History of project management
Project management is a term that refers to the use of technology, tools, or methodologies to meet sets of stipulated goals and objectives within organizations. The ideal result of any project is seen in its ability to meet the needs of stakeholders, the organization’s management, and the general public.
In order to appreciate the development of project management tools, it is appropriate to look into the history of project management and how such tools became part of the process. A number of organizations continuously engage in the manufacture of new products thus necessitating the development of a strong project management unit that is capable of fueling growth within an organization. The reasons for initiating projects have assumed different forms over the years ranging from the need to improve the quality of goods and services to the desire to conform to globalization standards. The current purpose of project management lies in staying ahead of competitors in the market thus higher levels of performance and profitability (Azzopardi, n. d).
The history of project management dates back thousands of years ago in Egypt however it was in the year 1950 that organizations began using project management tools. This was necessitated by occurrences in the US navy that was as a result of deficiencies in planning and control of major military contracts. This is the case with the Polaris missile project. The first project management tool used was the product evaluation review technique (PERT) that appreciated the use of mathematical formulas in determining the probability of success or failure of a contract. This methodology is still in use but to a lesser extent especially in projects that face high levels of uncertainty.
The second scenario that led to the development of project management tools is that of a company known as E.I. du Pont de Nemours required accurate estimation of costs and time in order to construct chemical plants across the United States. This led to the development of a project planning and scheduling tool (PPS) which in turn led to the critical path method (CPM). In the years following the 1950s, the PERT and critical path method became useful project management tools especially in the construction industry (Azzopardi, n. d).
Nature of project management tools
There are several project management tools. The most common are the Gantt chart, logic network, PERT chart, product breakdown structure, and work breakdown structure. A gantt chart indicates the progress of activities especially in reference to time. This is then portrayed in the form of bar charts. The initial Gantt chart could not determine the relationships between tasks however subsequent Gantt charts have been modified to incorporate the interrelationship between tasks and time. The PERT tool was introduced to establish the time required to complete a given project. It was invented by the department of defense in the US (Haughey, n. d).
The work breakdown structure (WBS) establishes the most effective ways of dividing tasks within a project especially in the form of a hierarchy. A project breakdown structure (PBS) looks at the most effective manner in which an organization can deliver on the project deliverables.
The stage-gate process involves putting in place measures to move a product from one stage of development to another. It is through the stage-gate that the tasks of specific groups are stratified in relation to time. The stage-gate incorporates several managerial decisions including but not limited to scoping, testing, and launching of a product (Haughey, n. d).
The group decided to concentrate on the stage-gate process especially its use in the development of Gillette fusion power. The process consists of activities carried out either in series or parallel mode (Kerzner, 2009). There is a need to limit the number of gates in order to concentrate on product development as evident in the Gillette fusion power product. Its advantages are seen in the manner in which it combines an effective razor, shave gel and aftershave.
Stage gate process
This process is composed of a series of gates or stages that characterize the development of a project. Stages refer to a group of activities that are performed in series or in parallel depending on the risks and the ability of project team members to contain such risks. The usefulness of project management is seen in the management of activities taking place between the gates furthermore it has the ability to shorten the processes between stages thus affecting the entire project timeline. In order for the stage-gate process to be efficient, a need arises to incorporate the use of checklists, forms, and other reminders to ensure that critical steps are adhered to. This process also includes the use of gatekeepers who perform an evaluation role on the whole process to ensure that success and quality are attained (Shavinina 2003).
The stage-gate model incorporates a number of stages beginning with inception where ideas generated eventually contribute to the development of the project. This is followed by scoping whereby a product is analyzed and its likely impact on the market established (Shavinina 2003). A company needs to carry out an analysis of the business situation before embarking on the project this is achieved through the creation of a business plan. This plan incorporates a feasibility review, case plan, and definition of the problem likely to be solved by the Gillette power fusion. The step that follows is the development of the product that entails the incorporation of all plans developed in previous steps. This product is finally tested and launched in the market (Shavinina 2003).
The Gantt chart is a useful project management tool that bears resemblance to the stage-gate as they both highlight the stages of the project in reference to a definite timeline. The Gantt chart does this through the use of bars that correspond to the duration of the project in reference to how time progresses. The difference with the stage-gate process is that it allows the project team to establish the activities that have to be performed at a specific time. A quality the stage-gate process does not possess.
Application of project management in product development
Project management consists of a series of steps beginning with initiation. This is characterized by starting the project through carrying out feasibility studies that aim at establishing whether a project is viable or not. This process is identical to product development especially in its initial stages characterized by the generation of ideas after which screening and testing are done. This is to determine its suitability once it is introduced in the market. Planning is an important aspect of project management as it comes up with quality, resource and financial plans. These plans apply to product development.
In the process of introducing a product into the market, it is necessary to appreciate the usefulness of a carefully formulated quality and financial strategy that places it an advantage in comparison to other products in the market. The final steps in project management are execution and closure this correlates to product development especially in its closing stages in the market (Levine, 2002).
The advent of stage-gate as a project management tool has revolutionized the aspect of project management in different organizations across the globe. It is necessary to appreciate the need for continuous improvement of this tool in order to make it more effective. The stage-gate process can propel growth in an organization through constant and steady product development. An example is seen in the Gillette fusion power project.
Complex problems within the project management situation can be solved easily through the use of the stage-gate; it is evident in the Gillette fusion phenomenon that this tool is instrumental in bringing all players, factors, and variants together in a synergistic manner. The advantages of the stage-gate tool are also seen in its ability to propel innovation in the activities carried within the constraints of the fusion power project, it would be difficult for other organizations especially the ones in competition with Gillette to match their products in a short time frame and in the right quality (Heerkens, 2001).
Feasibility studies determine the extent to which a product or service meets the laid down criteria and objectives. The stage-gate tool advocates for the initiation of feasibility studies in order to determine the viability of a project, this process provides direction useful to the overall success of the project. The only setback associated with this tool is its inability to foster creativity, especially among the project team members. This may eventually play in favor of Gillette’s competitors who may come up with strategies to cater to the deficiencies in the Gillette fusion product.
Azzopardi, S. The Evolution of Project Management. Project Smart.co.uk. Web.
Haughey, D. Project management tools. Project Smart.co.uk. Web.
Heerkens, G. (2001) Project management. 2nd ed. McGraw-Hill publishers.
Kerzner, H. (2009) Project Management: Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling. 10th ed. John Wiley and Sons publishers.
Levine, H. (2002) Practical project management: tips, tactics, and tools. John Wiley and Sons publishers.
Shavinina, L. (2003). The international handbook on innovation. Elsevier.