How Project Management Came To Be

Project Managers and Project Management tools have both evolved, adapted, and changed over the course of the past handful of decades out of necessity, given the rate of technological advancements met with cultural expectations. However, Project Management in itself has been around since the early 1900s as projects evolved that needed a specialized skill set to meet the demands and requirements for the nuanced organizational structure a project was developed under. The skill set generally expected of such a role involves the ability to self-govern, organize, stay driven, as well as self-motivate in order to stay on top of a multiplicity of projects that require for him/ her to control the budget, human capital, communications between teams/client, and manage both resources and relationships appropriately. This position, being immersed in the thick of the internal company culture all while being in direct communication with clients, provides a unique angle to propose innovative opportunities. However, this was not always the case as the role and business model has changed tremendously from what it use to be.

Before going any further, it is important to speak to the distinct form of Project Management that is being discussed. While Project Management in itself – the role of managing “projects” – has been around for many centuries, Systematic Project Management techniques that led to the development of the project management role, often discussed today, has been developing, more or less, over the past 60 years. The development of such techniques has paralleled the development of business/organizational structures. As businesses moved out of the traditional leadership directive model of having all in-house employees following a strict line of command, into a more recursive lateral or matrix structure of shared and/or multiple points of contact for directorship, Project Management has become more autonomous in nature, and self-directive; requiring a sense of intrapeneurship. However, once again let me take one step back to discuss a little more about how it managed to get from point A to B.

While there is a lot of speculation of when the modern Project Management era began, there is general consensus that it arose sometime after WWII between 1940s – 1958. It was in 1958 that CPM/PERT was first developed. Project Management in this era established out of an increase of efficiency. As speed of communication and transportation increased, more work was getting done at a faster pace. Therefore, there was a need for more practical organization in regards to what was getting done and how, along with what resources were utilized to accomplish it. During WWII Project Management came into play in regards to the Manhattan Project that built the atomic bomb. It was at this point a role needed to be created to coordinate government-sponsored projects, along with tracking the resources and development of the project.

Between the years of 1958-1979 there were very computer-specific technological advancements that emerged. It was during this era, as mentioned above, that CPM/PERT Project Management tool was founded, and well as MRP (Material Requirement Planning). Organizations that used these systems hired people, who were to eventually evolve into the title of project managers, as specialists to operate such tools as “brokers of information”. In 1958, when NASA was created, and missions were led to explore space, a program office role was created that delineated what a project manager-type position entailed, which included maintenance, scheduling, contracting, developing protocols for performance, and focus. This followed the founding of some of the first Project Management software companies in the 70’s – Oracle, Artemis, Scitor Corp.

The IT sector revolution took off in the 80’s, eventually demanding people to multitask on personal computers. The development of the personal computer, away from the mainframe computer system, made Project Management techniques more accessible, allowing the role to be considered by individuals who were not only computer engineers. As company culture and organization dynamics began to play even more important role in team cohesion and project oversight, Project Management became essential for solidifying goals, costs, schedules, metrics and communication.

The efficiency of the internet enhanced the need for not only Project Management skills but flexibility in those skills, in effort to be adaptable to the increased diversity that was experienced with the advent of the internet. With the adoption of internet technology for Project Management tools, creating virtual and web-based project offices, managing and controlling teams as well as projects became that more productive. Today Project Management continues to be ever more demanding requiring versatility and the ability to manage multiple moving parts at once, with success. Fortunately, with the plethora of PM tools available these days, no one has to do it on there own.