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Is Project Management a Commodity?
By Rudolf Melik

PlanView’s Terry Doerscher wrote an excellent blog post, “Is Project Management Passe?” in response to a Gartner research report published last month. The synopsis of the Gartner report reads:

PPM leaders are investing in methodologies, processes and organizational constructs that are quickly coming to the end of their useful lives. Now is the time to start edging your organization toward the next destination.

Doerscher suggests that Gartner is predicting a world in which the Project Management Office finds a new role, because Project Management has attained a level of growth and acceptance that makes it a commoditized skill. PM is being pushed out and down to the project teams—not managed centrally by the PMO.

I would say that for IT, project management has been commoditized in this way for some time. But applying project management concepts to non-IT teams is still very much in its infancy. There is a lot of potential for improvement in applying project management techniques in billable organizations, product development (specially software or IP-type products), and marketing teams, for example. There is also a long way to go in improving collaboration on projects between these other teams and IT.

As I see it, the problem lies in the fact that companies still operate in silos with a tribe psychology. You have:

  • The IT manager, the IT budget and the IT department
  • The sales manager, the sales budget and the sales team
  • The product manager, the product budget and the product team

And the list goes on, with everyone keeping their cards closely at their vest. Gartner’s PPM report and PPM category is too focused on IT-specific needs and IT-specific commoditization. If project management and business processes are viewed as enterprise-wide challenges and are treated as disciplines and tools that should cross the boundaries of departments and business units, then a whole new world of opportunity for improvement and innovation is up for grabs.

However, organizations still promote the tribe psychology by implementing software and other business solutions on a department-by-department basis, or by forcing departments to use inadequate enterprise tools (like a large ERP) without their input and total buy-in. Business processes, project selection and prioritization, and the means to collaborate rarely cross departmental lines. Centralized PMOs have not been able to break down the silos or unite the tribes. Perhaps this is an underlying reason for the coming changes that Gartner predicts.

Rudolf Melik is the author of The Rise of the Project Workforce: Managing People and Projects in a Flat World, and is the CEO and a founder of Tenrox. In his writings and speeches, Melik explores the ways that companies can thrive in a world where rapid technological advances and globalization are changing how we get work done and manage the people who do it. Rudolf’s professional blog can be found at: http://www.talentontarget.com/talent_on_target.

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