The History of Project and Program Management


The very best place to start in understanding program and project management is to have a comprehensive knowledge of PMI-based definitions for project, programs, and the management process used to successfully achieve objectives. Project management is the foundation of program management, and program managers will generally be experts in the field of project management to ensure that the project managers are following a consistent and repeatable process. The PMI states: “A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result” (PMI 2009, 4). It is

  • Performed by people;
  • Constrained by limited resources; and
  • Planned, executed and controlled.
  • Managed from a time, scope and quality basis.
  • Projects and operations differ primarily in that operations are ongoing and repetitive, while projects are temporary and unique endeavors.

While PMI does a great job describing a project, many in the industry would describe project management as “the art of creating the illusion that any outcome is the result of a series of predetermined, deliberate acts when, in fact, it was dumb luck” (Anonymous). Project management is best defined as “the application of knowledge, skills, tools, techniques to project activities to meet project requirements.” (PMI 2009, 6). Contrary to popular belief, project management is not related to “dumb luck” nor is it an IT or software development concept. Project management, as it is reflected today, really began in the 1950s when businesses

However, project management can be traced further back, for example, to the original building of the transcontinental railroad in the early 1870s. The scope of organizing such a complex effort across the country with limited communication and thousands of workers needed to be optimized to facilitate cost-effective measures and time factors. In addition, the manufacturing and assembly of large quantities of raw materials required a tremendous amount of logistics planning to ensure that workers had the materials they needed available to them as they built the railroad lines. If too many materials were shipped to a location, the cost of transporting materials increased as the materials had to be hauled from location to location. If there were not enough materials, the workers would be delayed and would have to wait, doing nothing and being paid. The balancing act between logistics and management was one of the biggest challenges that managers had faced and required unique management approaches.

Sequencing that were necessary for project completion. These links showed the precedence and relationships between tasks, facilitating a better understanding of resource allocation and enabling managers to visually represent the tasks, milestones, and deliverables on a calendar basis. PERT (Program Evaluation Review Technique) charts and the CPM were introduced after World War II when the complexities of processes and competition increased but the demand from wartime decreased. Managers needed to optimize and increase efficiency, delivering on time.

Read more: Project Management Career Opportunities

Program Life Cycle Management

Programs are managed through a three-part life cycle with program definition, program benefits delivery, and program closure. During this life cycle the program may have a number of projects start and complete, overlapping efforts, transitions to operational control, and the realization of multiple benefits as each project is completed. Ensuring that the program follows the life cycle through the whole process is crucial to success. A program that is not transitioned to operational management at the end is still considered a failure, even when the program benefits are delivered and all projects, initiatives, and operational activities are completed. When the Denver International Airport was built, the program encompassed building the terminals, putting in place the infrastructure (roads, electrical, water, etc.), implementing a baggage-handling system, staffing the facility, and transitioning the facility over to the operational management team. However, once the airport opened the very first snowfall stranded a large number of passengers at the airport.

Last   word

Fifth edition, provides a set of five process areas and ten knowledge areas that demonstrate forty-seven processes to be used by project managers in the delivery of results, products, or services. The PMBOK Guide is organized by both process and knowledge areas. The processes interact and overlap within a project’s various phases. For any process, three parts are necessary—inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs. Specifically, inputs refer to documents, plans, and designs; tools and techniques are those mechanisms that are applied to the inputs; outputs may be documents or products as well as other types of project results.


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