Project Management

Project Management Is Stubbornly Analog

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at markmullaly.com.

The relationship between project management and technology is a bit of a paradox. Project management is one of the few disciplines to be automated literally from its outset. Despite this, project management also remains stubbornly analog.

Partly, the early adaptation of automation was a consequence of modern project management coming of age in the (very early) digital era. Computers were primitive in the 1950s and 1960s, but they existed. While what you can do today with an iPhone puts to shame technology that used to require a very large, air-conditioned room, mainframe computers made calculation-intensive activities possible for the first time.

A propensity for doing math was useful because early project management was all about processing sums. The advent of modern project management was firmly in the domain of calculating critical path. Remington Rand (later Univac) worked in collaboration with Dupont on the development of critical path method (what we know as CPM) scheduling. Lockheed Martin worked in collaboration with the U.S. Navy on PERT scheduling for the Polaris program, using IBM mainframes for the heavy lifting.

For those who have sweated through forward-pass and backward-pass calculations, trying to sort out their early start date from their late finish date, you will have a dim recollection of the math involved. Extrapolate that to the requirements of …


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