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Project Management: Past, Present and Future

As we celebrate 25 years of bringing Best Practice learning within the reach of business and individuals, we take a quick look at how global economic and technological changes have impacted the discipline and profession of project management and peek into what the future might hold.

  • Back in the 1980s project management tended to be used in sectors such as engineering and technology. Fast forward a couple of decades or so, and project management is used in everything from oil and gas projects to marketing and medicine.
  • Once viewed as mere organisers or administrators alone, project managers are today viewed as managers and strategic thinkers who play a vital part in delivering change.
  • The discipline of project management has become professionalised. Many of those who have anything to do with projects have some level of certification through the popularity of different PM standards such as PRINCE2, PMP® and APMP – though industry preference can vary according to geographical location and industry.
  • As more project managers combine experience with qualifications - more than 1,000,000 employees are now PRINCE2® qualified, for example – so are an increasing number of businesses specifying the qualification as a basic requirement.
  • If someone in the mid-80s had talked of SCRUM, you would not have been alone in thinking that it was about the English ball game of rugby rather than the iterative project management methodology. Now, there is scarcely a manager who has not heard of SCRUM or other complementary or alternative approaches such as PRINCE2, PMP and APMP.
  • Thanks to project management, there is a greater understanding among professionals in general of the importance of risk management and qualifications such as Management of Risk (M o R®).
  • The view, if it ever really existed, that project management methodologies work better alone, is over. Most professionals recognize that methodologies can complement each other: PMP and APMP, for instance, provide the ‘how’ and
  • PRINCE2 the ‘what’ when managing a project.

    Advances in travel and digital development mean global organisations are now the norm. Project management skills are therefore in demand to control scope, time, cost and everything else across frontiers, time zones and cultural challenges.

  • 10 years ago, few people knew what project management was. The global TV phenomenon ‘The Apprentice’ has changed all that and most people would now recognize that they carry out projects throughout everyday life – from those as simple as baking a cake to ones as complex as designing a plane.
  • Project management terminology which might once have been considered arcane has now entered the vernacular of many outside the profession with terms like ‘business case’ and ‘stakeholder management’ being widely used. If you want to familiarise yourself with PRINCE2 terms visit our downloads pages.
  • As a result of the global economic crisis, business is seeking certainty, control and cost-effectiveness. This presents itself in many ways including a greater emphasis on governance, metrics, tighter risk management and doing more with limited resources.
  • Employment is changing. Jobs for life have been eliminated. Employees and employers are seeking flexibility to balance work and life and to balance the books as this Time article reports. Project managers are no different and growing numbers are freelancing.
  • In 1988 the world economy was volatile and unpredictable. 25 years later it is no more certain thanks to the global economic crisis of recent years. Business is seeking to change that and improve control and cost-effectiveness through a greater emphasis on governance, metrics and tighter risk management – whilst always needing to do more with limited resources.
  • A growing number of international regulations - from environmental to labour - are having an impact on business and therefore the projects that help companies achieve their objectives, as this Frontier Economics’ report for UK Department of Business shows.
  • For a variety of reasons, demand is expected to continue for IT PPM tools for the next couple of years or so according to global provider of intelligence and advice International Data Corporation (IDC).
  • A quarter of a century ago project managers used software on desktops and then laptops to manage a range of basic project management tasks. Today, they can track tasks and people; create, edit, store and share files; schedule conferences and attend meetings all from their smart phones anywhere in the world thanks to apps like the selection here.
  • Social media, through channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, is transforming how project management is learned. ILX Group and Virgin Media’s award winning collaboration is a case in point. Using synchronous learning integrated with different digital learning environments and media, they delivered complex learning to Virgin Media’s geographically dispersed employees at a fraction of the normal cost.
  • Project management practice is being socialised. Growing numbers of professionals are using it to communicate and interact with stakeholders and project teams according to CIO Insight.

Useful Links

  • Project Management Circa 2025 from the PMI takes the long view of the profession and comes up with some interesting ideas. Take a look.
  • Project management and its role in the BBC’s past, present and future; fascinating.
  • For an in-depth insight into the effect of regulations on business the Frontier Economics report is a must.
  • See how ILX Group and Virgin Media used technology and social media to improve return on investment.
  • Discover business and project management apps that you can improve your practice.
  • Remember to take advantage of all the free documents and research on our downloads sections.
  • Interesting insights into the future from global provider of intelligence and advice International Data Corporation (IDC).
  • Help yourself to a whole range of best practice training and consultancy services from ILX.
  • M_o_R® is a registered trade mark of the Cabinet Office.
  • PMP is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute Inc.