Project Management in the Future
PMWT: Now the big question, where is project management headed? What does the future of project management hold in store? Where will it be in 5, 10 or 20 years?
Max: Surprisingly, in the short term I don't think that is such a difficult question to answer. In the long term it is more problematical. No matter how much I polish my crystal ball, it's pretty fuzzy around the back. Maybe I need a crystal ball upgrade?
In the shorter term, that question was answered in a very perceptive presentation by David Cleland about ten years ago at a PMI Seminar/Symposium (to the neophytes, that is a "PMI Congress"!) David observed that every preference, fashion or technology goes through a life span that takes the form of the classic S-curve. It starts off slowly, gradually gathering momentum, travels at its highest speed for a while and finally slows down, withers and dies - as some new, new idea takes its place, following exactly the same pattern.
We've seen this in the stone age, followed by the bronze age, the iron age and now the plastics age and so on. Exactly the same can be said of strategic concepts like management and project management. Right now, project management is clearly on a roll. About twenty years ago, when the membership of PMI was around 6,000, I publicly predicted, based on some mathematical projections, that the potential membership peak would be around 450,000. Today, PMI is only half way there, so obviously PMI still has someway to go.
But it is time to see something new emerging. And in fact, I think we do. We
see the rise of project portfolio management. Try as hard as some might, to see
project portfolio management as an extension of project management is impossible
when in fact it is the other way round. Project portfolio management will subsume
project management - at least in the burgeoning field of information technology
projects. Anyone who disputes that should first read my recent paper on the subject
of project portfolio management and examine the project portfolio management life
cycle (and, yes, I do mean "cycle!) You can read it here: http://www.maxwideman.com/papers/ten_step/intro.htm.
So, I don't think we'll ever see project management as a legally and publicly recognized "profession", though people engaged in project management will undoubtedly be expected to act professionally. But as Dr. Paul Giammalvo has so clearly demonstrated, project management is simply a craft, a discipline. That news will be bad tidings for some, but let's not kid ourselves.
My trusted crystal ball is also displaying a lot of other things, but they are only indirectly related to the topic of project management. Rather they are pointing to significant things like changes in political power, changes in population numbers and even changes in how we apply our economic concepts, to say nothing of religious attitudes. These will create a very different world from the one we live in today. There will be great shortages, particularly of land and fresh water and, as a consequence, even greater strife in the world. Conditions that cannot be realistically solved by technology, let alone project management.
And in the mean time, project management will simply become one of our important life skills for about 60% of the population. The other 40% will continue to muddle along as usual.