A Brief History of Project Management

Table of Content

1. Introduction

Project management is the discipline of planning, organizing and managing resources. Project management is a requisite in all industries and organizations if they wish to accomplish their projects and work successfully since project management provides a structured approach. This structured approach enables organizations to bring about the successful completion of specific project goals and objectives. The practice of project management has developed rapidly over the last 60 years since the demands on project management are continuing to change. The modern sense of the term ‘Project Management’ could be marked aManagems developing in the late 1950s when networking tools such as PERT and CPM began to be developed and became established. This report tracks the history of project management, identifying the significant changes in the field accrued since the late 1950s to the year 2000 by reviewing the available articles and books related to the field of project management. This report also proffers the necessity for fundamental changes that will be identified from my point of view. 

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2. The late 1950s

The late 1950s seems to be the starting point or the genesis of the modern style of project management applied today. Two founding core project management tools for project planning and monitoring, the Critical Path Method (CPM) and the Project Evaluation Review Technique (PERT), emerged in the USA, but quite independently, at this period.  In 1955, the Critical Path Method (CPM) was founded at the DuPont Company and was extended to include Remington Rand and Mauchy Associates. It was designed by developers Kelley and Walker as a computerized system for managing engineering projects to deal with du Pont’s construction scheduling issue (Levitt, 2004, p.106; Nicholas, 2001, p.238; Stretton, 1993, p.4).

In the late 1950s, the Project Evaluation Review Technique (PERT) originated through the US Navy’s Polaris Missile System development program. According to Levitt (2004, p.109) PERT developed the CPM method “to consider the duration of each activity a statistical function. For each activity three estimates are recorded: the optimistic, most likely and most pessimistic”. Both techniques employed the network method for project planning and scheduling (Weaver, 2006, p.7). However while CPM improved in an industrial context giving more attention to project costs, PERT was developed in a research and development context giving importance to uncertainty but not to costs (Nicholas, 2001, p.238). Additionally, the Precedence Diagramming Method (PDM) was initiated and developed (Weaver, 2006, p.7), and the development of networking techniques was the cardinal technical improvement in project management at that time.

3. The 1960s.

Both PERT and CPM carried on to develop and increase their popularity throughout the 1960s. According to Azzopardi (nd, p.2) the PERT and CPM were applied by both the private and public sectors to manage large projects starting from the construction, defence, NASA and aerospace industries. This widespread use of these techniques was the result of the governmental command to use the network for scheduling and costing methods (Nicholas, 2001, p.238). Despite PERT’s efficiency in planning and scheduling, its inability to meet the costing area of projects led to the launch in 1962 of the PERT/Cost Guide to solve the issue of costing (Stretton, 1993, p.6).

However, the reduced demands of PERT/Cost involving overzealousness and inflexibility caused a negative response amongst defence contractors in the mid 1960s (Stretton, 1993, p.6). This led the government to develop the Cost/Scheduling Control System Criteria (C/SCSC) approach associated with the defence and aerospace industries (Crawford, 2006, p.176). As a result, alongside project time management, the cost was added as a distinguishing and unifying technique integrating the PERT and CPM.  In addition, there were some expansions to PERT, CPM, PDM during the 1960s such as the Resource Planning and Scheduling Method (RPSM), the Resource Allocation and Multi Project Scheduling (RAMPS)and the Least Cost Estimating and Scheduling Program which were based on computer advancement and later integrated the cost control into network scheduling (Stretton, 1993, p.7). In 1963, after realizing the shortcomings of using CPM, the IBM software program named Project Control System (PCS) was organized as the first computerized scheduling to facilitate the overlapping activities (Weaver, 2006, p.9).

