Are Projects Really ‘Unique’?

Dan Patterson

Dan is a globally recognized project analytics thought leader and software entrepreneur. With 20 years of experience and multiple highly successful Project Portfolio Management (PPM) software companies under his belt, Dan was the founder of Acumen (now part of Deltek) and is the inventor of Acumen Fuse, 360 and Acumen Risk.


Practice Areas: Knowledge Management

Have we got the formal definition of a project completely right? A finite start and finish, sure. But approaching each project as a “unique endeavor” can lead us to overlook opportunities to capture, reuse and benefit from prior knowledge, experiences and lessons learned. We need to better connect our closing phases with upfront planning.

I don’t mean to be controversial but I think we may have got the formal definition of a project a little wrong. Projects are typically defined as temporary, unique endeavors with a finite start and finish. While I agree with this statement for the most part, the “unique endeavor” bit doesn’t sit well. Here’s why:

All projects, irrespective of type, are a summation of elements of scope that are brought to being through the expenditure of work or activities. We expend work and use resources (e.g. labor and materials) to achieve newly built scope. That scope then contributes to the overall asset value of the project.

Today, we plan projects using scheduling tools, and while they are hugely valuable, they could do with a bit of an overhaul. This discussion is not about the pros and cons of the various tools but instead is a fresh look on where I believe next-generation scheduling should be headed.

What is the first thing you typically see on the screen when you fire up your scheduling tool? I am pretty…

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"My sole inspiration is a telephone call from a producer."

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