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Changes in Project Management Landscape: An Overview

19 Apr 2018
Changes in Project Management Landscape: An Overview

David Pells is a global adviser to the Institute of Project Management and is the editor of In a recent interview, he discussed major changes he has observed in the project management landscape over the last three decades.

1. The Advent of Microsoft Project

The first big disruptive change that I remember was not directly associated with project management per se but rather the advent of the personal computer in the early 1980s. This was followed immediately by Microsoft and other companies introducing project planning tools that anyone could use on a desktop PC.

Microsoft recognised the growing importance of projects in many industries, created MS Project and integrated it with the MS Office suite of business applications. Whereas specialists previously often performed project planning, scheduling, and cost control tasks, now anyone can use similar tools and manage (or at least try to manage) their own projects.

These skills are necessary today, as everything is being done on a computer. However, without understanding how the software operates, it can easily become overwhelming. IPM's Microsoft Project Fundamentals course teaches you all about project planning, monitoring and communication with Microsoft Project software. Click here if you wish to learn more about how to improve your skills.

2. The Emergence of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK)

The second really disruptive change was the publication of the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, followed by PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. These two PMI products began to drive growth in both PMI membership and industry recognition of project management.

When I served on the PMI Board of Directors from 1995-1997, we began to see rapid, almost exponential growth in both certifications and membership. This growth has continued, with PMI membership now well over 400,000 worldwide. Combined with PMP certificate holders, PMI serves more than one million.

PMI, IPMA, APM in the UK, AIPM in Australia, AACE, CPM and other professional organisations added more standards and more certifications; the combination of these products and growing numbers of associations, members, chapters and stakeholders has resulted in widespread recognition of projects and project management in many organisations and countries.

3. The Growth of PM Professional Organisations

The third change, a trend really, was the growth of PM professional organisations in many countries. By the time we held the first Global PM Forum in New Orleans in 1995, attended by Ed Naughton representing Ireland, there were more than 30 professional project management societies worldwide. Now there are more than 80; if you count construction management associations, there are probably more than 200.

Over the last 30 years, the PM profession has grown, expanded and matured. Combined with project management training, tools, publications, education and standards, these organisations have spurred widespread recognition of project and project management across nearly all industries and locations. Many of these organisations offer competing standards, qualifications, products and services, but together they represent a significant trend (resulting in change). Project management is now well-established in most industries and countries.

4. The Importance of Soft Skills

The 4th major change was the recognition that such soft skills as communication, teamwork, leadership, stakeholder engagement and similar issues were just as important, perhaps more so in many cases, than skills and knowledge about the scope, schedules, costs, quality, procurement and other engineering or scientific-oriented aspects of project management.

Whereas the largest project management professional associations all had standards and certifications by 2000, they all began incorporating these soft skills into professional products and messages.

The field of human psychology rocked the PM landscape. Emotional Intelligence made its appearance in the project management field. With economic and industrial globalisation came the need for more cultural awareness, knowledge, and Cultural Intelligence. Now, we often see “project leadership” emphasised rather than project management, with soft skills headlining.

5. Governments Embracing Project Management

The 5th big change (a trend in some locations) is the increasing awareness by government leaders that professional project and programme management can lead to very serious improvements in managing public programmes, projects and organisations.

The best example may be in the UK, where the national government began issuing programme and projects management standards in the late 1990s (PRINCE2, MSP, etc.), the creation of the current Major Projects Office and the recent Charter awarded to APM.

6. Evolution of Project Management Software

The technological landscape continues to shape project management, and the evolution of project management software has been a significant aspect. Beyond Microsoft Project, a multitude of specialised tools have emerged, offering features like collaborative project planning, real-time communication, and advanced analytics. As project teams become more dispersed and digital collaboration becomes essential, these software tools play a crucial role in enhancing efficiency and coordination.

7. Agile Methodology and its Impact

In recent years, a paradigm has shifted towards agile methodologies in project management. Agile emphasises flexibility, adaptability, and iterative progress, challenging traditional, rigid project management approaches. The Agile Manifesto, Scrum, and other agile frameworks have gained prominence. Project managers and teams are now incorporating agile practices to respond to changing requirements and deliver value more quickly.


In conclusion, the project management landscape is dynamic, influenced by technological advancements, changing methodologies, and a broader understanding of the skills required for success. The availability of diverse project management courses and training programs reflects the industry's commitment to staying ahead of these changes and preparing professionals for future challenges.

About the Author

David L. Pells

David L. Pells is the Managing Editor of the PM World Journal and Executive Director at the PM World Library. He is president of PM World Services, a U.S. firm providing high-level PM advisory services for major government programmes.