Project Management is the dynamic process that utilities the appropriate resources of the organisation in a controlled and structured manner, to achieve some clearly defined objectives identified as strategic needs. It is always conducted within a defined set of constraints.
Project management in the modern sense began in the 1950s although it has its roots further back in the latter years of the 19th century. The need for project management was driven by companies that realised the benefits of organising work around projects, and the critical need to communicate and coordinate work across departments and professions.
One of the forefathers of project management is still a familiar name today, Henry Gantt (1861-1919) the creator of the Gantt chart. Still in use, one hundred-years from their creation, Gantt charts are one of the project managers' most valuable tools. In the mid-20th century PERT charts emerged, complex network diagrams that show the critical path of projects. Soon after this the United States Department of Defense created the Work Breakdown Structure, a tool used to break projects down into manageable pieces. These tools and techniques spread quickly as companies looked for new ways to manage large and complex activities, evolving into project management as we know it today.
It is now sixty years since the birth of project management and much of the early work has been collected and put together into formal methodologies. Although many different methodologies exist, they all work with the same basic principles and good practice. You may expect we are expert when it comes to running projects, but sixty years on and project failures are still with us, and according to some observers rising in number.
Siemens made headlines in the UK when Government systems for new passports were hit by terrible delays. ICL also failed with its system to automate benefit payments; the project was axed with £460m of taxpayers' money wasted. In 1992, the London Ambulance Service launched a new computer system that slowed its response times to emergency calls. More recently the £21bn Eurofighter project has experienced problems caused by 'delays in bringing the detailed design to full maturity in some areas,' which prevented flight-tests from starting on time.
Projects go wrong for the same reasons all the time. There are no new sins. We can look at a project in its first two months and know if it will be a success or not. Many organisations are failing to heed painful lessons learned from past projects. 2 The biggest sin in project management is not learning the lessons of past projects. When we learn to do this, we will cut the number of project failures.
What follows is a practical guide to managing projects that will help steer you to a successful result.