Project Management has been a skill utilised for centuries with many of the wonders of the ancient world assumed to have some kind of formal project management roles and processes involved.
Many of those same skills have persisted through to more modern endeavours with rapid evolution coming through the twentieth century such as when the first Gantt Chart was developed by Henry Gantt in 1917, through to when Scrum was named a Project Management style in 'The New New Product Development Game' (a paper by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka, Harvard Business Review, 1986). The twenty-first century shifted the paradigm even further with the Agile Manifesto in 2001 and in September 2012, the International Organisation for Standardisation published "ISO 21500:2012, Guidance on Project Management''.
So with hundreds of years of evolution behind it, what does Project Management really mean and what will it look like in 2021 and beyond?
What is Project Management?
Project Management can be described as the use or application of knowledge, utilising specific processes and tools, to manage processes and resources to achieve an outcome. If you look up the various definitions of Project Management you will find multiple variations on these same themes but to be honest, the definition will always be different depending on your project so it is really up to you.
Projects exist in everyday life and could best be described as a series of tasks or activities that need to be completed in a sequence to achieve an outcome (such as moving house, planning for a holiday). To help get started and achieve the outcome, any of us will employ basic project management techniques to help plan the project and achieve the outcome such as creating a ‘To Do’ list to create and track completion of tasks.
Where Projects are established in an enterprise (a business or entity) the stakes are invariably higher – more investment, more risk or more complex tasks and dependencies. As a result greater skills are required to manage the Project and more experience is required allowing greater control and predictability of issues and assurance of outcomes (hence the many job titles like Project Manager, Senior Project Manager etc.).
In a traditional Project Management environment, tasks are predominantly one-off and sequential (one task finishes before another one starts) which is why they are often referred to as Waterfall Project Management. The processes in these types of projects are therefore linear and managed in a sequential Project Lifecycle.
In an Agile Project Management environment, the tasks become mostly iterative and adaptive. While many of the critical Project Management Processes are the same (or have similar intent / outcomes) such as resource management, risk management and benefits or outcomes management, a critical difference is they are adaptive based on the ongoing feedback loops the agile project will generate.
It is important to note that Project Management skills are very specific and are distinct from other roles in a project such as Scrum Master. It is fine to have one role perform multiple functions in a small organisation or small project as long as the skills required for each function are individually defined, as are the processes of each function. In order to have full visibility of this and to manage the quality of Project Management, incorporate all relevant functions, knowledge areas and processes into your Job Description documents.