Project management has been emerging as a professional discipline for some time now, and it is coming into the mainstream just when it appears to be most needed as a business solution. The author has been noted for saying in published works and presentations that “project management, in so many ways, is business management.” To that end, it is appropriate that the processes of project management be aligned with business needs and interests. It is likewise important for business processes to be aligned with needs and interests in the project management environment. The introduction of an effective project management methodology within the organization will help to achieve that prescribed alignment.
The basis or foundation for project and business management alignment already exists in many organizations today, but too often resides in a latent state that is still awaiting management acknowledgment and active collaborative use. That foundation exists in organizational processes that are common to both project and business management, but which are sometimes still applied as separate and uncoordinated sets of activities. That foundation is also seen in organizations where standard and repeatable processes are established to compile or aggregate results at the project, program, and portfolio management levels as a means to provide relevant and timely information to strategic managers and business decision makers in the organization.
Basic business processes are often performed, knowingly or unknowingly, at the project level when project management practices are applied to achieve business results for each project. Organizations need to recognize the business contributions of project management, and ensure that they achieve the maximum business value and return on the project management investment. An effective project management process, introduced through methodology implementation across the organization, is an essential component for achieving the desired project and business management alignment.
Evolution from a Technical Background
In earlier years, an organization’s technical methodologies were expected to fulfill project management process needs. They often fell short of applying what we know today as “professional project management” concepts and practices. This is because the technical methodologies that were used to achieve desired levels of excellence in technical products and services still had a technical focus and did not particularly address all of the essential activities of project management.
Some technical methodologies were subsequently “enhanced and improved” to serve broader project management interests by introducing key concepts and practices of modern project management. However, while such methodology adaptations gave the technical manager expanded insight into project management, the basic processes—the critical processes of the methodology—were still technical in nature. Still, some of the adaptations did serve to demonstrate a relationship between technical management and project management.
Many of today’s technical methodologies have considerably improved project management content over earlier adaptations. However, to a large extent, they are still intended for primary use by technical managers rather than by project managers. They simply lack essential pieces and parts of a rigorous project management process.
It is important to note that there is and will continue to be an ongoing need for technical methodologies—each as a guide toward excellence in the technical effort for which it was created. But a distinction is still warranted. A good technical process will ensure product and service design, development, and delivery excellence. In contrast, a good project management process will ensure project success and, by extension, business success.
Over time, it has often been shown by many practitioners that project management fits well into the scheme of most technical methodologies and can be supportive of technical activities and objectives. Today, public and private sector organizations alike are coming to realize the benefits of having one standard and repeatable project management process that can be used across the enterprise. That implies use of the same, common project management practices across the different technical functions and business units in the organization. Implementing a project management methodology that provides a standard and consistent approach to project management across the enterprise should also inherently contribute to technical achievements.
Therefore, today’s consideration of an enterprise-wide project management methodology reverses the earlier scheme of the technical methodology. Now, instead of integrating key project management activities into the preferred technical process, the enterprise approach examines the ways in which the various technical methodologies (used in the different organizational business units) can be integrated and aligned with the project management methodology that is prescribed for use across the enterprise. Thereby, each business unit that conducts projects will integrate its own technical activities and intricacies at relevant points in the prescribed project management process. (See how this integration works in a diagram presented in the Methodology Practice Guide Introduction section.)
Today, it is also being shown that project management processes can be viewed as an extension of business processes. This project and business management relationship is not usually addressed by technical processes. However, it is consistent with the concepts of modern project management, and it is usually endorsed in the specification of responsibilities of the professional project manager. This consideration prompts the need for the organization to implement a project management process that recognizes and responds to business needs and interests across the enterprise.