What is Project Management?

November 9, 2010

What is Project Management?

To understand what project management is; project must be defined. A project is a temporary endeavor, having a defined beginning and end, undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives, usually to bring about beneficial change or added value (1). That’s where project management comes into play, to assist with keeping the triple constraints (time, cost, and scope) aligned. Through the implementation of successful project management, a project becomes an undertaking that brings about beneficial change or added value. Project management hasn’t always been seen as a process that adds value or constructive change from a business perspective. Since its inception, project management has evolved and calls for a review of change.

Historical View

Historically, project management was only applied after the execution phase of the project began. It was common for a planning or estimating group to develop the project plans. Therefore, it was the project manager responsibility to monitor and control the resources of a project to produce successful results. Project management was viewed as an organizational resource that was task oriented and did not necessarily posses a strong knowledge of business or strategic issues but was exceptional at developing and executing plans (2).

As project managers began to fine-tune their skills through experience, businesses started to hire several project managers who specialized in various aspects of the project management process. It was typical for a business to hire at least three different project managers, one to plan the project, another to manage the executing and monitoring and controlling phase, and a third to handle the closure of the project.

Current View

Currently, project management is viewed as a business process rather than a project management process. Project managers are considered a functional or integral part of the business process and are expected to have a strong knowledge of business or strategic issues.

Businesses have begun to understand that a business is like a human organism for it to survive and prosper; “all its functional parts must work in concert toward specific goals, or projects” (3). Project management has continued to evolve and two significant trends have emerged:

Bottom-up planning: This trend emphasizes simpler project designs, shorter project cycles, efficient collaboration among team members, stronger team member involvement and decision making. This trend is broadly known as agile project management, and includes a number or related methodologies, such as Scrum, Crystal, Extreme Programming, Unified Process, and many others.

Top-down planning and reviewing: This trend is characterized by enterprise-wide decision making about the portfolio of projects that an organization should have, as well as by enabling data-mining technologies to make information in the portfolio more transparent.” (3)

Today, project managers are more involved in business decisions and their input is requested for establishing “project objectives, strategic development and project selection and prioritization” (2). “Project managers are now viewed as business managers rather than as pure project managers or task managers” due to the continuous evolution of project management (2).

Future of Project Management

No one can predict where the future is headed when it comes to project management. Circumstances change, new challenges arise but we must recognize trends in order to prepare for the future. According to BIA research of over 750 organizations worldwide, their findings concluded that organizations will follow these trends:

· Implement a strategy and culture initiative to ensure success with projects

· Start to recognize that Quality Management is part of successful project management

· Performance management systems will incorporate the management of projects as part of a total job performance measurement

· Seek out training that combines both quality and project knowledge-based

· Project and quality principles will be infused into everyone’s roles within an organization.

For survival, there must be some consideration of newer approaches to training, development and consulting for project management. The future of project management requests that project managers are experts at supervising or adapting to accelerated change.


Project management is an evolutionary process that has developed into a profession over time. Today it is an essential part of the business process, project managers help develop the business strategically. Project management has become entrenched into the business and decision making process; therefore, businesses will see a need for project managers in the future. Project management infuses an economical, theoretical, professional, ethical and social value into a business.

– Lakevia Bibb

  1. “Project Management.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_management
  2. Kerner, Harold and Saladis, Frank P. Value-Driven Project Management pages 17 & 21. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2009
  3. “A quick history of project management.” Microsoft Office. http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/project-help/a-quick-history-of-project-management-HA001135342.aspx#BMtodayhttp://office.microsoft.com/en-us/projecof-project-m
  4. Stanleigh, Michael. “The Future of Quality and Project Management.” Business Improvement Architects http://www.bia.ca/articles/TheFutureofQualityandProjectManagement.htm

2 Responses to “What is Project Management?”

  1. Kimberly Williams said

    I didn’t know what to expect when I entered into the Project Management class, but my understanding of a project manager throughout this course has broaden and your blog has put everything into prospective. I liked the way you explained project management from a historical point to current views and I think this blog was very informative for me and for others to follow.

  2. Mike Gann said

    The historical viewpoint here is fairly accurate, at least in my experience. I’ve seen the shift in the retail job I worked and in my current consulting position. In retail, we’d have detailed plans handed down from corporate to follow in everything from setting the store to shutting down for the day. When I started there, we had little communication from corporate. By the time I left, the plans were far more detailed and, as a manager, I’d be putting on the project management hat off and on throughout the day to get those tasks done while making sure the CSRs up front were clicking along OK.

    It’s far more apparent in my current position as our business has grown quite a bit over the last few years. We’ve gone from nothing to having a quasi-PMO and certified PMPs on staff.

    The other key comment here that resonates with me is becoming an expert at supervising and adapting to accelerated change. It’s certainly different in a large corporation where the wheels turn slowly, but in a smaller business, we change at least quarterly if not more often. All the while our clients, being small businesses, are going through the exact same process which necesitates further change in our business to handle their requests/projects as effectively as possible.

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