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The Past, the Present, and the Future of Project Management
By Paul Naybour

What will future hold for project management? Take a look at what history has to reveal to us to try and predict the trends for the future and then vote in our poll.

50’s: conception

The 1950’s were the start of project management with the application of Taylor’s scientific management. Based on the marriage of the Henry Gantt time based chart and Fayol’s five principles of management planning organising, commanding, coordinating and controlling. These principles still form the foundation of our modern bodies of knowledge.

60’s: Learning to walk

The value of project management was demonstrated on major projects. Many of these projects have attained mythical status including the Polaris missile programme, the DuPont Corporation and Remington Rand Corporation development of the critical path (I bet they wish they had patented that!) The decade finished with the formation of the International Project Management Association (IPMA) in 1967, the PMI in 1969, forerunner of the APM, called Internet (another good name) in 1972.

70’s: Slow growth of early adopters

Project Management saw slow growth in recognition during the 1970’s, along with the birth of IT systems, Apollo space programme and the application to the development of cold war defence systems. The membership of the APM reached 1000 by the end of the decade.

80’s: Gantt chart for the masses and a decade of unconscious incompetence

The development of microcomputers in the 1980 saw the explosion of the project management for all, with its ubiquitous symbol – the Gantt chart. Some adventurous people even implemented earned value management. During the 80’s every organisation and government department had its own approach with the associated not surprising chaos.

90’s: Codification and certification

1989 saw the launch of PRINCE (followed by PRINCE2 in 1996) following the PMI PMP certification launched in 1984. The 1990’s became the decade of codification, standardisation and with growing acceptance that a common approach was beneficial.

‘Noughties’: The decade of embedment, globalisation and information overload (and the credit crunch)

For project management the Noughties were decade of globalisation with the connectivity of the internet leading to teams outsourced across the world, increasing recognition for project management certification across the globe be it PRINCE2 or the PMI’s PMP. Towards the end of the decade management in general including project management discovered the Blackberry and all of a sudden we struggled with information overload. What had been manageable communication channels became frenetic with ongoing 24 hour activity to suit the new global projects.

What will be the trends in the future? They say the past is no predictor of the future but what will be the up and coming trends for the teens. Will…

  1. The fallout from the credit crunch and severely reduced public spending lead to a severe reduction in the demand for project management and a decade of cost cutting and canceled projects?
  2. Will the increasing pressure for change lead to an increasing demand for truly professional project managers, maybe (or maybe not) linked to chartered status?
  3. Will pressure for consistency continue with consolidation between the different methodologies (PRINCE2, APM, PMP)?
  4. Will new social media tools such as Google Wave help us organise the mass of information generated by projects using meta tags and search tool in the same way Google Search Engine made sense of the web. Or (5) all of the above?

Paul Naybour is passionate about the use of project management for successful projects. He has a wealth of experience in helping organisations to improve project management and has worked on both sides of the fence with both clients and suppliers. Paul is the Business Development Director of Parallel Project Training.

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