The 1960s also witnessed the beginning of the formation of professional project management bodies. Weaver (2007, p.5) argues that the beginning of establishing professional project management was motivated by the spread of using scheduling and more significantly to the needs of schedulers as a council debating and reinforcing the field of project management. Consequently, according to Crawford (2000, p.1), two important associations of project management began in the 1960s. The first association was INTERNET which is known now as the International Project Management Association (IPMA). This body was established in 1965 “as a forum for European network planning practitioners to exchange knowledge and experience” (Stretton, 1993, p.8).  In 1969, the second significant association was formed in North America, the Project Management Institute PMI (Stretton, 1993, p.8). The reason for establishing this association, as Crawford (2000) mentions, was to provide an opportunity for professionals to meet and exchange their ideas.

4. The 1970s.

The decade of the 1970s witnessed major changes in the use of project management applications. In that decade, the application of project management came into widespread use, expanding from the defence department, construction and aerospace industries to almost all industries (Stretton, 1993, p.11). Moreover, there were a number of improvements in project management tools and techniques. According to Stretton (1993, p.11) many characteristic project management tools came out during the 1970s such as Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), Organisation Breakdown Structure (OBS) and Material Requirements Planning (MRP) which were launched to address the key issues of project management (Azzopardi, nd, p.2). Additionally, there was notable consideration given to the distinguished features of project management as a profession (Stretton, 1993, p.11).

The importance of this decade is attributed to the rapid developments in technology that took place at that time. According to Azzopardi (nd, p.2) the progression that shifted companies from using the mainframe to the mini-computer was the substantial development in the 1970s. Furthermore, as Kwan (2005, p.3) highlights, Microsoft was created by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in 1975. As a consequence, a number of project management software programs were introduced, containing Artemis, Oracle (1977) and Scitor Corporation (1979), due to the computer technology evolution at that time (Azzopardi, nd, p.2; Kwan 2005, p.3). By the end of the 1970s (in 1979) the Project management Forum PRF- now the Australian Institute of Project Management AIPM- started in Australia for a similar reason to the founding of PMI in North America (Crawford 2000, p.1).

5. The 1980s

While the previous decade was a time of evolution in computer technology, the 1980s was the time of the information management revolution. This revolution emerged with the appearance of low cost multi-tasking personal computers and the beginning of the use of PCs that could communicate with networking services (Kwan 2005, p.5; Stretton, 1993, p.15). The development of PCs facilitated companies in the management and control of complex project schedules in highly effective ways.

During this period, the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) was begun by the North America Project Management Institute (PMI). Eight vital functions were included: scope, quality, risk, human resources, communications and contract/procurement, in addition to cost and time. This effort of PMI was considered as a prominent attempt to typify project management as an organized methodology rather than tools gathering (Stretton, 1993, p.11-13). Beise (nd, p.129) points out that the methods evolved from the PMBOK were “due to the need to monitor and control complex projects, and to maintain budgets and schedules while ensuring quality which have all grown in importance as critical success factors in the competitive global workplace”.

The 1980s was also marked by an increased focus on the project frontend that included clients needs determination, feasibility studies, value analysis, risk management, and project start-up generally (Stretton, 1993, p.14). Additionally, as Crawford (2006, p.176) notes, there was consideration given to the external influences on the project and initial work on the development of project management standards. Moreover, the 1980s marked the initial development of certification-registration programs for project managers (Stretton, 1993, p.15).

6. The 1990s

In this decade, the development of standards and certification for project managers continued to grow. According to Weaver (2007, p.7), the recognition of the importance of project management qualifications increased and took place in the 1990s. He also states that there was “a shift from the predominance of accidental project managers towards aspirational project managers who (had) chosen project management as a career option and expect(ed) to be professionally qualified as project managers” (Weaver, 2007, p.7).

