What are the numerous methodological trends?
A methodology is “a set of repeatable processes with project specific methods, rules, and guidelines for building quality application systems that are manageable and deliver value to the organization”. People learn through both formal education and experience. And in project management, the development of a methodology is a long process requiring formal education and experience learning. Since it is a learning experience, project managers need to observe and learn from other methodologies that are being used elsewhere. The advantage is usually bigger when a chosen methodology is an industry standard. Since organizations in the private and public sectors are constantly searching for “best practices”, methodologies are becoming standardized. Â Methodologies are mostly based on a defined set of principles, models, disciplines, concepts, guidelines, and proven practices. Furthermore, methodologies can be customized to best suit a project or a certain industry. Usually, project management methodologies aim to optimize efficiency and corporate resources, reduce risks, and ensure quality. They are also handy and direct.
Recently, many consulting companies have emerged. There are currently many companies that offer new methodologies and training services to other companies and organizations. These companies sell their tested methodologies (or know-how) and offer services to train staff and managers in order to execute these methodologies successfully.
Many of the methodologies they offer focus on staff training. They focus on turning the company’s staff into skilled project managers and process analysts in order to achieve a better performance.
Research, studies and statistics show many new trends in project management methodologies. We can notice that the trend nowadays is towards using software packages, web based collaboration, and “people oriented” management instead of “control oriented” management.
Nowadays, project managers are very frequently using software packages. By using software packages, some managers aim to achieving more management effectiveness, with less consumption of manpower. Many software companies have emerged offering their latest project management solutions in the form of software packages that are easy for businesses to implement. Hundreds of various commercial project management software tools and solutions are currently available in the market. The total number of different products has been increasing steadily within last two decades. This has resulted in lots of diversity and specialization in software packages. Software packages can offer assistance in multi-project management, project planning procedures, or just presenting project reports.
It is believed that this diversity will still continue and increase in the following years, and even “more specific” project management software will emerge, especially ones that “support team work and negotiations, access project management information sources and manage opportunities and risks”.
Another current methodological trend in project management is the use of Web-based collaboration. Project managers nowadays are relying on virtual project management, using Internet-based collaboration tools and group support systems. This helps managers reduce time and cost. For example, employees can continuously upload reports or even work on their projects online, and managers don’t have to waste time by visiting each employee to make sure that the work in progress is good. These internet-based methodologies focus on providing a communication framework between project teams and the executive management. Software packages supporting web-based collaboration are still being produced and enhanced, and their use is expected to increase even more in the next couple of years.
Yet another major current trend in project management methodologies is the emphasis on the use of “people oriented” project management instead of “control oriented” project management. Many project managers are re-stressing the idea that people are the most valuable asset, and should be considered and treated as so. Studies have shown that traditional project management methodologies are mostly control oriented. This means that “they promote efficient control techniques and provide software tools in support of these techniques but at the same time, they are apparently not very supportive of people; the real driving force responsible for a successful project outcome”. People oriented methodology advocates argue that people or team leaders are the most valuable asset. Therefore, they claim that control oriented methodologies, or methodologies born out of distrust in people will probably lead to the negative side-effects. Control oriented methodologies might cause team leaders to have lower confidence or lose real commitment and motivation. On the other hand, it is believed that people oriented management will lead to higher employee motivation and better performance and outcome.
It has also been argued that a project manager is not a controller as in the current popular control oriented methodologies, but a leader. A project manager’s responsibilities include creating an infrastructure for autonomous project management, assuring that each party has sufficient confidence in meeting their project goals, and ensuring proper communication. Years of managerial experience have shown that autonomous management methodologies maximize project human resource productivity efficiency.
Autonomous management methodologies support people by ensuring high motivation and commitment. Complete trust between the management and employees is rewarded by the loyalty of the employees and improved performance. In order to properly carry out people oriented management techniques, managers must be capable and skillful. One of the most important skills of successful project managers is leadership, or “getting everyone to work together”; “no software package can be a substitute for leadership”.
In the near future, it is uncertain to whether management methodologies are going to become people oriented or remain mostly control oriented, for most current project management methodologies being used and promoted by leading project management organizations are generally control oriented.
Nowadays, companies are also trying to identify causes of project failure and come up with ways to avoid them. Because projects still fail at an alarming rate in the IT industry, reasons are being studied. Most projects fail because the people managing the projects are not professional project managers. “Not any project manager can manage any project”. For example, in the construction sector, people usually have only one role. The brick-layer lays bricks, carpenters cut wood and so onâ€¦ so people managing projects should be specialized in the field, and can’t just manage any project in a different field. And someone who has a certain role in one project should have the same role in another project.
In the 1960s, IT was first used in business to do existing tasks faster. If the computer systems failed, then people would go back to doing the same tasks manually. Business was rarely dependent on IT because it only reflected existing tasks that people could still do. “At that time, IT was the equivalent of a coffee machine. If it broke down, people could make their own coffee.” Today, IT does things that people are not able do, so there is no effective way of replacing Web-based international ordering, procurement, warehousing and distribution systems. IT can often be essential to the survival of the business.
In order to uncover the latest project management challenges and trends facing company executives worldwide, the Center for Business Practices conducted a huge survey in 2003. The survey polled 1000 project professionals and senior-level executives representing global companies in industries including manufacturing, healthcare, and information technology. According to the survey, the two biggest project management challenges for executives and project professionals are developing a consistent methodology and allocating resources. The second most common problem for companies was that some of them managed too many projects, and some managed the “wrong projects”. Other challenges were “project manager competency, economic pressures, and limited visibility of project activities”.
The survey also showed that the three most commonly implemented project management improvement initiatives were software tools, methodology development, and staff training. Furthermore, companies that implemented project management improvement initiatives spent an average of $712,000 on them annually. With respect to software tools, 95.6% of the survey respondents reported using Microsoft Project as their primary project management software tool. According to other research, portfolio project management was noticed as one of the moderately growing software applications in 2002, growing at a 36 percent growth rate.
- The Center for Business Practices (www.cbponline.com)
- Book: Project Management Best Practices for Professionals, Richard Murch, Prentice Hall, 2001.