Re-affirming the importance of users


in all project contexts



By Alan Stretton, PhD (Hon)

Sydney, Australia


Why do we develop projects? Project development and delivery typically result in the creation of new assets and capabilities. Yet, to what extent do we shape the delivery process to reflect the needs and aspirations of the ultimate users?           (Dalcher 2015)         

This lead quotation comes from an article by Dalcher 2015 entitled “For whose benefit? Reclaiming the role of users in projects”.

One could respond to Dalcher’s first question a little differently, by pointing out that projects can be seen as means to help users achieve their planned end outcomes, and to realise subsequent benefits. The ends are user responsibilities – projects are simply means, and normally only part of the total means, which help users achieve their ends.

Dalcher responds to his second question in the lead quotation as follows.

Answering the question is not easy: Perusing the bodies of knowledge reveals very little about users and their role in projects.

Dalcher made the above observation in 2015. Have things changed significantly since then? We will further explore this question shortly. In the meantime, we can observe that, in addition to bodies of knowledge, there are other sectors of the project management literature which are similarly deficient in information and/or guidance about the roles of users in project-related contexts.

On the other hand, Dalcher goes on to observe that there are some sectors in which users are quite specifically regarded as important components of project-related work.

In technology, engineering, information systems and computer science terms such as ease of use, usability, usefulness, and user satisfaction are typically associated with the developing attitude towards using a delivered system and the perceived success of the system or technology. …..  Agile methods recognise the centrality of users to development, and make a concerted effort to include them in the development process, often tailoring the process around users.

However, the main point Dalcher makes in his article is that, “Users are an important, yet often forgotten part of projects”, as is typified by their comparative neglect in bodies of knowledge, for example This article will look at the nature of users, their comparative neglect in some sectors of the literature, their importance in all project management contexts, and suggestions about augmenting bodies of knowledge appropriately.

We start by briefly looking at the nature of users, and their roles in project management processes.


Who are the users of project deliverables?

Dalcher 2015 quotes the following straightforward descriptor from the 5th edition of the PMBOK Guide (PMI 2013).

“users are the persons or organizations who will use the project’s product, service or result”.

This is a straightforward descriptor, and as good a definition as any I have seen. The project’s product, service, or result have also been described as assets or artefacts (see next quotation below), as deliverables, and as outputs, which is the descriptor I will most frequently use in this article)

Users and stakeholders

Most bodies of knowledge of project management, including PMI 2021 (The Standard for Project Management and A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge. 7th Edition), and many other relevant publications, do have quite a lot to say about project stakeholders. There are wide ranges of stakeholders whose needs and expectations need to be appropriately managed, and these are quite widely discussed.

However, comparatively few of these discussions really come to grips with the fact that the absolutely key stakeholders are the direct and/or ultimate users of the project outputs.


To read entire paper, click here

How to cite this work: Stretton, A. (2022). Re-affirming the importance of users in all project contexts, featured paper, PM World Journal, Vol. XI, Issue X, October.  Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/pmwj122-Oct2022-Stretton-re-affirming-importance-of-users-in-all-project-contexts.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 240 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/.