Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Reconstructing Project Management (5 of 9)

Does project management cover Estimating and Contracts and Procurement?  Are they parts of the discipline? (Organizationally, they are often not treated this way.)

Morris, Peter.  Reconstructing Project Management Reprised: A Knowledge Perspective.  Project Management Journal, Vol. 44, No. 5, October 2013, p13.  © 2013 by the Project Management Institute
This is the fifth in my series of posts commenting on nine questions that Peter Morris asked in his October article in Project Management Journal.  Maybe I’ll finish this before the anniversary of its publication.

This is one of Morris’ questions that is a challenge to grasp because it seems the question is broken.  After all, Estimating is clearly defined in PMBoK planning processes for both cost and time management.  And Project Procurement Management is one of the 10 Knowledge Areas.  Therefore project management (at least, the PMBoK) does cover both of these topics and they are inarguably part of the discipline. What is Morris thinking?

Let’s think for a moment about how a government agency awards a contract for road or bridge building.  The agency will decide the road or bridge goes here, gets a budget allocated (estimation), buys up the necessary land (procurement) and only then issues the RFP for the engineering, design or construction firm to put steel and tarmac where the agency already decided it should go.
Lest you think that technology (my domain) is different, for large projects it is normal for executives to already have a cost limit, expected delivery date, expectation of technology partner, and whether the project will be done with in-house, outsourced or consulting resources – all before they let the project start through the official project methodology, phases and gates.

Morris expands further on this:  “similarly the project management team should provide input into commercial matters, beginning with the project strategy and the choice of contracting strategy;  in particular, what functions to contract out, what resources are available, and how risk should be allocated.  These typically come under the purview of the ‘Contracts and Procurement’ function but since they can all massively influence the way the project is managed, one would expect the project director (or equivalent) to be engaged, shaping thinking and decisions.  The alignment of supplier aims and practices with the sponsors’ aims should be a major objective in this new environment.”  (p18)
Are those activities project management?  Arguably, they are general (operational) business strategy and planning activities when they are done as part of business continuity, operations, development and growth.  But they are project management activities when done within the milieu of the project.  Should general business activities be project management when, ex post facto, they were done for what subsequently becomes a project?

I think it’s relevant to note a similarity that, in context, becomes, I guess, an analogy.  In technology, teams are generally matrixed and split responsibilities between projects and operations.  The operations responsibilities generally include support and maintenance.  Maintenance is planned and can be coordinated with project activities.  But support is on-demand and, on occasion, team members have to respond immediately to priority one situations that can take significant time away from the project.  And regardless of the project state, the support activity always takes precedence.  Ops trumps projects.  It’s just the way it is.  The point being, when the question arises, above, of whether these activities are operations or project, maybe ops trumps projects applies there, too.
© 2014 Chuck Morton.  All Rights Reserved.

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