What Project Management 2.0 IS and what it IS NOT (Part 1)

Andrew Filev , Tuesday, October 06, 2009
The topic of Project Management 2.0 becomes hotter with the development of the trend. More and more people get vibrant interest in the subject and start asking important questions about the essence of Project Management 2.0. I started this blog in 2007 and posted my first take on Project Management 2.0 definition in January, 2008. The trend evolved, as does my thinking, so it’s about time to elaborate on that old definition and give you my take on what Project Management 2.0 is and what it is not.

What it IS about

Democratization

The project management discipline as it’s traditionally known “emerged in the 20th century, specifically around the Second World War, through the mega projects that were required. This period can be looked as a catalyst in the evolution of project management with the need to organize vast quantities of resources and personnel to achieve critical objectives in specific timeframes.” Traditional project management built many successful tools and processes that helped to increase the chances of success in those projects. 

Now, the projects around us are quite diverse, and today a few of us are managing mega projects. For starters, SMBs employ over half of all private-sector employees in the United States. These companies run numerous projects that don’t span hundreds of people. So at least 50% of the U.S. working population today is involved in smaller projects. If we take a look at large organizations, many employees there aren’t running mega-projects, either.

The project management space is changing and the change is not only about the size of the projects. Traditional project management developed in an industrial economy. Today, many of us are working in a creative economy and creative projects are different.

New types of projects emerge and successfully develop without traditional methodologies, PMBOK and PPM software. New companies use lightweight processes based on common sense, as well as easy-to-use management and collaboration tools to support those processes. It’s simply amazing what a huge difference these lightweight processes make to the world. Was Google, which started as a student project, following a heavy project management process when they built their disruptive technology? Certainly, not. Nevertheless, they have about 20,000 employees, keep innovating and still aren’t keen on heavy project management processes that simply would not have worked for them. 

Of course, you may say: “NASA is building billion dollar space missions differently.” Well, I think you would still agree that what works for NASA’s space-ship project won’t necessarily work for a marketing department in your company and vice versa. Just ask your co-workers who run marketing projects.

It’s about time to move project management out of the industrial economy, and to bring it into a much larger context and democratize it, if you will. Now, if heavy processes and expensive tools aren’t working in many environments, is there something that can increase productivity and the chances of success?

Shift toward collaboration and business agility

One of the sources to find an answer to this question is Gary Hamel’s article Management 2.0. Gary Hamel, is a professor at London Business School and the No. 1 most influential business thinker in the world, according to the Wall Street Journal. His pioneering concepts, such as “core competence”, have changed the management in companies like General Electric, Time Warner, Nokia, Nestle, Shell, Best Buy, Procter & Gamble, 3M, IBM and Microsoft. Here’s what he has to say about traditional management practices: “In the years to come, progressive companies will use the Web to overcome the shortcomings of their antiquated, bureaucracy-based management models – flaws that today severely inhibit the capacity of these organizations to adapt, innovate and inspire.”

Project Management 2.0 is brought by the development of the Web, and it offers a major shift of focus from control to collaboration. Collective intelligence is one of the core principles behind the whole idea of the new project management trend. Project Management 2.0 tools and practices help people to share project information and contribute to the project plan easily. They help gather valuable bottom-up knowledge from emails, disconnected files and spreadsheets into one place. Anyone on the team, and what’s more important, the project manager has the up-to-date information at hand.  When it’s clear for a manager what his every team member is busy with and what exactly is going on with every project, and when project operations become more transparent, projects become more controllable and project management more adaptable. This has a tremendous positive effect on the whole company, as it becomes more flexible and can easily acclimatize to any changes in the business environment. Here’s one of my favorite examples: In April 2006, Intrawest Placemaking, a real estate development firm that operates in North America and Europe, undertook a bold technical initiative focused on empowering individual employees. Today, Intrawest Placemaking's wiki intranet allows practically unrestricted editing for all 250 employees. This has led to a tenfold increase in use over the previous intranet, and some excellent examples of knowledge-sharing: One manager created a page with an idea that saved the company $500,000.

The example only proves Craig Brown’s words about Project Management 2.0: “Over the last decade or three, many organizations have learned to trust their experts. Not all are there yet, but the trend is clear: decentralized decision making means more adaptable and viable organizations. At the same time the Project Management profession has evolved from a focus on WBS, network diagrams and Gantt charts into an ever-increasing awareness of the business and social contexts that projects operate in.”

