Researchers at Portsmouth Business School in the United Kingdom conducted a review of recent academic studies on project management to answer the question: “what components exist across the board in the worldwide practice of 21st century Project Management and what are some universal challenges that exist?”
In a 2016 issue of the Journal of Economics and Sustainable Development, Abdulrahman Alotaibi and Oluwasoye Patrick Mafimisebi at Portsmouth Business School published an interesting paper, Project Management Practice: Redefining Theoretical Challenges in the 21st Century. The pair pored over recent literature to assess if the practice of project management is truly valuable to the modern organization, and if so, to identify the activities that provide the discipline’s greatest chance of success.
Conceptualizing 21st century projects and project management
In determining its benefits, the researchers felt it was important to point out that there are conflicting definitions of projects and project management. According to Maylor (1999), a project can be defined as a non-repetitive activity that is goal-oriented, has a particular set of constraints around time and resources, has a measurable output, and changes something within the organization. On the other hand, the Project Management Institute (PMI) defines a project as a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result (Cobb, 2012).
Per Verzuh in 2008, project management is a discipline – a set of methods, theories and techniques that have evolved to manage the complexities of work that is unique and temporary. Whereas, Maylor (1999) defined project management as the process of planning, organizing, directing and controlling activities in addition to monitoring what is usually the most expensive resource on the project – the people.
Alotaibi and Mafimisebi concluded that project management is no longer about managing the sequence of steps required to complete the project on time (Besner & Hobbs, 2006; Maylor, 1999), but also about systematically incorporating the voice of the stakeholders, creating a disciplined way of prioritizing effort and resolving trade-offs, and working concurrently on all aspects of the project in multi-functional teams. Project management has evolved to plan, coordinate and control the complex and diverse activities of modern industrial, commercial and management change and IT projects (Lock, 2007).
More recently Mir & Pinnington (2014) found that organizations are increasingly using project management to increase productivity. This study also showed that employing a project management approach helped eliminate wasted time and efforts that would have been directed at irrelevant tasks. Perhaps due to these advantages, Fortune et al. (2011) reported that the use of project management methodologies and tools increased significantly in the first decade of the 21st century.
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