Long before there was an institute for project management, updated knowledge books, and guides on how to manage projects, or even before Gantt charts, history offers several examples of colossal projects completed. The Pyramids of Giza, the Great Wall of China, and the Coliseum are all excellent examples of such tasks. Project Management, at its core, is concerned with creating an environment where people can work together to achieve a mutual objective to deliver successful projects on time and within budget. Throughout the history of humanity, humans have been working on improving and refining project management practices. The goal of this study is to present the evolution of project management from ancient times until the present times and its outlook in the future by outlining significant events and developments throughout history.
To better capture the history of modern project management, following four periods were identified from the history of projects:
- Phase 1: Before 1958
- Phase 2: 1958 – 1979
- Phase 3: 1980 –1994
- Phase 4: 1995 to present
The origins of modern project management started between the 1900s and 1950s. During this phase, Project management transformed from a Craft system to Human Relations Administration. The period marked better transportation and telecommunication systems, and Gantt charts were also developed. During that time, the concept of job specification also specifies the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to perform a job successfully.
In the second period, there was significant technological advancement. The central theme in the second period (between 1958 and 1979) is the application of Management Science. During that period, significant technological advances took place, including the introduction the first plain-paper copier by Xerox. During that time, core project management tools such as Program Evaluation Review Technique (PERT) and Critical Path Method (CPM) commenced. Another significant development during that time was mandating the use of the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) approach for any future projects bearing the size and scope of Polaris (Polaris was one of the significant project of the period, apart from Apollo). On the professional side, the institutionalization process of project management began with the creation of the world’s first project management association, now known as the International Project Management Association (IPMA). Since its development in 1965, IPMA has grown substantially and is now a prime international promoter of project management in Europe, Asia, and Arab countries. Four years later, the Project Management Institute (PMI), primarily based in the U.S.A, was founded. In the 1970s, computers progressed from mainframe to mini -computers which made computers more affordable. The affordability of the mini-computers subsequently facilitated the emergence of several project management software companies and their respective tools.
In the third era, 1980 to 1994, multitasking Personal Computers (PC) impacted project management with their efficiency and speed of processing. In the 1980s, the Resource Projects Organization Management Planning Technique II (PROMPT II) model defined project management programs. Later, the PRojecting In Controlled Environments (PRINCE) model refined Project management. The Theory of Constraints (TOC) is a management philosophy introduced in the Novel “The Goal.” TOC is the philosophy that helps organizations achieve goals. In 1986, an agile software development model encouraging software development by multiple small teams was developed, called Scrum – an approach that is a flexible and holistic product development strategy. In 1987, PMI published Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), based on a white paper published in 1983 called the “Ethics, Standards, and Accreditation Committee Final Report.” The guide attempted to document and standardize accepted project management and practices.
The fourth and final era is 1995 to the present. In this era, technology continues to be a driving force for change and significantly impacts what project managers do. In 1996 PRINCE was upgraded to PRINCE2, and in 1997 an alternative method called Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) was introduced. CCPM is a method of planning and managing projects derived from TOC, and unlike CPM and PERT, the practice mainly emphasizes the resources required to complete the project rather than the specific tasks. In 1998, The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) recognized PMBOK as a standard. In 2001, The Agile Manifesto was written, founded upon a set of core values aimed at enabling software developing teams to perform well as a team.
Reference: Seymour, T., & Hussein, S. (2014). The History Of Project Management. International Journal of Management & Information Systems (IJMIS), 18(4), 233–240.