How Equal is Project Management Across Industries and Genres?

Is project management the same across all industries?  Well…in my best opinion it is at least similar. I think that a project manager can be generally successful across industries as many underlying project management principles will still apply. Information Technology is still the predominant area where project management is used, but construction is generally assumed to be a very close second with all other project management lagging far behind these two leaders.   However, more and more things are being called ‘projects’ and need project management oversight.

Many who have studied project management over the years have emphasized the universal nature of project issues encountered by project managers and project teams, regardless of the industry or project niches. Project plans and project schedules are just that – and it doesn’t matter if it applies to a large construction project or the implementation of a new CRM tool at a Fortune 500 technology company. Both are scheduled being utilized on projects.

It’s definitely interesting how the experiences of people working on different types of projects are so similar. Through the reading I have done, I’ve found that construction project managers and software project managers seem to have many common experiences to share. Both groups often use borrowed resources – as in a matrix environment – so they face the common situation where project managers do not control the resources with which they must work. And they both operate in environments where there is a tendency for project scope to grow as the project is carried out…meaning scope management and scope creep is always a top concern.

It seems that now we have begun to turn our attention to the special circumstances governing project work in different business areas. In particular, we now recognize that knowledge-based projects face a different set of challenges than the challenges that traditional projects in the construction and defense industries encounter. For example, knowledge-based projects are heavily oriented toward dealing with intangibles. Knowledge itself is constantly changing. Because knowledge is abstract, it is hard to capture and articulate customer needs and to convert these into concrete, detailed and accurate requirements. These are the types of issues that workers on knowledge-based projects must contend with day by day. I always consider requirements to be the lifeblood of the project, however, they are sometimes so incredibly hard to accurately nail down that the project can spin out of control later on if we find that we did not capture detailed enough or accurate enough requirements.

Summary / call for input

The bottom line is this…find the project management tool - desktop or web-based - that fits your organization’s and industry’s needs.  What works for you is what matters.  So many choices abound…gone are the days of managing projects with an Excel spreadsheet and thankfully Microsoft Project is no longer our only real option. Yes, I still feel that a project is a project…though industry hands-on experience helps the new project manager in that industry gain traction faster and be able to get the project out of the gate on the right foot with expectations well set and everyone on the same page.

What is your take?  Do you think projects are projects no matter what industry you are working in? Do you feel strongly that an IT project manager would fail in construction or visa versa?  Please share your thoughts.

 

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