Project management has existed since buildings were first erected or ships first built but it wasn’t known by that name in mankind’s early history. It was with the development of Gantt charts in the second decade of the 20th century that the role of managing a set of inter-related tasks to deliver an end-product to a defined schedule started to emerge as the discipline we now refer to as project management.
The Gantt chart was developed by the engineer and consultant Henry Gantt (1861-1919) to visually show the scheduled and actual progress of a project, and was an innovative concept at the time. It was used on projects during the First World War and on the project to construct the Hoover Dam in the 1930s.
Today project management is an essential element of all organisations in a variety of industries: engineering, construction, defence, almost any industry you can think of will require projects to be managed at some time. There are a number of internationally recognised methodologies that can be followed to manage a project (such as PMP, PRINCE2 or APMP) each with a different approach and different terminology and each with a range of levels of certification to suit everyone from new project managers (such as the APM Project Fundamentals Qualification) to those with many years of experience already such as the APM RPP (Registered Project Professional). But underlying these different methods is the common theme for all projects of the triple constraints of cost, time and scope, and the basics of professional project management.
So just what are the basics?
Initiation Phase: When the scope, objectives and end-product are defined, and the project is formally approved.
Planning Phase: When a set of plans is created to define the tasks necessary to complete the project, and to enable effective management of the schedule, budget, risks and change.
Execution Phase: When the tangible project deliverables are created. Other activities such as a change management process and quality analysis are also implemented during this phase.
Closing Phase: When the end-product is delivered to the client, documentation is handed over and resources are released.
And why is project management so important?
Professionally managed projects reliably and consistently ensure that projects are run efficiently and that they successfully deliver what the client expects in an acceptable timeframe and at an acceptable cost. They ensure effective communication so that the client and all stakeholders are well-informed about progress, changes and risks; that everyone involved in the project is aware of their responsibilities and that different departments work together co-operatively.
By managing risks the impact of predicted or unexpected risks occurring can be minimised by ensuring the schedule and resources are affected as little as possible. And implementing a sound change management process will ensure that the client objectives are reached.
A properly controlled project will also lead to a high-quality end-product, whether that is a feat of engineering such as a major dam or a feat of technology such as the latest microchip or the implementation of new software to improve the efficiency of core business processes.
So whatever methodology you choose to follow, a knowledge-based one such as PMP or APMP, or a process-based one such as PRINCE2, professional project management is an essential part of the future success of every organisation from the corporate giants right down to the smallest start-up.