Building Organizational Project Management Capability: Learning from Engineering and Construction

Essay by chneohUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, March 2009

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OVERVIEWConstruction is the industry that is widely accepted to have the most mature project management processes. IT project managers envy the accuracy with which their construction colleagues can estimate and predict progress on a building. They borrow their tools and techniques but struggle to emulate their results. They fall back on the conviction that "it's different in our industry." Thus, they resign themselves to continuing levels of underperformance.

This is a strange response when even IT project managers would agree that there is a core of project management knowledge that is common to all projects-who would doubt the wisdom of scope control in any project circumstance? Failure to leverage the learning of one industry into another is therefore normally explained by appeal to the need for domain knowledge. For example, the rate of change of technology, the volatility of requirements, and the invisibility of software are all supposed to make IT project management radically different.

Fortunately, we do not need to resolve the debate about the importance of domain knowledge in order to improve learning.

The central point of this chapter is that industries can improve their own capabilities by adopting a model of project management capability development from the construction and engineering sector. Domain specifics may apply to projects but they do not apply to the structures and processes by which project management itself is managed within an organization-mentoring can be effective in both construction and IT even though the learning may be different in certain respects. The domain independence of the model can be seen from its application to high-tech product development.1 Research has shown that the construction industry has improved its performance over the last 20 years.2 Despite embarrassing blips from time to time, it has managed down its performance variance. Many high profile mega-projects are today...