The Future of Project Management is …


Not a Straight Line!



By David Pells

Addison, Texas, USA

Author’s note: Although this editorial was written and published 15 years ago, most of the contents still apply. Since January is when so many want to think (and talk) about the future, perhaps some readers will find this paper interesting and perhaps even still relevant.

The Future of Project Management continues to be a major topic of interest and entertainment, and even intrigue, around the PM professional world.  It is the topic of papers, presentations and even entire tracks at PM conferences.  It seems to be of such high interest that I have now been invited to speak on this topic at the PM Days project management conference during 18-19 November 2008 in Finland.  The topic of my speech will be the same as this paper; in fact, I am using this editorial as an opportunity to develop this theme and document some conclusions.

The discussion of the future of project management often seems to involve projections based on recent trends in the PM profession or in the application of PM concepts, or in research, theory development and even implementation in the marketplace.  One of the biggest difficulties related to discussing future scenarios for project management, however, is the fact that project management means different things to different people – and organizations.  So I think first we should define some terms and try to set the context for this discussion.  Then I will explain why I think that the future of PM is all over the map, will involve a variety of application scenarios, and will offer many of us opportunities to create positive change in the world.

Some Project Management Definitions

According to A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) Third Edition, published by the Project Management Institute (PMI®), “project management” is defined as “the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.”  In the same document, a “project” is defined as “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.”  A “requirement” is defined as “a condition or capability that must be met or possessed by a system, product, service, result or component to satisfy a contract, standard, specification or other formally imposed documents;  requirements include the quantified and documented needs, wants and expectations of the sponsor, customer and other stakeholders.”  [1]

According to Wikipedia, “Project Management is the business process of creating a unique product, service or result. A project is a finite endeavor having specific start and completion dates undertaken to create a quantifiable deliverable. Projects undergo progressive elaboration by developing in steps and predictable increments that are tied to benchmarks, milestones and completion dates. This finite characteristic of projects stands in sharp contrast to processes, or operations, which are permanent or semi-permanent functional work to repetitively produce the same product or service. In practice, the management of these two systems is often found to be quite different, and as such requires the development of distinct technical skills and the adoption of separate management philosophy”. [2]

According to the same discussion, “The primary challenge of project management is to achieve all of the goals of the project charter while adhering to three out of the four classic project constraints some time referred to as the “triple constraints.” The four constraints are defined as scope, time, cost and quality. The more ambitious goal of project management is to carry the project through the entire project management life cycle, which consists of five phases called Project Management Knowledge Areas: Project Initiation, Project Planning, Project Executing, Project monitoring and controlling and project closing.” [2]


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally published in PM World Today in 2008.  It is republished here with the author’s permission.

How to cite this paper: Pells, D. L. (2024, 2008). The Future of Project Management is … Not a Straight Line! Originally published in PM World Today, November 2008; republished in the PM World Journal, Vol. XIII, Issue I, January 2024. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/pmwj137-Jan2024-Pells-future-of-pm-is-not-a-straight-line-2nd-ed.pdf

About the Author

David L. Pells

Managing Editor, PMWJ
Addison, TX, USA


 David L. Pells, PMI Fellow, HonFAPM, ISIPM, PMA, is Managing Editor and publisher of the PM World Journal (www.pmworldjournal.com) and Managing Director of the PM World Library (www.pmworldlibrary.net). David is an internationally recognized leader in the field of professional project management with more than 40 years of experience on a variety of programs and projects, including engineering, construction, energy, defense, transit, technology and nuclear security, and project sizes ranging from thousands to billions of dollars. He occasionally acts as program management advisor for U.S. national laboratories and international programs, and currently serves as an independent advisor for a major U.S. national security program.

David Pells has been an active professional leader in the United States since the 1980s, as founder and president of several PMI chapters, founder of PMI’s first SIG (Project Earth), and member of the PMI board of directors twice.  He was founder and chair of the Global Project Management Forum (1995-2000), an annual meeting of leaders of PM associations from around the world. David was awarded PMI’s Person of the Year award in 1998 and Fellow Award, PMI’s highest honor, in 1999. He is also an Honorary Fellow of the Association for Project Management (APM) in the UK; the Instituto Italiano di Project Management (ISIMP) in Italy; and Project Management Associates (PMA) in India.

Former managing editor of PM World Today, he is the creator, editor and publisher of the PM World Journal (ISSN: 2330-4880).  David has a BA in Business Administration from the University of Washington and an MBA from Idaho State University in the USA.  He has published widely and spoken at conferences and events worldwide.  David lives near Dallas, Texas and can be contacted at editor@pmworldjournal.com.

To see other works by David Pells, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/david-l-pells/