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Project Management Directions

The profession of project management is growing and maturing by leaps and bounds in North America, Latin America, and Europe. This doesn’t mean that there has been a sudden surge in the number of projects the areas undertake, it means that more and more businesses and government agencies recognize the need to assign knowledgeable project managers to these roles and the PMI® with their PMBOK® have been supplying that knowledge. PMI® has successfully marketed their brand (theProject Management Professional, or PMP®) all over the world with the exception of Europe where they still compete with the International Project Management Association (IPMA) for certification dominance.

It used to be that to find project management discipline one had to go to the construction or defense industries. Not any more, the software development, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, petro-chemical, and financial industries have caught up to their more experienced brethren and, in some cases, have even surpassed them.

Project management can be viewed as a mature discipline – you’ve come a long way baby! But project managers must continually re-invent themselves to meet ever changing demands. Changes in the way projects are approached during the current recession and the "greening” of projects are just 2 examples of these changes. I’ll attempt to predict future directions for project management and what they will mean to practitioners.

Project management has focused on breadth up to this point. By breadth, I mean that the project manager is expected to deal with the entire planning and execution of the project up to close out. Very large projects may be broken down into component projects, or sub-projects, each with its own project manager but each project manager is usually responsible for the gamut of PM Deliverables for their project. I see this changing; particularly on large projects which don’t lend themselves particularly well to being broken down into sub-projects. The PMI® has gotten ahead of the curve in this area and now offer certification in the areas of risk and scheduling. Look for more certificates from the PMI® in the areas of requirements (scope), procurement, cost, and quality.

Organizations which cannot afford to hire numerous PMs with specialized skills to manage a project may look at developing their in-house resources to acquire the skills that best advance their business. Software development houses or telecommunications businesses may want to focus on requirements management, pharmaceuticals on risk management, and construction on schedule management. They may also want to go the route of hiring specialized services when and if they need them. Organizations undertaking a "one off” project may not see any value in developing a competency that will only be used once and choose to hire a consultant or contractor to make up the deficiency.

Expertise may also be developed by project phase, project managers developing competencies in planning, execution, testing, and close-out. A project manager who specializes in planning projects would develop depth in the activities performed during the planning phase of each knowledge area. For example, scheduling expertise would be developed in the area of breaking work down, creating the WBS, estimating effort and duration, etc. Project managers specializing in the execution phases would enhance their skills in the areas of Human Resource management, communications, and other monitoring and controlling activities.

Increased scrutiny will come with increased training and recognition. As the profession is increasingly relied upon to deliver good governance over projects, government regulations and standards will follow. Take the Sarbanes Oxley act for example. One of the provisions of the act is the establishment of control over financial records. Although there is nothing specifically in the act addressing projects, the section dealing with management control over financial records will apply to project management. Cost management carried on by project managers must support the control specified in the act. Engineers have preceded us down this path. Due to the risks inherent in the work that profession does, they are held to a professional standard that is more structured than the standards in existence for project management today. The requirement that engineers sign off on drawings they are responsible for and that they may face disciplinary hearings if their conduct is not deemed professional are examples of that higher standard.

Look for more cross-pollination between the project management discipline and other disciplines. The business analysis is one discipline that has already crossed over into the area traditionally viewed as project management. I suspect this is a result of business looking to make their staff more efficient by having BAs manage smaller projects. A look at the certification programmes offered by some Universities will reveal how this cross-pollination works. BA programmes commonly include courses in project management as part of the programme. These courses won’t go into project management areas in any great depth but are intended to teach the BA the rudiments of project management. Project managers already acquire expertise in the area of business analysis. Best practices in the area of Scope Management, for example, provide the project manager with a grasp of business analysis fundamentals. Look for more professions to absorb some of the project manager’s skills into their tool kits. Accountants for example will acquire PM skills in the area of cost management for projects. Quality Assurance professionals will acquire PM skills in the areas of quality management and requirements management.

Project managers are not likely to be replaced by BAs, accountants or QA professionals but will be increasingly assisted by the project management skills acquired by these professionals. Accountants will become more cognizant of what the project requires to support good cost management, QA professionals will be better able to ensure that all requirements are thoroughly tested and verified. BAs will be able to help the project manager by identifying the work needed to identify requirements for the current project, break them down, and integrate them with the project WBS. Organizations that employ BAs to manage small projects may require their project managers to coach and mentor their BAs to make them more proficient in the management of small projects. Some BAs will become part of the PMO without formally being trained as project managers (outside of their formal BA training). Some BAs will call upon the Project Management Centre (PMC) for the tools, templates, and coaching they need to manage small projects.