Published here November, 2003.

Introduction | First Impressions | Shifts in Focus
Comments on Other Chapters | Downside | Summary

Shifts in Focus in 25 Years

Major shifts in focus between the two editions of the book over the last quarter century include:

From the two Key Concepts of '76

  • The project manager's role as the "single point of integrative responsibility" and
  • "Integrative Planning and control"[1]

To three basic project management concepts of '03

  • "Points of integrative responsibility" as "several levels"
  • "Integrative and predictive project planning and control" and
  • Managing "the project team to integrate the efforts of all contributors"[2]

This suggests that the project manager is no longer the great single-minded and single-handed orchestrator of resources (and possible communication bottle neck) but rather suggests that integration responsibility is divided amongst leaders on several levels (with the inevitable difficulties of the matrix environment.) Such is the reality of today's projects!

Indeed, "project manager as the project interface manager" is the buzz phrase of chapter 13, '03.[3] The chapter describes the way that "contributing functional managers, project leaders, specialists (including outside contractors, consultants, vendors, and other); and the senior managers to whom these people report"[4] are coordinated. Russ goes on to define various meanings for the word "interface" with the focus of his book more on "the interaction between phases of a project" identified "through input-output analysis".[5] This leads to new material describing the importance of designing and documenting the project life-cycle processes that should be followed during the life of the project so that it can be duplicated and continually improved on future projects.[6] This in turn leads to a discussion of different types of project and appropriate "gates" between their major phases.[7] These are welcome developments.

Another shift is from the term "program" as "A long-term undertaking usually made up of more than one project [or] used synonymously with 'project'",[8] to programs and projects as strategic investments "managed on a portfolio basis".[9] This introduces today's fascination with portfolio management and concomitant advice on multi-project management under the direction of an enterprise-wide project management office, discussed extensively in chapters 7 and 8.[10]

A new chapter 5 provides emphasis on systems, tools and methods for integrative "predictive" project planning and control. As Russ says

"Predictive means that the system forecasts what will happen in the future based on the current plans and estimates, with actual physical progress and reported expenditures constantly updating the schedule and cost forecasts and comparing these with authorized baseline budgets and schedules."[11]

Personally, we have never encountered any software system that successfully achieves this goal without human oversight and intervention. Further, the idea of forecasting to completion has been around since early project management. Still, special emphasis on the future and what can be managed as distinct from the classic status reports of perennial past performance, is most welcome.

Certainly, computer-supported project management information systems and powerful desktop software are new technological developments since the first edition. But choosing the right software in a rapidly changing market supply, when an organization requires stability in its information resource, is a real challenge.

Another development since 1976 is the importance of team planning and project startup discussed in chapter 11. Again, as Russ says

"In recent years, the importance of the multidisciplinary project team has been recognized more widely and the power of project team planning has been discovered by many practitioners. This is becoming evident in the increased emphasis on systematic project startup using team planning workshops at the beginning of each phase of the project life cycle."[12]

Whether or not any of this is really new since 1976, or just a shift in emphasis, is perhaps debatable. Still, we do think that these changes are representative of the direction of project management as a whole.

First Impressions  First Impressions

1. Archibald, R. A., Managing High-Technology Programs and Projects ('76), Wiley, NY, 1976, p4.
2. Archibald, R. A., Managing High-Technology Programs and Projects ('03), Wiley, NY, 2003, p19.
3. '03 p331.
4. '03 p330.
5. '03 p332.
6. '03 p41.
7. '03 pp44-48.
8. '76, p18.
9. '03, p11.
10. '03, pp145-198.
11. '03, p107.
12. '03 p280.
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