The year 1995 also witnessed the appearance of the project management competency standards. According to Dombkins (2009, p.7) the first project management competency standards were launched and developed for scheduling, risk, quality etc. He also mentions the recent additions to competency standards which are the Institute of Asset Management Competency Standards and the Complex Program Manager Competency Standards (Dombkins, 2009, p.7). Crawford (1999, p.5) highlights that Australia’s Competency Standards for Project Management were  developed between 1993 and 1996 by the Australian Institute of Project Management as the first government endorsed performance-based competency standards for project management. This development of competency standards was considered to be an “international standard for what project managers are expected to be able to do” (Crawford, 1999, p.5). In this decade, there was a notable shift from the focus on the project manager to embrace the whole team of the project (Crawford, 2000, 1).

However, the domination of internet technology took over the world in the mid 1990s. The use of the Internet dramatically transformed business practices at that time by offering fast, interactive and customized new ways of communicating, enabling people to buy, browse and communicate online instantly (Kwan, 2005, p.6). Between 1995 and 2000, the project management community started adopting the internet technology in order to be more effective and productive in terms of managing and controlling different features of projects (Kwan, 2005, p.6). As a consequence, diverse industries began applying the practices of project management due to the increased productivity and efficiency of companies (Kwan, 2005, p.6). Another principal factor of project management growth during the 1990s can be related to the auto industry (Schiesser, 2002, p.33). To illustrate, as Azzopardi (nd, p.3) indicates, virtually all of the current project management software have their own internet connectivity feature. This internet connectivity allows auto-transferring (uploading) of data and enables managers to conduct projects by distance.

 7. The Year 2000 and the Y2K project

The Y2K Project came about due to the assumption that computers may not run and operate correctly by the end of 31December 1999 and the beginning of 2000, specifically on the 1st January at 12.00 am. This dilemma, as Kwan (2005, p.6) states, was known as the Millennium Bug. This global phenomenon and highly problematic issue led each organization to focus on correcting Y2K since every organization was using the computer to accomplish their tasks (Kwan, 2005, p.6). Therefore, the Y2K project was introduced and then adopted by many companies and organizations after recognizing the value of project management practice, tools and techniques to control their own Y2K project. Moreover, using the Internet commonly at that time helped to produce and form the virtual project office aimed at improving risk management plans and to provide coordination (Azzopardi, nd, p.3). Hence, the virtual project office was a focal site for all works of a project and its function was obviously apparent. As a result, as Kwan indicates (2005, p.7), Y2K came to be the “most documented project in project management history, because millions of organizations in the world conducted similar projects”.  The global phenomenon of Y2K highlighted the importance and an awareness of project risk management as a critical tool in a project life cycle for numerous companies (Kwan, 2005, p.7).

8. Opinion

In this section I will provide the rationale for the project management developments that I have discussed above.  In my view, the development and proliferation of project management was necessary to meet the information revolution and rapid technology developments and to allow organizations to work and cope with the demands of advances in industry. In fact, the importance of the development of modern project management is that its tools and techniques have upgraded both the employees’ and employers’ skills and increased the awareness and the importance of project management in the workplace. Therefore, the productivity and the outcomes of projects have grown in almost all industries due to the modern and effective project management techniques and applications.

In addition, the development of project methodologies facilitated the achievement of objectives and organizational goals in a defined scope, time and schedule within budget. Azzopardi (nd, p.3) has also noted that project management methodologies offer a significant “assurance to stakeholders that resources are being managed effectively”.  Furthermore, project management software helps and ensures the speed of communication because the software is web-based which enable teams to connect in real time from any place in the world. Managers also benefit from the internet technology since it provides them with an incredible amount of information from anywhere and at anytime. It also resolves the obstacle of time and place to manage and organize their work.

In my opinion, the formation of professional project management associations addressed the needs of the workers in project management to have a formal place that allows them to experience and to discuss in a right way. As Crawford (2000) mentions, the launch of project management associations was to provide an opportunity for professionals to meet and exchange knowledge. Nevertheless, the global phenomenon of Y2K promoted the identification of the importance of project risk management as a critical tool in a project life cycle. Kerzner (2005, p.18) has stated the rationales of considering the developments of project management as its benefits to organizations which are:

·          accomplishing more work in less time with fewer resources without any sacrifice in quality

·          an increase in profitability

·         better control of scope changes

·         more efficient and effective operations

·         better customer relations

·         better risk identification and problem solving

·         applicability to a multitude of projects, irrespective of size

·          an increase in quality

·         a reduction in power struggles

·         an improvement in sharing of information

·         better company decision making

·         an increase in business and competitiveness

·         the ability to provide complete solutions rather than just products.

