The Future of Project Management
Events of the last decade have changed the face of project
management and as the environment in which projects find themselves in changes;
project management will have to change to keep pace. Project managers who are
able to accurately forecast demands for change and alter their plans to
accommodate them will have an advantage over those who don’t. Before we gaze
into the crystal ball, let’s take a look at the influences that have set
project management on their current course.
The Great Y2K Scam
Rightly or wrongly, the IT world lost a lot of credibility
when everyone turned their calendars forward to the year 2000. There were
undoubtedly systems and applications out there that did require modification to
accommodate the new millennium but the amount of money spent on Y2K programs
could not be justified by the changes that were made. Every IT organization had
some sort of Y2K program or other. Those organizations that were not large
enough to afford an in-house program engaged consultants.
Every line of code in every application and every data
record in every database was reviewed for "compliancy”. This despite the fact
that every commercially available system at that time recorded dates with a 4
character year format. Undoubtedly there were some applications and data tables
which used a 2 digit field to hold year data. The original reason for using a 2
character field to record this information was the punch card and the cost of
memory. 30 or 40 years prior to the year 2000 the extra effort to punch 2 more
characters onto a data card and the cost of the extra memory the 4 character
field would incur were a consideration. Anyone in the 80’s and 90’s creating
new date fields should not have used a 2 character field and anyone upgrading
an application or database should have converted the 2 character field to a 4
character field. Those applications and databases which failed to use the 4
character field were few and far between but large, expensive, Y2K programs
were spawned nonetheless.
The impact on the public was even more ridiculous. Millions
of dollars were spent on stocking up on everything from cashews to cash because
of a perception that come January 1, 2000 no cash register or ATM would work. People
were so spooked they stocked their cellars with food and water on a scale not
seen since the bomb shelters of the cold war.
When corporations found out they had spent all that money on
a program which found and corrected a handful of problems they began to ask
pointed questions about the ROI of the program. The result was a more cynical
approach to Information Technology, programs, and projects in general. This was
compounded by the feeling among the general public that they had been
bamboozled by technology and had spent all that money on emergency supplies
only to become the butt of a giant joke. Project managers found themselves
operating in an environment of a lot less trust as a result.
Although we’re still not quite sure what to call it, everyone
recognizes that the economy is in a slump and the money to perform projects is
limited. Some very large businesses have failed completely and every business
has felt the pinch in some way or another. The result of tighter markets and
less revenue is that businesses dropped projects that weren’t mission critical
and downsized those that weren’t axed. Projects which could not show an
immediate ROI or didn’t solve a critical business problem were non-starters. Surviving
projects were forced to do more with less.
Project managers have been placed in an uncomfortable
position by these events. The project manager of a project which was canned
because it couldn’t satisfy its sponsors of its worth could find themselves
looking for new projects elsewhere. The alternative was to stay with the
project that didn’t improve the bottom line and ride the project and business
into oblivion, then look for a new project elsewhere along with numerous
This atmosphere requires project managers to be astute money
managers. They don’t necessarily get asked to handle the actual cash but are
asked to estimate costs more accurately, report on performance to budget so
that sponsors know when limits are exceeded, and deliver projects for less
money than they would like. These demands are being met by increased
sensitivity on the part of project managers to their organization’s
vulnerability and, where project sponsors don’t expect to get their entire wish
lists for 50% of the budgets, they also get what they need out of the project
for what they can afford to spend. This is a good thing.
The "Greening” of Project Management
There are 2 influences I include in the term "greening”, one
is the demand to reduce our carbon footprint and the other is Corporate Social
Responsibility (CSR). These 2 environmental elements are by no means mutually
exclusive and an effort to reduce the organizations carbon footprint may be a
part of a CSR initiative. Reducing the organization’s carbon footprint
primarily affects project managers of construction and infrastructure projects.
Those projects now have additional objectives that deal with a reduction of
energy consumption. Build the building with less fuel consumption and make the
building as energy efficient as possible. These objectives may or may not add
costs to the project (see The Recession/Economic Downturn).
CSR requires corporations to consult more closely with the
communities they do business in and to consider the needs of those communities
when planning projects. Reduction of the carbon footprint is a technical issue:
for example, how do I organize work so that goods are delivered to the project
from the shortest distance possible? CSR can be a much more complex issue. Some
CSR issues may be straightforward, such as eliminating child labor in the
manufacturing process. Others are much more complex, such as mining in an area
where 2 separate and distinct communities are affected, and the two are already
at war because of other issues. There is also a temptation to pay lip service
to a CSR initiative. Saddle the project manager with CSR goals and objectives
but give them no budget or authority to deliver on them. The classic example of
this is the situation where the project manager is asked to deliver a project
in a society where bribery is socially acceptable and expected but the CSR policy
(and possibly domestic laws) prohibits bribery. The poor project manager is
given the conflicting goals and told to figure it out.
