Published here April 2013.

Introduction | The Basic Proposition
Managing the Product Versus Managing the Project | Summary | PART 2

Managing the Product Versus Managing the Project

Level 1a

At Level 1a we see the basic management of the project being laid out and determined according to the domain area of the product. In other words it concerns the design of a Project Life Span that satisfies the control requirements of the technology involved. For example, a project in the domain of engineering-procurement-construction will go through a number of phases and stages such as those shown in Figure 4.[10]

Figure 4: Typical construction project bar chart
Figure 4: Typical construction project bar chart

In contrast, an IT or similar project will go through a different set of phases and stages. That is, with or without identifying similar major milestones, such projects often include stages involving iteration associated with the technology, and generally over a relatively shorter time span, see Figure 5.[11]

Figure 5: Typical information systems project bar chart
Figure 5: Typical information systems project bar chart

In short, Level 1a is the management of the technology involved.

Level 1b

At Level 1b we have the management of the specific project as exemplified by the contents of The PMBOK® Guide. As an aside, while this document's full title is "A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge" the contents are actually a guide to the management of a single project, which is not the same thing!

If anyone is in any doubt about the existence of these two distinct levels, the PMBOK® Guide itself says (and has consistently said from its first edition):

"The project processes are performed by the project team with stakeholder interaction and generally fall into one of two major categories:

  • Project management processes. These processes ensure the effective flow of the project throughout its life cycle. These processes encompass the tools and techniques involved in applying the skills and capabilities described in the Knowledge Areas (Sections 4 through 13).
  • Product-oriented processes. These processes specify and create the project's product. Product-oriented processes are typically defined by the project life cycle (as discussed in Section 2.4) and vary by application area as well as the phase of the product lifecycle. The scope of the project cannot be defined without some basic understanding of how to create the specified product. For example, various construction techniques and tools need to be considered when determining the overall complexity of the house to be built.

The The PMBOK® Guide describes only the project management processes. Although product-oriented processes are outside the scope of this document, they should not be ignored by the project manager and project team. Project management processes and product-oriented processes overlap and interact throughout the life of a project."[12]

Regrettably, these two distinct categories appear to be almost entirely overlooked by the project management community, including academia, so that the two Levels are inadvertently discussed together and then people wonder why there are so many dissenting views on the subject of managing projects!

The Basic Proposition  The Basic Proposition

10. Wideman, R. Max, A Management Framework for Project, Program and Portfolio Integration, Trafford, USA, 2004, Figure 5-10, p58
11. Ibid, Figure 5-12, p59
12. PMBOK® Guide Fifth Edition, Project Management Institute, Philadelphia, USA, 2013, Section 3, pp47-48
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