Historical Developments On Project Management

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A project is a temporary endeavor to create a unique product, service or result. The temporary nature of projects creates a defining beginning and end. Project management is the application of knowledge, skills and tools and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirement. Project is accomplished through appropriate application and integration of different process groups.

A project fills an essential need in society. Indeed, projects are the major mode in which change is accomplished. It is the mode in which corporate strategy is implemented, business change is addressed, productive teams and their necessary competencies are dealt with, quality of deliverables, and tracking pre-established metrics for management's decision making, as well as closing out a project and creating lessons learned are performed.

Historical Developments on project management

Pre - 1950 Era

The project management is now in its modern form. There has been some form of projects since early civilization. The hard system approach which treated the project as mechanical activity has shown to be flawed. Earlier endeavors were seen as acts of worship, engineering or nation building. And the people controlling the Endeavour saw themselves as members of groups focused on specific calling such as generals, priests and architects. Examples of such endeavors are the Great Pyramids and the construction of the Great Wall of China. Small and large scale projects were undertaken before the 1950. Near the turn of 20th century Fredrick Taylor known as the Father of Scientific Management began his detailed studies in 1856-1915. He applied scientific reasoning to work by showing that labor can be analyzed and improved by focusing on its elementary parts. Another one of the forefathers of project management was Henry Gantt who is best known for creating his self named scheduling diagram, the Gantt chart. It was a unique idea and innovation at that time. One of its first applications was on the Hoover Dam project which started in 1931. Gantt diagrams are today an important toolkit for the project managers.

1950s Era

The nature of project management was evolved during the 1950s. Formal tools and techniques were developed to help managers' manage large and complex projects that were uncertain and risky. Early practitioners of project mangers and the associated specialties of planning, scheduling, cost estimating, cost and schedule control formed during the AACE in 1956. In 1957, the chemical manufacturer developed the Critical Path Analysis (CPM) method for predicting, scheduling, and sequencing of activities in logical order. Furthermore, DuPont designed it to address the complex process of shutting down chemical plants for maintenance and then with maintenance completed restarting them. In 1958 the United States Departments US navy special projects developed PERT as a part of planning Ballistic missile development. PERT is a method used for analyzing the tasks involved in completing a project and especially the time needed to complete each task and identifying the minimum time needed to complete the total project. The United States department of defense created the Work Break down Structure Concept as a part of the Polaris mobile submarine launched ballistic missile project. The work breakdown structure remains one of the most effective project management tools. It helps in organizing and defining total scope of the project and as well as represent the work specified in current approved project scope statement.

In 1965 The International Project Management Association (IPMA) was founded. It was the world first project management Association. Its vision is to promote project management and lead development of the profession. In 1969 PMI was founded to promote and support project management profession. Beginning in 1981, the Project Management Institute (PMI) took formal steps to accumulate and codify relevant knowledge by initiating the development of what became their Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). The perceived need to do so arose from the PMI's long-term commitment to the professionalization of project management. `

The PMI book was an attempt to document and standardize accepted project information and practices. The first edition was established in 1996 followed second edition in 2000, and third edition in 2004.

In 1989 PRINCE method was published by CCTA. Project IN Controlled Environment (PRINCE) became the UK standard for managing all government system projects.

1990 -2008 Era

In 1996, PRINCE2 was published by CCTA (Projects IN Controlled Environments) and it is a structured method for managing small and large projects. It is the accepted standard for the UK government's Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) and was revised in1996.As a standard for project management; it is widely used in the IT industry and is finding application in other sectors.

In 1986 Theory of Constraints (TOC) was introduced by Dr. Eliyahu M & Goldratt in his Novel "The Goal". TOC is an overall management philosophy that is geared to help the organization to achieve their goal. The methods and algorithms from TOC went on to form the basis of Critical Chain Project Management. Also the critical chain project method is helpful in resource leveling and it focus is on managing resources that are required to execute the project.

In 1998, PMBOK became well recognized by the American National Standard Institute and as well as by Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. In 2006, Total Cost of Management Framework was released by AACE International. It is the process for applying the skills and knowledge of cost of engineering.

Up to 2008 PMBOK is the recognized standard for the project management profession. A standard is formal document that has described and established norms, methods and processes and practices. The knowledge contained in this standard evolved from the recognized good practices of project management practitioners who contributed to develop the standard.


