Project Management

In essence, project management can be defined as the application of all the processes which are aimed to make sure that a project will meet the requirements while the risks are kept under control.

In particular, the management of a project requires an iterative and interactive endeavor among and with the stakeholders to bring forward the activities, including those necessary to cope with any change to the original requirements, in such a way that the constraints, usually competing each other, are well balanced throughout the project execution.


Differently from many other disciplines, the era of the modern project management as we know it has started only in the late nineteenth century. In the latest decades it has had quite a lot of resonance as more and more organizations ran over works organized as a "project".

The timeline of project management evolution includes, but it is not limited to, the following milestones:
  • In between 1890 and 1990, an american mechanical engineer named Mr. Frederick W. Taylor lays the basis of the first methodic approach to the work planning, with the aim to improve the productivity of the mass production (ref. to "Principles of Scientific Management"). As far I know, this gentleman is the first recorded "consultant" in this field. We owe to him the first notice to the WBS.
  • 1910s: record the advent of the first tool aimed to visually represent the work activities and monitor their progress against a baseline. This tool is called Gantt, from the name of the american mechanical engineer and pioneer who promoted it (Mr. Henry Laurence Gantt). The Gantt chart structure, including milestones and bars representing the project's tasks, is basically unchanged in its concept till the the advent of the computer science, which currently allows to easily manage complex plans with a lot of dependencies.
  • Mid-twentieth century: these years mark other key milestones in the history of the project management, namely the introduction of two core mathematical models, still well known nowadays: the Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) developed by US Navy and the "Critical Path Method" (CPM) by Dupont (R) and  Remington Rand (R). These algorhythms pave the way for a better control of massive projects over the next decades and till today.
  • 1960s: While the project management is emerging as a standalone discipline and spreading into more and more businesses, the first organizations are formed, both in the US and in Europe. In particular:
- In 1967, the International Project Management Association (IPMA) is founded in EU as a federal union of many national project management associations. IPMA program of certification for project managers is based on the Competence Baseline (ICB) and offers a 4-levels certification based upon seniority, expertise and contextual elements. 
- In 1969, the Project Management Institute (PMI) is founded in the USA. PMI is the internationally accredited entity which publishes the famous PMBOK Guide (C), which was first distributed as a white paper in 1987 and currently (2012) in its fourth edition (fifth edition is ready and planned to be issued early 2013). Like IPMA, also PMI offers a certification program with multiple levels.
In the latest decades, the discipline of project management has undergone further evolutions.It is now widely recognized as an  "critical to project delivery" methodology and an undisputed element of a successful project execution across many businesses. Particularly because of the increasing challenges introduced by the globalization and the stringent (and unrealistic at times) requirements that the projects are required to cover to compete on the market as of today.


More than 36 countries have been contributing for around 5 years to the preparation and the release of the "Guidance on project management" ISO 21500 (International Organization for Standardization)
The works initiated in 2006 with the purpose to define a framework to facilitate the harmonisation in between the various methodologies, the models and the principles which have proliferated so far and which have been extensively documented in the existing knowledge bodies.
The efforts have been coordinated by a project and a technical committee. The final draft was made publicly available on September 3rd, 2012.


Project management methods established so far differentiate and complement each other at the same time. We may see in the future an harmonization in between them, especially upon release of the ISO 21500, supposed to become an undisputed common ground for this discipline

It is worth to remind the main approaches currently used:

1) The traditional waterfall method foresees some main phases and it provides guidelines on how to manage each of them, even if not all the projects run through all the phases mandatory. Both PM BOK and ISO 21500 mention a similar structure, like the following:
  •   Initiating
  •   Planning   
  •   Implementing
  •   Controlling
  •   Closing
2) Prince2 (Projects In Controlled Environments), introduced in the UK by the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) as a standard for the management of IT projects. It is now internationally accredited and utilized in and outside UK, not only for IT projects. It basically leverages on a project management template program, integrating eight stages (whose acronyms are SU, PL, IP, DP, CS, MP, SB and CP) which in turn link 45 sub-processes to help managing the project. The Prince2 method, born around 1989, has undergone two major revisions in 1996 and then in 2008 and it is now considered applicable to projects of any nature.

3) Agile, it is essentially a set of software development methods, which allows an adaptive and quick-response-to-changes management and teamwork. It facilitates an incremental development (see also eXtreme Programming XP and Scrum for particular applications).

4) PRISM (Projects integrating Sustainable Methods). It is a project management method which in essence promotes the success of the project outcome without detrimental impact on the organizational environment.