A project can be defined as a unique and transient endeavor, undertaken to achieve planned objectives, which are definable in terms of outputs, outcomes or benefits. The application of the processes, methods, experience, skills and knowledge to achieve a project’s objectives is known as Project Management.

Before formal Project Management techniques were adopted, large civil engineering projects were traditionally managed by the master builders, architects and engineers themselves.

Project Management emerged as a distinct discipline during the twentieth century, the result of work in the fields of civil construction and engineering, and a burgeoning heavy defense industry.

Its roots lie in Frederick Winslow Taylor’s (1856-1915) theories of scientific management. Within Taylor’s work can be found the forerunners of modern Project Management tools such as the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and resource allocation.

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Two of his students, Henry Gantt (1861-1919), the author of early planning and control techniques and the Gantt chart, and Henri Fayol (1841-1925), creator of the five management functions that underpin project and program management (planning, organizing, leading, controlling and coordinating), are generally considered to be the founding fathers of the modern discipline that eventually emerged in the 1950s, and that we recognize today as Project Management.

Henry Gantt

Henry Gantt – Source: softwarelivre.org

In the early days of Project Management, projects were managed on an ad-hoc basis, using Gantt charts and informal tools and techniques. In the 1950s, however, two mathematical project-scheduling models were developed: the Critical Path Method (CPM), and the Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT). Both models were developed for specific contexts. CPM is used for projects within which the timings of each activity will be certain and known. PERT, on the other hand, allows for stochastic, or unpredictable and uncertain activity times.

Alongside these developments in project-scheduling, advances were being made in the areas of project cost estimating, cost management and engineering economics, and in 1956 the American Association of Cost Engineers was formed (now the Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering, or AACE International).

1967 saw the foundation of the International Project Management Association (IPMA), a federation of several individual national Project Management associations. The IPMA retains its presence today, providing standards and establishing guidelines for the work of Project Management professionals through the IPMA Competence Baseline (ICB). The ICB covers behavioral, as well as technical, and contextual, competencies.

Another not-for-profit professional organization, the Project Management Institute (PMI), was established in the USA two years later in 1969, and now offers multiple certifications.

In 1989, the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (then a department of the UK Government) adopted a Project Management model which they renamed PRINCE (Projects IN a Controlled Environment). In 1996, PRINCE2 was released and eagerly adopted as a generic Project Management method, and became a standard across many UK Government departments, and across the United Nations system.

The method was revised in 2009, yet retained the name PRINCE2.

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