In its 50th year, the profession of ‘modern project management' is facing many challenges and opportunities. The boundaries of our technology are merging into a range of other disciplines including communications, general management and corporate governance and arguably everything could be a project. One dimension of the challenges faced by the profession of project management is defined by its success. Almost every organization wants to be seen to be ‘doing projects'. Projects are viewed as an important part of their endeavors to remain competitive in rapidly changing world.

Project management is now an advanced and specialized branch of management. At this stage, project management emphasizes on the strategic role of projects, especially those processes that the project manager must put in place to deliver the end objective of the project and satisfy the needs of all the project's customers. In this new approach, project managers become project integrators, responsible for integrating the required resources, knowledge, and processes from the project's beginning to end. In particular, the ready availability of technology (especially communications technology) has led to the emergence of virtual teams as a means of running projects.

Similarly, there has been considerable development of powerful project planning and software and the computer processing power to support it. Both of these have the potential to change the way that we work in projects.

Furthermore role of project manager has significantly changed over the couple of decades. The project manager is the person assigned by the performing organization to achieve the project objectives. He is responsible for monitoring and coordinating activities throughout the organization. As in order to stay alive in the cut throat competition manager needs to be proactive and think strategically. It is the great responsibility of project managers to ensure quality of deliverables of the project. He must look and seek opportunities from the market demand. He must identify the weak links and identify all possible constraints that result in delay of project deliverables. Furthermore project managers must have area - specific skills and general management proficiencies that are required for the timely and quality deliverables of the project.

Future Challenges

The future of project management is predicted to be one that focuses on the skills needed to motivate, direct and lead the people that make up the project team to achieve the project's goal whilst realizing the fact that nothing is certain. The competent project manager will be expecting uncertainty and will ensure his project management systems to provide as much early warning as possible of impending changes so as to give maximum possible time to optimize results and achieve stated objectives. Tools such as the project schedule will need to be predictive and help in pro-active decision making rather than reactive. The key skill set of the competent project manager will be identifying and managing stakeholder expectations. The purpose of documents such as project schedules and cost plans will be redefined from ‘control documents' to ‘communication documents'. The paradox is that by dropping the false expectation of control and certainty, the skilled project managers are likely to consistently deliver more predictable and reliable project outcomes. In summary, all the main issues faced by project managers are as follows:

Strategy - In future, the role of strategy will be more explicitly recognized by organizations, resulting in an increase in the use of devices such as the aggregate project plan. This will reduce conflict within and between organizations.

Structure - At present it is common for organizations to fail to balance the importance of a project with the structure used for it. As project management asserts itself as of importance within organizations, more appropriate structures will be used. Furthermore, organizations will have to begin working outside the existing structures - using hybrids and new structures of their own to achieve their objectives.

Systems - we will continue to see an increase in the visibility of project systems, with visual control being the driver. There is a challenge for IT providers to produce project management software that will help this process.

Staff- the selection of staff for projects needs to be more objectively managed. The tools and techniques are available.

Skills - the skills of the project manager are likely to increase in value. In many industries, people are given project responsibility because of their technical competence in one or more disciplines. In future, the skill-set of the project manager will become better recognized and valued by organizations.

Style/culture - this has been used by many organizations as a reason for not making any changes in the way they do their work. It is vital that in future, managers take responsibility for the culture that they create around them and for their own style. Awareness of this should be routine. As for staff selection, there are well-developed tool and techniques for managers to use in this respect (e.g. through cultural audit). Their application will increase with the passage of time.

Stakeholders - The marketing of achievements to stakeholders is in its relative infancy. This improved management of the information that stakeholders have is an important area in which project managers will need to work alongside their marketing colleagues.

One further issue concerns all the above and that is learning. Organizations and individuals in many roles, not just project managers, are generally poor at learning from their own successes and failures, but particularly bad at learning from the successes and failures of others. It is a fact that those organizations that learn the fastest are also the best. The major challenge for project managers is to develop the process (do it better next time) by bringing in the necessary knowledge (both managerial and technical). All the issues from the 7-S given above provide potential areas for improvement. Part of the skill of the project manager is going to be identifying where the major benefits will be gained and the changes that will be needed to realize them. This will require a very wide knowledge of both theoretical and practical aspects of project management.