The Evolution of Project Management

Author – Nosheen Awan

The history of project management is very old. Project management has been practiced for thousands of years dating back, but it was in the Mid-1950 that organizations commenced applying formal project management tools and techniques to complex projects. That time project management was used only for projects of defense & aerospace in U.S. because of continuous growth and development PM became mature and essential for modern era of management. . The need for project management was driven by businesses that realized the benefits of organizing work around projects and the critical need to communicate and co-ordinate work across departments and professions.

The evolution or development of project management can be divided into five periods.

Prior to 1950

Before the 1950’s projects were managed on an ad hoc basis. During 1940’s line mangers used the concept of over the fence to manage their projects. Every line manger was project manager and performed the work only necessitated by his line organization and when completed throw the ball over the fence. He was no longer responsible for the project failure. The problem with such traditional approach was that the customer had no single contact point for questions. 
With the passage of time projects became more complex and difficult to manage with this traditional approach. During the World War 2 the US entered into the cold war and arms race had started among different nations. The arms race made it clear that the concept of over the fence management would not be acceptable to the Department of Defense.

1950’S to 1960’S

In the 1950’s when the U.S. government discovered that the Russians were developing missile technology it became crucial that the “missile gap” be filled. Since the safety of the nation was at stake, the U.S. Navy wanted to build a system for its own use immediately. To manage the building program Willard Fazar’s PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique) was used. PERT uses critical path methodology to control projects that involve massive tasks and logistics.
Between 1956 and 1958 several core project management tools including CPM and PERT were introduced. By the 1950’s the aerospace and defense industries were using project management and pressuring their suppliers to use it. It was growing but with slow rate except for aerospace and defense.

1960 to 1979

Because of technology revolution (1958 to 1979), like the evolution of computer technology facilitated the emergence of several project management software companies including Artemis (1977), Oracle (1977), and Scitor Corporation (1979). In the 1970’s other project management tools such as Material Requirements Planning (MRP) were also introduced.
Between the middle 1960’s executives began searching for new management techniques & tools and organizational structure that could be quickly adapted to a changing environment. Only aerospace, defense and construction companies maintained formal method of managing projects. Other maintained an informal method for project management. In 1969, the Project Management Institute (PMI) was formed to serve the interests of the project management industry. By 1970’s, the environment began to change rapidly. Companies in aerospace, construction and defense pioneered in implementing project management and other industries soon followed.

1980 to 1990

By the 1980 companies began using the principles of PM for the implementation of TQM. In 1981, the PMI Board of Directors authorized the development of what has become A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), containing the standards and guidelines of practice that are widely used throughout the profession. The 1980s and 1990’s was also the era of revolutionary development in the information management sector with the introduction of the personal computer (PC) and associated computer communications networking facilities.
During 1990’s companies had realized that implementation of project management was essential for their organizations because of different factors and driving forces like competitiveness and customer expectations. Finally, companies began to recognize the benefits of implementation of project management. Many new concepts had developed for the support of project management. The concept was concurrent engineering, empowerment, re-engineering, and scope change control and risk management.

2000 to Present

In this era mergers and acquisitions create more multinational companies and multinational project management became a major challenge. It is difficult to achieve maturity as quickly as possible then maturity models for project management provide corporation with the basis of strategic planning for project management. Use of internet and intranet also increase in 2003 and 2004 for reporting and other purpose in project management. Concept of “Six Sigma” is being applied to project management for continuous improvement in PM methodology. Virtual project teams and virtual project management become more common in this era.As project management continuous to grow and mature, many tools & techniques and worldwide standards will be established.



– Book “Project management” A system approach to planning scheduling and controlling by “Harold Kerzner, Ph.D.”
– “evolution of PM part 1 & 2

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