A Brief History of Project Management

Today, project management is everywhere.

Software team leads are moonlighting as project managers (even if it’s not in their job descriptions).

Department heads have to know the ins and outs of the software they use to communicate with top management, clients and employees. Simultaneously.

Marketing agency managers are handling every campaign like a project.

And all of this is due to the fact that everything we set out to accomplish is really a project.

Our previous chaotic ways weren’t helping us make that deadline or make that product.

It’s safe to say that project management is permeating and shaping every aspect of our contemporary work.

But in order to understand the future of project management, we need to go back in time.

We need to understand the history of project management, and find the best project management tool that will usher us into the future.

Let’s dive in!

A Brief History of Project Management

As a species, we’ve always worked on projects. Every significant change was a result of a carefully executed project.

Ancient Egyptians divided labor among workmen and their managers (then called “face leader” for each face of the pyramid that was to be constructed).

Even the Great Wall of China was extended after thorough planning, division of labor and task management.

The structured process improved efficiency and built some of the most stunning monuments we admire to this day.

However, we haven’t always called the process of structuring and executing strategies in order to accomplish a set of business goals project management.

The term itself – project management – first appeared in the 1910s.

In 1911, Frederick Taylor published a book titled The Principles of Scientific Management. In it, Taylor stated his opinion on the industrial era management, and he established principles that would improve managers’ decision making.

Among other things, The Principles of Scientific Management raised awareness about collaboration.

In 1917, Henry Gantt created the Gantt chart, which is still perceived as one of the most important developments in the history of project management.

It originally depicted the project schedule, although it can be used to depict task dependencies, priorities and more.

However, the Gantt chart was not the first effort to give structure to projects. Similar tools have been recorded in Poland by Karol Adamiecki and in Germany by Hermann Schurch.

Around the same time, Henri Fayol established his principles of management.

His principles elaborate on the same things we consider to be the main aspects of project management today:

  • Division of work
  • Delegation
  • Unity of direction
  • Esprit de corps (team spirit)

(And much more.)

Fayol also explained that there were five core functions of management (which we recognize today, as well):

  1. Planning
  2. Organizing
  3. Command
  4. Coordination
  5. Control

It’s safe to say that these few men laid the groundwork for the project management we know and apply today.

The 1950s: The Real Project Management Begins

It wasn’t until the 1950s that project management really gained widespread recognition.

Previously, different engineering fields worked separately. In the 1950s, they’ve started working together as one. Additionally, the AACE (the American Association of Cost Engineers) was founded in 1956.

At that point, project managers (who were yet to be named as such) developed two structured models for tracking and evaluating project progress:

  1. The critical path method (CPM) – a scheduling method which evaluates dependencies between tasks and measures the time it will take to perform them. It was originally created to manage power plant maintenance projects.
  2. The program evaluation and review technique (PERT) – PERT is similar to CPM, as it evaluates tasks and identifies the minimum needed time to complete projects. However, PERT creates three scenarios: pessimistic, optimistic and expected. The method was originally developed by the US Navy Special Projects Office.

As different organizations started recognizing the need for project management, they also started developing project-scheduling models, as well as methods of managing people and tasks in order to successfully complete projects.

All of this led to the Department of Defense requiring the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) to be used for future projects in 1962.

Following that decision, the International Project Management Association (IPMA) was founded in 1965, with the Project Management Institute (PMI) being founded in 1969.

PMBOK and Project Management Popularity

The latter body, PMI, published an official project management guide titled Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) in the year of its founding.

This book, which is still recognized as one of the best resources on project management practices, is constantly reviewed and updated with the latest practices.

The PMBOK guide is process-based, and it’s consistent with other management systems such as ISO 9000. The entire guide explains best practices and the completion of processes through interaction of objects:

  • Inputs
  • Tools and techniques
  • Outputs

The PMBOK recognizes the five core groups of every project:

  1. Initiating
  2. Planning
  3. Executing
  4. Controlling and monitoring
  5. Closing

Additionally, the PMBOK describes ten knowledge areas required to successfully complete projects:

  1. Project integration management
  2. Project scope management
  3. Project schedule management
  4. Project cost management
  5. Project quality management
  6. Project resource management
  7. Project communications management
  8. Project risk management
  9. Project procurement management
  10. Project stakeholder management

We all utilize this knowledge, regardless of whether or not we know how to name it.

When we hire independent contractors to help us wrap things up in time, we’re using project procurement management.

When we tell the client that there’s a high chance of extra changes prolonging the completion of the project, we’re using project risk management.

It’s all right there, and it has been – ever since the pyramids of Giza and the Great Wall of China.

The Future of Project Management

We know a lot more about project management today than our parents and grandparents knew in the 1950s.

Eliyahu Goldratt developed the theory of constraints in 1984 and critical chain project management in 1997, we’ve learned how to objectively track our progress and performance through earned value management in the late 80s, and we’re even seeing some new project management styles like Scrum and Agile.

However, project management isn’t the only thing that has changed since it first came into practice.

The nature of our work, and the way we work has changed as well.

Our teams are scattered around the world and we’ve still got projects to finish successfully. We’re finding more and more freedom in the way we work. There’s a lot we can do on our own terms today.

And while we do have processes like CCPM and principles to guide us, we still have to manage and motivate people.

And in the twenty-first century, we’ve started realizing that nothing matters as much as the teams we work with.

The future of project management is in collaboration and effective communication, and we still have a lot of room for improvement.

The Best Project Management Tool for Collaboration

Since teamwork is the future of project management, we need tools that will help us collaborate and communicate seamlessly.

Unfortunately, we’re still facing quite a few obstacles.

A modern team and a modern project manager have to use a stack of tools to finish projects. Commonly, they are:

  • Trello for task and project management
  • Slack for instant chat
  • G-Suite, Dropbox, InDesign for collaboration and storage

All of these tools come with a price tag. They also come with attention loss, and we waste an incredible amount of productivity and efficiency.

But what if there is a better way?

In 2016, we created Heycollab – the ultimate online team collaboration tool, in line with the future of project management.


It allows teams to perform all of their project work within their Heycollab virtual workspace:

Not only can teams manage their projects better, but they can improve their productivity and efficiency with fluid communication and collaboration features made to satisfy the needs of every project.

There’s no reason to lose focus by using a stack of tools.

After all, if there’s one thing we can learn from the history of project management, it’s that processes and tactics are easy.

We already have them.

And now, it’s time to support our people.

Step into the future
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