Distinguishing Features of Project Management in the 21st Century

The objective of this short article is to investigate the present hot topics of project management. In the 21st century, there's a clear swift from hard systems approach of project management to soft factors, a demand for strategic thinking in project management (Buttrick, 2000), new success factors (Atkinson, 1999) and project uncertainty management (Ward & Chapman, 2003). Broader project management theory and more intense research efforts may also be a trend in the field (Winter & Smith, 2005).

Humans have now been executing projects from ancient times (Kwak, 2003). From relocating a group to constructing enormous buildings such as the pyramids, projects were a dominant component of history. Not long ago, those involved with projects understood that they needed methods and processes to help them manage these projects more efficiently. To meet this need, scientists and practitioners worked together to create a brand new concept that has been called «project management» ;.Based on the PMBOK's definition "project management is the application form of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to generally meet project requirements ".(A Guide to Project Management Body of Knowledge, 2004). There are lots of different views in the literature regarding the birth of project management. Maylor (2005) mentions that "project management in the manner that we would understand it today didn't exist before 1950s" and Wideman (2001) tracks the very first usage of project management in the UK's Institution of Civil Engineers report on UK post war national development first published in 1944.

Since then, there were a lot of changes. "The hard systems approach, which treated the project as a mechanical activity, has been demonstrated to be flawed" (Maylor, 2005). The soft skills of project management are getting more attention because it's now clear that "the ability to apply these skills effectively through the life cycle of a task will boost the success of a task exponentially" (Belzer). Regardless of an ideal knowledge of planning, scheduling and controlling, projects have still a higher level of failure. Belzer highlights that "more often they fail because of a project manager's inability to communicate effectively, work within the organization's culture, motivate the project team, manage stakeholder expectations, understand the business objectives, solve problems effectively, and make clear and knowledgeable decisions ".To deal with these problems in the 21stcentury, a task team needs to develop a series of soft skills such as for instance "communication, team building, flexibility and creativity, leadership and the ability to manage stress and conflict ".(Sukhoo et. al, 2005).

Additionally, project management requires a tougher strategy orientation. "Significantly more than 80 per cent of all problems at the project level are brought on by failures at a table level in firms to provide clear policy and priorities" (Maylor, 2001). The approach that Maylor suggests is completely different from the original link between strategy and projects, as he proposes a "coherent, co-ordinated, focused, strategic competence in project management which eventually provides source of competitive advantage ".This two-way methodology that relates organisational and project strategy is illustrated in figure 1. To raised understand the project's strategy, there's also a have to analyse "the experiences from past activities, politics throughout the pre-project phases, parallel courses of events happening during project execution and ideas in regards to the post-project future" (Mats Engwall, 2002).

Moreover, Maylor highlights a big change in project's success criteria, from conformance to performance. In 1960s project managers seek to comply only with the documented specifications of the project, while current projects require real performance. In other words, the success criteria of the 21st century as indicated by Maylor have changed to as limited time as you are able to, as cheaply as you can and towards a maximum customer delight. Other academics imply nowadays a much simpler view of success criteria that is focused only to keep the client happy (Ferguson, 2005) on the other hand with the 90s view of just finishing the project promptly and on budget.

Changes in risk management may also be among the hot topics of project management in the brand new century. Ward (2003) propose the term «uncertainty management» and recommends a "focus on «uncertainty» as opposed to risk could enhance project risk management ".Adams has an interesting view of risk as he describes it as "a reflexive phenomenon - we react to perceived probabilities and magnitudes, thereby altering them", a definition that differs from the original quantitive analysis of risk. Green broads much more the scope of risk management and includes the clients. He thinks that "the method of risk management only becomes meaningful through the active participation of the client's project stakeholders ".In his standpoint there's a brand new means of assessing risk management that "depends less upon probabilistic forecasting and more upon the necessity to maintain a feasible political consistency within the client organisation ".

The conventional theory of project management includes a narrow focus on projects as unique and totally separated units of work. But current projects tend to be integrated smoothly in the overall context of organizations in order to "develop the «management of project portfolios» and «programme management» which are more strategically orientated towards «doing the right projects»" (Winter & Smith, 2005). 
It's common ground in the literature that the idea of project management needs more research. Koskela and Howell (2002) declare that the theoretical base "has been implicit and it rests on a faulty understanding of the nature of work in projects, and deficient definitions of planning, execution and control ".From their point of view, enrichment of project management with new methods and techniques can not be finished with any stable theoretical background. As a result, there's a pattern of putting more effort in research and rethinking just how which «bodies of knowledge» is written to ensure that complex projects'actions is going to be better documented.

As a conclusion, we're able to use the words of D.T. Jones (2005) who writes that "project management is no further about managing the sequence of steps required to complete the project punctually ".He adds that "it is approximately systematically incorporating the voice of the customer, creating a disciplined means of prioritising effort and resolving trade-offs, working concurrently on all aspects of the projects in multi-functional teams ".

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