PM standards -- who needs them?

A recent Computerworld article (Blind Faith, March 3, p 26) canvassed the scenario of doomed projects and the apparent inability of those involved to stop the runaway train.

This situation speaks volumes about psychology and dynamics of corporate politics. What concerns me as an IT project manager is project management’s role in terms of the failure caused by apparent lack of process. I’m also concerned by the absence of industry standards to ensure process application.

As an experienced PM professional, I believe that it is possible to achieve effective management over a project life cycle and program portfolio by adapting proven procedures to create a methodology standard.

However, if methodology and standardisation provide success where are the standards in today’s IT project management industry? Also, why don’t organisations expect to see their project professionals implement methodology standards? Consider how a lack of industry standard complicate selection criteria in the job market and how this diminishes faith in the profession?

Perhaps part of the problem lies with the practitioners themselves. In many cases the subject of methodology is absent from job ads and specifications, which is astounding given that it forms the basis of everything a PM will deliver. Other professionals such as accountants are expected to adhere to standards, so why not project managers? There is plenty at stake — dollars, competitiveness, reputation, repeat customers, and overall business success.

Project management has been around for thousands of years — the great pyramids being an interesting example. But only during the past few decades, has there been an attempt to formalise and standardise practices.

In this regard a variety of associations have sprung up to promote their methodologies. While concepts overlap in many areas, the various methodologies continue to lack a cohesive direction.

The result is that industry standardisation is not emerging and there is no champion, probably because self-interest continues to drive each standard, which is further perpetuated by academic institutions.

With ‘de facto’ standards it is no surprise that there is mismanagement, miscommunication, disagreement, and a lack of progress in project management discipline. So who needs project management methodology disciplines and standards? Everyone — stakeholders, the organisation, and most of all Project Management.

Geoff Scott is a senior project manager.

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