IT has led the charge on project management . No other industry has had as much impact on the field of project management as IT has. The increasing reliance on technology in the past decade alone has driven the growth and sophistication of project management to what is now a larger enterprise-wide executive management trend.
Looking back to such mega-projects as the Clifton Suspension Bridge and the railroad networks, project management had its beginnings in government-sponsored engineering and construction efforts, writes Joseph R Czarnecki. It wasn't until the early 1960s that software engineers turned to project management techniques to manage the increasing complexity of software development.
Borrowing the concepts of project management from large infrastructure projects, IT project managers around the world refined these methodologies to fit their own increasingly complex environments. The progression of every project started by following the Waterfall Method, the familiar step-by-step one-way process of establishing requirements, design, implementation, testing, verification and transition to maintenance. As complexity and speed-to-market increased, this was molded into the Iterative Model, Spiral and Agile, to name a few.
Until the 1990s the IT department was viewed as a back-office function, being held accountable for seemingly everything that went awry. Completely separated from the rest of the organisation, IT project managers were seen as tactical implementers, not strategic integral partners in business processes. Everything changed for IT project management when Y2K loomed.
The thought of a complete computer systems failure caused the executive suite to stand up and take notice of their IT departments in a whole new way. Thanks to the savvy IT project managers using these methodologies all along, they were able to drive their Y2K projects to completion. For the first time in the history of IT departments, their functionality was seen as more than just a support system, but as an integral part of the organisation. The hundreds of thousands of successful Y2K projects worldwide finally earned IT a seat at the executive table and further deepened the value of project management.
As executives grew more familiar with the way IT used project management methodologies, they became increasingly aware of the value of project management as an essential business tool. Project management and project portfolio management were used as communication vehicles to obtain funding, explain progress and reach executive support and approval. By the early 2000s forward-thinking companies began to view project management as more than just an IT department-driven approach, but as a full-blown management strategy that could be used across all levels of the organisation. Some even moved their project management/business analysis centres of excellence out of the IT arena to apply their practices to all projects.
Today there are countless examples of major companies employing project management to improve customer relations, solve business challenges and improve enterprise-wide processes. Project managers are no longer cooped up in the back office; today they are key influencers who utilise project management with astounding results.
The discipline of project management has not only changed the way we conduct business; it has also increased the relevance of other roles in companies, such as that of the business analyst. Business analysts help translate the executive's vision into pragmatic, documentable requirements that IT project managers implement.
Today project management is recognised as an essential business tool for the whole organisation, thanks in large part to the leadership of CIOs and other IT executives' efforts to use project management to tie IT to business strategy.
Joseph R Czarnecki, PMP, Senior Consultant, Global Learning Solutions - EMEA, ESI International, leads the development and customisation of learning programmes including courseware, executive workshops, coaching programs and assessments for many of ESI global clients. He leverages ESI's expertise and resources to maximise client investments in improving the performance of programme management, project management and business analyst professionals as well as PM and BA operations. As an ESI subject matter expert and recognised thought leader in project management, Czarnecki also serves as an ESI media spokesperson and has authored several professional articles. He has recently been invited to join the PMI-UK Corporate Council.
Computer Weekly study: The state of UK IT project management (2003) >>