hour Workday, Live Differently, Unlock Productivity, and Find Happiness.

For myself, I see the need to officially re-define the term "Project Management" as representing the whole range of project activities literally from "Project Governance" at the top, through "Project Portfolio Management and Program Management, down to PM Tools and Techniques. If we do that, then we need a more specific name for managing the individual project. How about "Single Project Management" or SPM? Or perhaps "Project-specific Management" that would be PsM? Surely, our project management community can come up with a suitable label — especially one that is self-evident in most foreign languages.

Then, how about our PM academics and trainers collectively asserting the difference between Program or Single Project Management and the Management of Product Development. The processes for the former are fairly well established and are relatively consistent among most types of project. However, the processes for the latter are very Product Dependent, and each requires different training and experience. And that training and experience varies widely between different industries.

That is why I have attempted to illustrate this by dividing up the collection of terms in my extensive Glossary of Project Management Terms to try and identify how the language for different products might differ. The best way to see this is to go to the chart on this page:

In the Industry/Product Sector (Area of PM Application) part of that chart you can also imagine the significantly different levels of sophistication of project management activities ranging from construction at the relatively low end up to Hi-Tech type projects. (Trip to the moon anyone?)

Given these various scenarios, I think a strong case can be made for developing a simple area of learning that covers How to Design Strong Project Life-Span (cycle) Phases for purposes of Effective and Efficient Management of a set of Generic Classes of Products. No doubt, the results of such an exercise will be very dependent on the governance requirements of the respective organizations in which these project management initiatives actually take place.

Where does all of this point? I suggest we shall see:

  • A big increase in the number of project management specialists working in the different areas I have identified.
  • PM Specialists either working completely independently, or at least working in specialist groups.
  • A significant increase in the speed of project execution throughout the Life-Span because of what's at stake in each domain and a better understanding of what's at stake.
  • A legal framework, or at least generally accepted standards by which project management is generally conducted, like the professions of engineering, architecture, and so on.

In my lifetime? Well, probably not.

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