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How to use ‘New Global Standards’ in project management, to improve project success

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By Dr. Madhu Fernando

Two decades of the 21st century are almost completed. Some project management practitioners are still relying on the traditional project management standards which have been introduced in mid to late 20th century for projects. Projects are failing. Project teams are getting blamed for the failure. In the new world, old project management methodologies sometimes produce failures, when used the same way, with the same mindset, they have been used for many long years. 

Comprehensive planning at the beginning, limited scope for change, and placing a strong focus on the process rather than delivery, and many other characteristics of traditional project management are still in practice, when there is a clear need for a balanced and more flexible project management strategy.

Key changes to the global standards

Global standards for the project management profession are developed by US based Project Management, PMI – Project Management Institute, is accepted in 207 countries and territories, through its strong base of 407,000 members as per 2016 PMI Annual report. PMI has certified 740,000 project management professionals so far, to serve the world, more than half of them living outside USA.

Understanding the need for agility in managing projects with the recent changes in project management profession, PMI, has released its new edition of Project Management Body of Knowledge, with a strong focus on agile practices. In agile project management, a team will manage a project by breaking it in to several stages, and involving constant collaboration with the stakeholders and a process of continuous improvement. Compared to traditional project management, team has the flexibility to plan, re-plan and work in iterations to deliver a high quality product.  

This does not mean that the traditional practices need to be replaced by the new agile practices. Some projects require plan driven approaches, and need comprehensive planning done at the beginning. Therefore, the new project management standards guide project managers to understand both traditional and agile project management practices, with the commonly used methods, tools, techniques and the processes, and detail clear instructions on how to tailor the process, to suit unique requirements of the project. Using a right approach is vital for a successful project, and the new standards provide the choices a project manager can make in choosing that right approach.

Apart from the instructions on how to implement the global standards in agile environment, new standards for the new world has placed a greater emphasis on strategic and business knowledge, role of the project manager, with slight changes to the famous 10 knowledge areas of Project Integration, Scope, Schedule, Cost, Resource management used in the PMI – Project Management Body of Knowledge. More information on latest project management global standards can be found on www.pmi.org.

It is important that every project management professional and project stakeholders are updated with these changes, as it will change the way projects are managed in the future and the way how project organisations and teams will work together to deliver project requirements and expectations.

Benefits of new standards

Project Managers expect that PMI’s Guide to Project Management and the Guide to Agile Practices will meet the demands of the new world as well as appreciate agile culture, mindset and values in organisations where it is required. With the previous standards, there was no official guide to the agile way of managing projects. Project Managers who were accredited based on the traditional knowledge base were sometimes unable to perform in organisations where projects were managed in the agile way, questioning the credibility of the certification. New standards will equip project managers with the knowledge in both traditional and agile project management, making them employable in any type of organisation and culture with the right set of skills and competencies they need to manage their projects.

Finding the right approach

It is important to note that the global standards do not provide the project managers with one standard approach to manage a project. Project Managers need to find the right mix based on the requirement of the project, and the nature of the project. Having a complete knowledge of different project management methodologies will help project managers to choose the best mix for the project. 

Think of a project that requires all the planning to be done at the beginning of the project, like building a new hotel. Project stakeholders want to see planning completed and frozen at the beginning of the project to obtain approvals and start the work. You will have to go with the traditional approaches to meet the demands. However, it does not necessarily mean you cannot integrate agile practices in to your projects. You can create agile culture, agile mindset and introduce agile values to your team to ensure optimum results. 

On the other hand, think what will happen when project stakeholders want you to come up with a quick solution to their problem, like developing software where requirements are not clear at the beginning. You can’t spend all your time to plan the project in detail; you might try to do it in phases, in iterations, using Agile Project Management. When you know all about available project management methodologies, you have the choice to find the right strategy or to build the right mix, in order to deliver projects successfully. 

(The writer is the Founder CEO of PMI Colombo, Sri Lanka Chapter and CEO of Innova Strategies, and can be contacted via madhu.fernando@innovastrategies.com).

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