This massive paper was first published on line April 8, 2019, by Production Planning & Control, Taylor & Francis Group.
This systematic literature review (The Report) is the copyright property of the authors.
The original maybe found at 09537287.2019.1594429
The edited extracts and opinions expressed here are strictly those of Max Wideman.
Published here September 2020

Introduction | Original Structure of the Report | What is the Front-End?
Why is the Front-End Important? | What Are the Roles and Responsibilities in the Front-End?
What Should the Front-End Embody? | Project Selection and Go/No-Go Decisions
Other Topics Covered in the Report


Last month,[1] August, we published Part 2 of my paper When Does a Project Actually Start? In it I observed:

"In this Part 2, I try to find some solid information on what that "Front End" should involve and when does it occur relative to the question: When does a project actually start? In this way, I hope to draw attention to what I believe to be one of the most important gaps in our knowledge of the typical project management methodology."

Then, lo and behold, this massive research report of some 30,000 words on the subject of The front-end of projects was brought to my attention. This thoroughly-researched paper proves to be the answer to the very questions I was asking and even more firmly convinces me that we've got the starting point of the project life span (cycle) all wrong. The start of the project life span should[2] include all front-end activities, even if the particular project is subsequently abandoned. After all, the span of the project life cycle should be the life of the project — not just the life of the project manager!

Important Note: The Report presents itself as applicable to all projects. However, many of our extracts from The Report have been edited to facilitate continuity and easy web reading. Nevertheless, the research reported on suggests to us that the findings are essentially based on, and for, medium to large projects involving significant infrastructure in the construction sector.

The objectives of the authors' report[3]

The dedicated literature on the front-end is sparse: although the front-end has been shown to be critical to the strategic success of the project, this phase of the lifecycle is not well understood. This paper presents the literature on the concept of the front-end, and defines a temporarily ordered structure of generic processes that form the "front-end" and how these fit together as a coherent whole.

Max's approach to this commentary

Instead of a typical "book review" type commentary, I have chosen instead to simply extract what I believe to be major examples, together with comments, of the work to be expected in the front-end. If you like, it is the homework that should be conducted, before launching the actual creation of the intended asset. Because the reduction of a 30,000‑word document to one of a mere 4,000 is a significant challenge, I have chosen to omit all cross references to the papers covered in the study. For appropriate references, please refer to the original document in the link provided.

Hence the target audiences for these extracts and comments are project managers in general and project management educators and standards creators in particular. To facilitate easy on‑line reading I have found it necessary to do a certain amount of editing, rather than making direct quotes.

About the authors[4]

  • Terry Williams, Risk Institute, University of Hull, Hull, UK. Terry worked in Operational Research (OR) for 9 years in the defence industry later specializing project risk management. He has worked in three business schools, firstly Strathclyde then as head of the school in Southampton University and Dean of the Hull University Business School.
  • Hang Vos, also of the Risk Institute, University of Hull, Hull, UK. Hang Vo received her Master degree in Banking and Finance from the University of Sheffield in 2013. She worked in the banking and financial sector for three years before becoming attracted to the world of project management.
  • Knut Samsets, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway. Knut is professor in project management at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and director of the Concept research program. He is the author of numerous textbooks and scientific papers on project planning, evaluation, technology assessment and future studies.
  • Andrew Edkinss, The Bartlett School of Construction & Project Management, University College London, London, UK. Andrew Edkins is the inaugural Director of the Bartlett Real Estate Institute that is located in a bespoke executive education suite at Here East on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford. Andrew's research background is in complex project in or associated with the built environment

1. August, 2020
2. Must include?
3. The front-end of projects: a systematic literature review and structuring — see authors and link in sidebar. An extract from Section 1, p1
4. Ibid, Notes on Contributors, p20
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