The project management abilities of an organization are rapidly becoming one of its most important competitive differentiators, and crucial for the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of its operations. Many organizations are now placing greater emphasis on project management as a core organizational activity and in turn demanding greater accountability of this function and evidence of the benefits and values it generates.

Conventional approaches to project management, which focused on delivering projects against, time, cost and scope parameters, are inadequate in this new context. High performing organizations are aligning their project management with business strategy, implementing Project Management Offices to facilitate this, and using program and portfolio management to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their project management activity. But the research evidence indicates that there is a big gap between expectations of the project management function and the reality in many organizations, and that continuing high rates of project failure are having significant negative impacts on firms.

A substantial body of research evidence indicates that a high proportion of project failures are due to people-related factors rather than any shortcoming in the application of project planning and implementation tools and techniques. Schroeder & Schroeder’s Art and Science of Transformation® framework recognizes the importance of combining best practice standards, methods, tools and techniques (the science) with the more intangible skills and attributes that are essential for understanding the business- and people-related aspects of project management (the art). It is also a holistic and systematic approach, which recognizes and addresses the inter-relationships between the organization’s people, culture, systems and processes and the need to address all these factors in order to improve project management performance. Overall, getting the right balance of art and science is critical in achieving project management maturity in any organizational context.

The Growing Importance of Project Management

The project management abilities of an organization are rapidly becoming one of its most important competitive differentiators, and crucial for the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of its operations. Many organizations are now placing greater emphasis on project management as a core organizational activity and in turn demanding greater accountability of this function and evidence of the benefits and values it generates.

How is Project Management Changing?

Conventional approaches to project management, which focused on delivering projects against, time, cost and scope parameters, are inadequate in this new context. High performing organizations are aligning their project management with business strategy, implementing Project Management Offices to facilitate this, and using program and portfolio management to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their project management activity. But the research evidence indicates that there is a big gap between expectations of the project management function and the reality in many organizations, and that continuing high rates of project failure are having significant negative impacts on firms.

Key Drivers of Change in Project Management

A number of factors are driving the need for new types of project management skills and expertise and also necessitating the introduction of new approaches to project management including new organizational systems and processes. These include:

The “Projectization” Trend: The increasing tendency for organisations of all types to carry out much of their activity in the form of projects, which in turn has an impact on their organizational structures and processes as well as their human resource requirements.

Increasing Awareness of the Benefits of Project Management: A growing awareness among senior executives of the business value that can be generated by effective project management, underpinned by substantive research evidence of the business impacts.

More High Value/High Risk Projects: Organizations are implementing increasingly large and more complex “high stakes” projects, using these to deliver mission critical work, and implementing frequent large-scale transformation projects in order to survive and remain competitive in rapidly changing markets.

Resource Constraints and Pressure to Demonstrate Value: Continuing economic pressures and uncertainty are constraining project budgets and necessitating the use of systematic ways of prioritizing projects across the organization. They heighten the need for rigorous project, program, and portfolio management and for accountability of the project management function as well as the ability to demonstrate impacts and return on investment.

Increased Focus on Sustainability and Triple Bottom Line: Business performance is no longer evaluated just in financial terms, but based on the “triple bottom line” comprising economic, environmental and social performance. There is also a requirement to comply with a wide range of sustainability regulations and reporting requirements. This has a big impact on the design of projects and on project monitoring and management.

New Business Models and Dispersed Project Teams: Project management is also being strongly influenced by the widespread adoption of new business models that are facilitated by advances in information and communications technology and utilised for the purpose of improving operational flexibility and reducing costs. This includes the use of virtual project teams which are formed and dissolved over time to meet changing business needs.

Increasingly Volatile Project Environment: Given the frequency with which major organizational transformations are now occurring, as well as the high levels of unpredictability and change in the environments in which many firms operate, project management professionals now commonly encounter the need to make changes or shifts of emphasis in their projects and programs.

Key Developments in Project Management

Growth in use of the Project Management Office (PMO): Generally established with the purpose of improving project management performance and efficiency, and to help achieve better integration of project management with business strategy.

Increasing use of Program and Portfolio Management: By organizing projects into programs and portfolios, organizations are better able to achieve the strategic alignment and effective prioritization of their project activity, maximize the overall return on projects, and improve risk management.

Increased Attention to the “Art” of Project Management: A strong shift in emphasis from technical project management expertise to more intangible business-related expertise and people-related skills. This results in particular from the complex, multi-stakeholder nature of projects and the range of conflicting interests and perspectives involved.

Increased Importance of Risk Management: Reflecting a growing focus on strategic risk management in organizations generally, and an increasing direct involvement of C-suite executives in this area, the use of risk management processes and practices have become widespread in project management.

Growing use of “Agile” and other Formal Methodologies: A steady rise in the adoption of formal project management methodologies such as Agile, Lean and Six Sigma, a development that reflects the increasingly widespread use of such methods in other areas of organizational operations and management and the higher risks inherent in large projects.

Benefits Management and Realization: A systematic approach for ensuring the anticipated value of a project is achieved, this involves clearly defining the expected impacts of the project, and identifying and establishing measures and processes for tracking and identifying benefits during the project life cycle.

The Need for Art and Science in Project Management

A substantial body of research evidence indicates that a high proportion of project failures are due to people-related factors rather than any shortcoming in the application of project planning and implementation tools and techniques.

One of the main factors contributing to poor performance in project management is a failure to adapt project management training and standards to the real-life challenges faced by project, program and portfolio managers today.

In contrast, Schroeder & Schroeder’s Art and Science of Transformation® framework recognizes the importance of combining best practice standards, methods, tools and techniques (the science) with the more intangible skills and attributes that are essential for understanding the business- and people-related aspects of project management (the art).

It has two other key features:

  • A holistic approach, which recognizes and addresses the inter-relationships between the organization’s people, culture, systems and processes and the need to address all these factors in order to improve project management performance.
  • A systematic approach, which emphasises the importance of standardized project management processes which are fully integrated with the organization’s strategic planning process.

Maximizing the benefits and value generated from project management requires a combination of art and science at all levels, from the management of individual projects to portfolio management and the use of a PMO to integrate all project activity with the top level strategic requirements of the organization. Overall, getting the right balance of art and science is critical in achieving project management maturity in any organizational context.