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Project management

Project management

Dec 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By Kevin McNamara, CNE

While the term has been around since the 1950s, the concept of project management has been around since the beginning of history. The project management professional (PMP) has only recently become a specialized credential recognized in a wide variety of businesses. In fact, many companies now consider formal project manager training and certification for new hires or employees seeking to grow within an organization.


Some concepts behind modern day project management can be traced back to the builders of the pyramids. Interestingly, the predecessors to what we now call engineers were in fact the first project managers, as they were tasked with finding efficient, cost-effective and timely methods to complete complex (for the day) tasks. In the 19th century, spawned by the industrial revolution, the U.S. government started to undertake major infrastructure development, including the transcontinental railroad, interstate highways and the beginning of creating systems for the delivery of water, sewer, power and telephone to major cities.

Events in the 20th century, particularly the World Wars, created a general labor shortage throughout the country. Without a plentiful workforce, government and private organizations were forced to seek better methods to manufacture ships, airplanes, weapons and other materials needed to support the wars. Frederick Taylor is credited with being the first to apply scientific reasoning to work processes while working with the Navy to improve the quality and delivery time for ship construction. Essentially the first efficiency expert, he was able to break down smaller tasks and create methods and processes that made positive improvements across a number of industries. His partner was Henry Gantt, who was concerned with the order in which work was performed and felt the flow of work had a significant impact on the outcome of the particular project. To address the problem, he created some processes and graphical tools to analyze the work flow. His best known tool is the Gantt Chart, which is a stacked bar graph indicating start and stop durations for individual tasks.

A Gantt Chart can quickly show the relative status of various projects. These charts can be created in Excel.

In 1954, Bernard Shriver combined much of the research and techniques created by Taylor, Gantt and others while working on the U.S. Air Force’s missile program. He coined the name project management and is known as the father of project management.

Recognizing the need to identify the “Critical Paths” in a project, the U.S. Navy and DuPont sought better tools that could be implemented. The result came in 1955 when the Navy (and subcontractor Booze, Allen & Hamilton) created the PERT (Program Evaluation and Review) to use in the Polaris missile program and in 1957 DuPont created the �Critcal Path Analysis� (CPM). Both of these methods are useful to determine how a number of tasks interact on a large scale.

Project management concepts

Through practical experience, many station engineers already possess many of the skills of an effective project manager.

Traditional project management is based on three basic constraints: time, cost and scope. If you place each of these on one line of a triangle, it is within this triangle that a project manager must operate while maintaining quality throughout.

The PMI breaks projects into smaller pieces based on five process management groups and nine knowledge areas. You will need to understand how each of the knowledge areas fits in each process management groups. The five process management groups are Initiating, Planning, Controlling, Executing and Closing. The nine knowledge areas are:

  • Integration Management � Coordinating the elements of the project.
  • Cost Management � Ensure the project is completed within budget.
  • Communications Management � Put in place and manage the collection, dissemination, storage and disposition of project information.
  • Scope Management � Identify all work required to complete the project successfully.
  • Quality Management � Ensure project satisfies customer requirements.
  • Risk Management � Identify, evaluate and respond to all potential risks.
  • Time Management � Ensure project is completed on time.
  • Human Resources Management � Manage all project resources.
  • Procurement Management � Procure all necessary materials to complete the project.

To better visualize how this works, imagine a matrix diagram with the five process management groups on the X axis and the nine knowledge areas on the Y axis. The goal is to have a complete understanding of how each of the respective processes interacts. Just to make things more interesting, the nine knowledge areas also break into 39 component processes, each of which can map across the five process management groups. Space doesn’t permit a detailed explanation of all these groups, knowledge areas and component processes; however, they are addressed in the PMBOK or the many books and websites dedicated to professional project management.

You probably already have a great deal of project management experience. The project management professional is an excellent credential to add to your resume and soon will become a necessity to compete in the job market.

McNamara is president of Applied Wireless, Cape Coral, FL.