Balanced approach

Project Management 2.0 tools and practices help you find a perfect balance between top-down and bottom-up management styles. On one hand, they democratize project management by energizing project communications and letting the project team easily make contributions to project plans and data. So the bottom-up field knowledge is brought to project planning. On the other hand, Project Management 2.0 allows project managers to get rid of unnecessary routine tasks, and obtain clear visibility into their project plans and operations. With Project Management 2.0 systems, managers have all the latest information at their finger tips and in real time. This allows them to better coordinate their projects from the top and make better decisions on how the project development should go on. This is how the flexibility and openness of Project Management 2.0 applications allow organizations to harmoniously combine the field knowledge coming from the bottom up with the leadership and guidance coming from the top down.

Besides all the points enumerated above, it is true that the emergence of Project Management 2.0 is stipulated by the evolution of technology. Email, VoIP, mobile networks, smartphones, social networks, and Web 2.0 software changed the processes and culture in many organizations. They even created new types of organizations, like micromultinationals. And while it’s hard to stress enough that people come first and that balanced approach is important, it’s also shortsighted to ignore the opportunities that technologies give us. After all, I absolutely agree with John Reiling, PMP, the author of the PMcrunch blog that Web 2.0, or any other technology, “is the ability for any practitioner to focus on the true essentials of the job, rather than getting bogged down by administrative work.” It’s true that “less time spent on crafting a Gantt chart means more time spent on the true project management essentials, such as stakeholder management, communications, leadership, and the like.”  Do you agree? Please let me know in the comments.

Comments (3)

  • Mike Young, Tuesday, 06 October, 2009
    GE, Time Warner, Nokia, Nestle, Shell, P&G are all users of large traditional Project Management Systems. I have worked with 2 of them and they have done a brilliant job of adding Agile techniques and PM 2.0 tools, while still using Enterprise PM tools to provide an organizational view of how the business is performing; and also satisfying the finance / accounting and SOX requirements that large businesses MUST meet.

    Even smaller marketing or interactive design firms use traditional PM tools tied into accounting systems. At some point you've got to get paid. These types of companies are also heavy users of collaborative tools and techniques.

    For small working teams PM 2.0 is brilliant, for the large organizations there is an additional need for traditional EPM, PPM toolsets. The businesses that supply these tools, like the businesses that supply PM 2.0 tools are all growing. How these tools co-exist in a productive way is a challenge that tools vendors are ignoring.

    You quote John Reiling regarding Gantt charts. A Gantt chart can be an extremely valuable communication tool, when it is built by collaboratively. True, it is an old tool, but Like Charles Joseph Minards "Napolean's March to Moscow", it can very effectively communicate a great deal of information. Spending time on planning, just as spending time on evolving plans is always valuable.
  • Andrew Filev, Wednesday, 07 October, 2009
    Mike,

    Thank you for your comment!

    You should like the upcoming Part 2, about what PM2.0 is NOT. You’ll find answers to most of your questions there. Also, bear in mind that large corporations are heterogeneous. For example, what happens in the IT department on the process/tools side is not necessarily reflected in the marketing department.

    As of the Gantt chart, it’s wonderful tool. I use it frequently. The problem with traditional software that I was referring to is not in the Gantt view. It’s in the inefficiency of working with the data (including Gantt view). You can read more details at http://www.wrike.com/projectmanagement/03/25/2008/Bridging-the-Three-Gaps-in-Project-Management Project manager becomes more efficient when the data gets updated automatically based on existing communications (email) and when team members contribute their own updates. That means that a manager spends less time on dull routine jobs, like collecting status updates, and more time on actually thinking through the project development.

    Cheers,
    Andrew
  • anna, Wednesday, 02 June, 2010
    Very useful tips. Thanks everyone! Will try it with my site/content one day!
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Andrew Filev

Andrew Filev is an experienced project manager and a successful entrepreneur. He has been managing software teams since 2001 with the help of new-generation collaboration and management applications. The Project Management 2.0 blog reflects his views on changes going on in contemporary project management, thanks to the influence of collaborative web-based technologies. More >>

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