The original article seemed to generate a great deal of interest. At least one reader had the incorrect notion that I held Project Managers in great esteem and felt that no projects could survive without them. That is far from the truth and definitely not how I feel.
I’m not stating, “What if there were no Project Managers?” Depending on the PM, that could be a good thing (come on, some very inflexible PMs are a pain…you know what I mean). Rather, my article presents the question “What if there was no Project Management?” And by that I mean the overall PM practices that make projects run well.
Requirements gathering was brought up by one reader as an activity that falls under the PM role. That is the case on some engagements. In my experience that has generally been smaller engagements and then it is usually not just the PM, but also the Business Analyst or a Lead Developer. But the management of the activity is still a Project Management responsibility.
It’s my belief that the most successful projects begin with a solid set of requirements provided by the customer. After all, it is their system we’re developing and a good set of customer requirements is a tremendous help during the Exploration Phase.
No Project without Project Management
One reader commented that without project management there really is no project. She aptly pointed out that at that point you merely have people doing tasks that may or may not be interrelated into a larger whole. I could not agree more with this frame of thought.
Without the cohesive act of Project Management pulling everything together, the probability that individual team members acting on their own would come to a successful, timely and cost-effective solution is greatly reduced. I’d refer to it as acting randomly, but we know that’s not the case. These talented individuals basically know what to do.
What the technical resources sometimes lack – without Project Management – is the knowledge of when to do what and the dependency between all the tasks…what needs to happen when, etc. That’s where the Project Manager – or at least the acts of Project Management play a huge role in orchestrating the success of the project.
Not a Fan
I realize that there are some technical resources out there that have a fairly sour opinion of Project Management and Project Managers in general. Many of them are likely some of the most talented individuals in their field. They’ve soured on Project Management not because of PM itself. I believe it is more due to the fact that the role of PM and the PMO in their company – if one exists – does not have the proper processes or possibly the proper authority to have the correct effect on the projects being run through the organization.
Consider that the key PM responsibilities generally include Communication, Status Reporting, Status Meetings, Project Schedule Management, Issues/Risks tracking, Budget Oversight. If those were performed well, what project wouldn’t benefit? What project team member wouldn’t perform better knowing what tasks they should be performing and when? The level of team member frustration and confusion that is removed when the communication is flowing well and everyone is on the same page is immeasurable.
So, I truly believe that individuals who are frustrated with Project Management in their organizations are working in companies where they are not being well-served by their PM processes – or there is an extreme lack of proper processes in place.
I think we can all agree that, for the most part, solid Project Management processes need to be in place to ensure that projects have a fighting chance for success. There’s no way to completely guarantee success on a project. There are always issues that arise and sometimes even the tightest control and the best communication, management and resources can’t ensure success. But the probability of success is exponentially higher with well-documented and utilized Project Management processes in place.