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Management of projects

Project management has been around since the beginning of time. The pyramids in Egypt stand today because of sound project management principle. Although there have been excellent project managers over the years, project management was not recognised as a formal management concept until the 1950s. A look into what is project management and how companies are looking to improve performance.

It was high profile aerospace projects, such as Polaris, NASA and other US Department of Defense projects tha led to the establishment of the project management standards that they expected their contractors to follow. Polaris was the first British project on which contractors were required contractually to use advanced project management systems.

The construction industry started to see the benefits of project management and started to adopt the new techniques. The 1970s and the 1980s brought more practitioners on project management leading to the development of theories, methods and standards.

Throughout the 1970s project management continued to grow and develop into a multi-disciplined profession with its distinctive tolls and techniques. The economic pressures during this decade, OPEC oil embargoes and the rise of environmental pressure groups caused many projects to be constrained or delayed. This in turn led to a period of refinement of project management tools and techniques. More high technology companies outside the defence and construction industries started to use project management systems effectively.

In the 1980s project management tools and techniques were integrated into accepted management practices. Such techniques known as Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) and the Critical Path Method (CPM).

The other issues on board at this time included the integration of time, cost and quality. These were begining to be seen as critical by management to the success of projects.

In the 1990s the globalisation of world trade and competition from the Far East encouraged leaner, flatter and more flexible organisational structures, together with more efficient systems. Companies found that by using a management-by-project approach they could assign work to small project teams, which were able to respond to innovation and new ideas and keep the culture of the entrepreneural company alive.

In the 1990s large scales re-engineering and TQM processes needed a direction for the implementation of these new projects (many of them in-house), and managers turned to project management for direction in tracking such initiatives. Project management is a structured approach to planning and controlling projects. It is a set of principles, methods and techniques that managers use to effectively plan and control project work.


Excerpts from The University of Sunderland BA (Honours) Business Management, courtesy Resource Development International (RDI) Jamaica.
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