A commentary on managing the front-end of projects



By Alan Stretton, PhD (Hon)

Sydney, Australia




In a recent article in this journal (Stretton 2019c) I discussed expanding the scope of project management services in the construction industry, to add value and reduce costs. This was essentially a discussion of some of the additional contributions that project management has made in the building-and-construction industries by becoming progressively more involved in actively managing the front-end of projects.

Whilst I do not know the extent to which these experiences in the building-and-construction industry are applicable to other project management application areas and/or other types of projects, I suggested that they may be relevant in many, if not most, other contexts. This commentary looks at some aspects of managing project front-ends in a more generalised context, based largely on some discussions on the nature of such front-ends by Morris 2013.


Morris 2013:164 asks the question “But what do we mean by the front-end?”, and discusses three representations. I borrow from his Figure 11.1, and its accompanying note, in presenting the following figure to illustrate his three ways of representing the scope of the front-end.


Figure 1: Three different representations of the scope of a project’s front-end.

Adapted from Morris 2013, Figure 11.1: Roles in the management of projects

 With these three representations, it can be seen that a project’s front-end is not easy to define in a generalised way. In each of the above the front-end it starts after Stage Gate 1. In its most extended representation it can to go the end of project definition. Or it can extend to any point between these two – Morris has indicted two such points at SG2 and SG3. We will now go on to look more closely at who is responsible for managing these various front-end stages, and also for managing the subsequent project work, which could be broadly called project implementation.


The question as asked by Morris 2013

Morris 2013:235 asks this question in the following quotation (and gives his well-known preference).

In practice, in many organisations, the term [project management] is also used to refer only to the management of project execution (after requirements have been identified). If this is the case, we need to ask, what is the discipline that is responsible for managing the front-end stage of the life-cycle – development management? (To me, it would seem best to extend project management to include this activity.)       

If project management is not responsible for managing front-end stages, Morris asks if “development management” would have this responsibility. But, where would such a discipline be located, in what broader context? We now look at an organisational strategic management framework as providing an appropriate broader context.

Project management in the context of organisational strategic management

I aim to approach responding to the above question in the context of the contribution that project management makes to the achievement of organisational strategic objectives. I have been discussing project management in this context in many recent articles in this journal, because this context appears to be relevant to most projects, irrespective of their type, application area, etc.. most of the time.

Morris 2013:257-8 also puts the relationship between project management and organisational strategy in quite a pro-active way, as follows.


To read entire article, click here


How to cite this paper: Stretton, A. (2019). A commentary on managing the front-end of projects, PM World Journal, Volume VIII, Issue IV (May). Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/pmwj81-May2019-Stretton-commentary-on-managing-the-front-end-of-projects.pdf



About the Author

Alan Stretton, PhD      

Faculty Corps, University of Management
and Technology, Arlington, VA (USA)
Life Fellow, AIPM (Australia)



Alan Stretton is one of the pioneers of modern project management.  He is currently a member of the Faculty Corps for the University of Management & Technology (UMT), USA.  In 2006 he retired from a position as Adjunct Professor of Project Management in the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Australia, which he joined in 1988 to develop and deliver a Master of Project Management program.   Prior to joining UTS, Mr. Stretton worked in the building and construction industries in Australia, New Zealand and the USA for some 38 years, which included the project management of construction, R&D, introduction of information and control systems, internal management education programs and organizational change projects.  He has degrees in Civil Engineering (BE, Tasmania) and Mathematics (MA, Oxford), and an honorary PhD in strategy, programme and project management (ESC, Lille, France).  Alan was Chairman of the Standards (PMBOK) Committee of the Project Management Institute (PMI®) from late 1989 to early 1992.  He held a similar position with the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM), and was elected a Life Fellow of AIPM in 1996.  He was a member of the Core Working Group in the development of the Australian National Competency Standards for Project Management.  He has published over 200 professional articles and papers.  Alan can be contacted at alanailene@bigpond.com.au.

To see more works by Alan Stretton, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/alan-stretton/.