I completely agree with Kerzner’s view of the project management benefits that we could not apply without the development of the field of project management.

9. Conclusion

Project management has been practised for a long time. The actual development of project management can be tracked since the 1950s. The development of networking techniques was the cardinal technical improvement in project management at that time.

The foundation of two major professional project management associations characterized the 1960s.  In the 1970s the use of project management applications spread from the defence department, construction and aerospace industries to virtually all sectors and industries. The information management revolution dominated the 1980s leading to the beginning of using personal computers that could be linked and able to communicate with networking services. The 1990s witnessed the recognition of the value of project management qualification and the first project management competency standards. Additionally, the internet technology dominated and took over the world in this decade. However, the year 2000 saw an increased awareness of the significance of risk management practice because of theY2K problem. Consequently, organizations and industries realized the benefits of the structured approach provided by the field of project management to achieve successes and project goals and objectives. The trend in project management now also tends to focus on the people involved in the project and improvement of their skills to deal with the huge information technology advancement.

2627 words

By Duaa N Bukhari

10. References:

Azzopardi,S. (ND). The Evolution of Project Management. The Info Pit.
Beise, C. (ND), IT Project Management and Virtual Teams. Salisbury University. USA
Crawford, L. (2006). Uncovering the Trends in Project Management : Journal Emphases over the Last 10 years. International Journal of Project Management, vol.24, pp.175-184.
Crawford, L. (2000). Project Management Competence for the New Millennium. Paper presented at the 15th World Congress on Project Management, London, England: IPMA.
Crawford, L. (1999). PM Competence: People and Organizations. Paper presented at the Nordnet Conference, Helsinki, Finland: Nordnet.
Dombkins, D.(2009). Redefining Our Profession Part2: The History and Future of Project Management. Vol xI, II, viewed 13 April 2009. www.pmworldtoday.net.
Kerzner, H. (2005). Background of Project Management. In E.G. Carayannis, Y.H.Kwan & F.T.Anbari (eds), The Story of Managing Projects: an interdisciplinary Approach, Praeger Publishers, Westport, pp.10-19.
Kwan, Y. (2005). Brief History of Project Management. In E.G. Carayannis, Y.H.Kwan & F.T. Anbari (eds), The Story of Managing Projects: an interdisciplinary Approach, Praeger Publishers, Westport, pp.1-9.
Levitt, J. (2004). Managing Maintenance Shutdowns and Outages. 1st edn, New York: Industrial Press.
Nicholas, J. (2001). Project Management for Business and Technology. 2nd edn, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.
Schiesser,R. (2002). IT Systems Management. Prentice Hall PTR. Upper Saddle River.
Stretton, A. (1994). A Short History of Modern Project Management. PM World Today, 9(10), 1-18.
Weaver, P (2007). A Brief History of Project Management. Is our Profession 50 or 500 years old?  apm, Project: Vol 19, Issue 11, June 2007  www.apm.org.uk
Weaver, P (2007). The Origins of Modern Project Management. Fourth Annual PMI College of Scheduling Conference, Marriott Pinnacle Downtown, Vancouver 15-18 April 2007. www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Resources_Papers_050.html
Weaver, P (2006). A Brief History of Scheduling- Back to the Future. , presented at myPrimavera06, Hyatt, Canberra, 4-6 April 2006. www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Resources_Papers_042.html
Weaver, P (2006). Trends in Modern Project Management- Past Present & Future. , presented at PMoz, Gold Coast, Queensland, 28-31 August 2007. www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Resources_Papers_061.html


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