Project managers must analyze their situations and determine
the feasibility of meeting all the goals and objectives of their CSR and carbon
footprint reduction policies with the budgets they are given to work with.
Project managers who determine that it is impossible to deliver have a dilemma.
Project managers who determine delivery is possible must figure out how to
deliver. This means being inventive in the approach and, sometimes, translating
esoteric policy statements into planned project activities that can be executed
by the team.
Project managers will continue to be required to do more
with less even after the economy recovers. The disciplines learned during the
economic downturn will become standard practices. This is a good thing,
especially in the software development area. For too long software development
operated like the "wild west” with few of the rules and constraints that the
rest of industry took for granted. Project managers should become skilled in
Earned Value Management, if they haven’t already done so.
Time is money in the software industry so performance to
schedule is very tightly tied to performance to budget. Project managers in the
software development business must learn to keep their teams on track and on
schedule. This means a more disciplined approach to cost estimation.
a knowledge base in your organization and capture the lessons from past
projects. Record cost estimates for each software package – the original
estimate and the actual. Examine why an estimate was blown, was the
original estimate off base or did the developer encounter too many
obstacles? Learn from your mistakes to hone the organization’s estimation
skills. Look into acquiring a standard estimation methodology such as
Function Point Analysis (FPA) by joining an FPUG (Functional Point User
Group) and studying the technique.
users and sponsors of software projects must bear their responsibility for
inflating software costs and you can help them do that by helping them fit
their demands into a reasonable budget. Get them to prioritize their
requirements for new systems. What would the impact to your business be if
you could not get this feature? Would it cause a failure or merely an
inconvenience? Some functions simply cannot be done without. Look for
alternative ways to deliver the function if the first choice proves
expensive. Look to jettison the lower priority features from the project
if it appears that your project cannot deliver the full list in the
existing schedule and budget. Typically you will only proceed to
development with the "high” priority requirements in your list. This will
require you to further prioritize these requirements against one another
so jettisoning lower priorities will not be contentious.
Corporations will continue to pursue off-shore or
outsourcing as a means of cutting costs. The reason they do this is not to
negatively impact the local economy, but to cut costs. Cost cutting is the
primary goal here, not off-shoring or outsourcing. It is up to you as the
project manager to help your organization achieve their goal.
your due diligence as a Procurement Manager will help. The exercise
becomes a "buy or make” decision that should be made as directed by the
PMBOK®. Frequently the project
managers are confronted with a decision to outsource. Don’t be put off by
this. If the contract has not already been signed, analyze the situation
and recommend alternatives when outsourcing or off-shoring is not cost
effective. Be careful to avoid offering non-monetary reasons for not
off-shoring work such as the work will be too difficult to manage.
Managing the work is what you are hired to do. Valid reasons for not
off-shoring or outsourcing are that the work can be done in-house cheaper.
work means that a Statement of Work (SOW) must be written. The way in
which this document is written will go a long way in determining the
success or failure of the outsourcing. The SOW must be written so that all
work is clearly and concisely described and that any constraints required
are included. An example of a constraint would be that the project manager
for the sub-contractor be PMP®
work has its own unique set of demands. To work successfully, work
off-shored must be planned to accommodate differences in time zones and
cultures. Be pro-active and learn as much as possible about the culture in
the country the work is being done and then plan your communications around any cultural and time zone differences.
managing a group of workers in a country half-way around the world with a
different clock and culture may add an impossible degree of effort to your
work. In some cases it is reasonable to expect the sub-contractor to
provide a project manager to oversee the work. You should have input into
the choice of that project manager and should stipulate that certification
as a PMP® be a criteria they must
The PMI® (Project
Management Institute) has made great strides in marketing their brand around
the world. Look for that trend to continue. As PMI® becomes bigger their
marketing campaign penetrates new markets. At one time they mainly depended on
the software industry but now have penetrated the petro-chemical,
pharmaceutical, telecommunications, and banking industries. Look for the brand
to penetrate the construction industry.
their key brand the PMP® certification began in North
America but have expanded around the world. Look for expansion to
happen in the Asia Pacific area in the next decade as the North American market
becomes saturated. This should make it easier on North American project
managers demanding a PMP® certified project manager on an off-shore
PMI have branched
out into more certifications. There first attempt at this was the CAPM which
was not particularly successful. CAPM is an intermediary step to the PMP
certification. Since then they have also added certification in the areas of
program management, risk management, and schedule management. Look for them to
expand their certification program into the other knowledge areas such as cost
management, scope management, procurement management, quality management, etc.