We are Not Alone in This Endeavour
We have identified one particular reason for developing a PMKS, but are there others? After all, the journey could be long and fraught with obstacles. So, is there any other potential for a PMKS, other needs and opportunities? The history of analogous attempts is worth recounting briefly.
As early as 1668, the English philosopher John Wilkins presented a universal classification scheme to London's Royal Society. His scheme neatly divided all of reality into forty root categories, including things; called 'transcendental', 'discourse' and 'beasts'. The knowledge classification dream continued and peaked in popularity during the 18th century but, today, Wilkin's system is remembered only as an example of the arbitrariness of attempts to classify knowledge. Still, some attempts have continued even in this century. The Project Management Institute's 1987 Project Management Body of Knowledge was an attempt to capture a specialized area of knowledge in a similar way.
Just recently, however, the long moribund fields of knowledge organization have re-emerged. The reason, of course, is the Internet Web-that mass of distributed and disparate information which is such a powerful information source, if only we know what to look for and how to find it. And let us not underestimate its value. It is claimed that by the end of 1998, the Web could contain more words than the whole of the Library of Congress!
Some recent attempts to organize that information are startling reminiscent of John Wilkin's attempts more than three hundred years ago. But there is a difference. The most popular sites on the Web today are those - like the Yahoo! or AltaVista search engine sites - that attempt to exert some kind of order on this otherwise anarchic collection of information. These powerful search engines provide the tools to extract long lists of data sources, but these lists are often so overwhelming that we are little further ahead, unless we can narrow the search by specifying several related topics as constraints. Interestingly, after producing the results of its search, AltaVista provides access to a context-sensitive thesaurus-like hierarchy of words that can be included or excluded to further refine the search.
Suddenly, the hard problems of knowledge classification and indexing are of commercial importance! So, perhaps the most important opportunity for a PMKS is to facilitate rapid identification of needed information. A consistent grouping of subject matter would also be helpful to practitioners and educators alike for practice, training, education and research. It could be very helpful in conveying an integrated understanding of PM. Even identifying a realistic scope of project management for professional purposes would be a significant step forward.
1. Wideman, R. M., developer of the Project Management Body of Knowledge of the Project Management Institute, approved March 1987.