Front End of What?
In Part 1 of this paper, we introduced Figure 1 that clearly showed a Project Life Cycle spanning in five phases from "Initiating" to "Closing", all preceded by a set of "Pre-project activities", see Figure 4.
Figure 4: Pre- and post-project activities attached to the Project life cycle
Amongst the project management literature at large, we do find extensive discussion of a "Front End" referred to as "Pre-project" or "Study" phase, clearly implying that this work is not a part of the project because it is done before the project gets going. Consequently, it is not a part of project management.
Well, why not?
At the same time there are also many case studies published describing "project failure", and frequently attributing that failure to some failure of the work at the project's "Front End", i.e., before the project "started". Indeed, Peter W.G. Morris, in an excellent conference article: Managing the front end, states categorically:
"There has long been a great deal of evidence that the front-end of projects is where things can go badly wrong and, conversely, where there is the best chance of a positively influencing the chances of a successful outcome. Our knowledge of just what this entails, however, has often been hazy and too often project managers have been excluded from this vital area."
So, if all these failures are reportedly resulting in the waste of millions of dollars annually, and we want to reduce that wastage, then why is this so-called front-end investment not included in the standards for project management practice?
We cannot presume to reduce this wastage if we do not tackle the problem at its source.
As an aside, it is interesting that while there has been little evidence in academic works of guidance of how to manage the "Front end" of the project life span, there has recently been more attention to the "Back-end", i.e., after the project has finished. Indeed, there have been suggestions that the responsibilities of the project organization should be extended beyond the delivery of a product asset of value, to the work of delivering the intended benefits.
6. Morris, P.W.G. (2005) Managing the front end: how project managers shape business strategy and manage project definition. Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2005 EMEA, Edinburgh, Scotland, Newton Square, PA: Project Management Institute.
7. It seems to me that this position is untenable since it is unlike managing a project, requires different skills, and trespasses into the field of Business as Usual.