PATHWAYS — Volume 11, Number 1 – March, 1999

Focus: Project Managers Face New Challenges

Organizations today are finding that project management must be one of their "core competencies". As organizations evolve new strategies and tactics, they create "projects" to achieve their goals. Those projects become essential to the short- and long-term success of the organization. Thus, the project management role has taken on even greater importance that it had in the past.

In this type of project-oriented environment, the success of each project becomes critical to the success of the organization. As a result, the individuals performing the project management role can only be successful if their projects are successfully completed¾ on time and within budget¾ with satisfied executive sponsors, pleased clients, and ideally, a fulfilled project team.

Unfortunately, project managers today face growing pressures in their pursuit of the organization’s initiatives. To meet competitive demands, organizations must deliver their products and services …

These pressures impact virtually every project in every organization, regardless of product or service line. With expectations of project managers increasing, and constraints on how they are able to carry out their duties also increasing, it is a little surprising projects ever succeed. But, since these challenges are unlikely to disappear, organizations need to focus on ways of assisting project managers in their duties.

In the At Issue section Van O. Wright, FLI's Manager of Product Quality Control, examines the pressures in more depth, then describes some actions the organization¾ and project managers themselves¾ should consider to cope with these challenges.

John C. Wills


Changing Expectations of the Project Manager

Little has changed over the past decade in the basic functions project managers perform. Typical functions include:

While these functions remain much the same as ever, today’s project manager faces a wide array of new challenges that "go with the role."

Here are a few that seem typical:

  • Shorter time-to-market cycles
  • Increasing customer satisfaction requirements
  • Less-experienced human resources and, often, fewer qualified people available
  • Growing complexity in the project’s product/service deliverables and development processes



None of these challenges is likely to go away soon, if ever. The project manager is expected to meet these challenges while still effectively performing the traditional PM functions.

The Challenges Comprise both Expectations of and Constraints on Project Management

Project managers are faced with an array of expectations they may never before have faced. At the same time, they face growing constraints upon the their level of control and availability of resources. The following table summarizes many of the key expectations and constraints.

Typical Expectations

Typical Constraints

  • Increased quality control demands
  • More user-friendly products and services
  • Reduced development/delivery cycles
  • More demanding customers and users
  • Increased competitive pressures
  • Tightened budget guidelines
  • Increased project/product/service complexity
  • Greater use of new technologies to reduce costs/ improve products and services
  • Fewer resources
  • Staff resources that telecommute … often globally
  • Less control over internal resources:
  • Little or no "ownership" of project team resources
  • Less access to subject-matter expertise
  • Less access to senior management
  • Lack of qualified internal resources:
  • Increased requirements to locate, qualify, manage, and control outside resources
  • Global user base with different and sometimes conflicting needs
  • Concurrent development cycles for products/services and support collaterals


Coping With the Challenge

Given these seemingly conflicting expectations and constraints, how can project managers possibly expect to succeed? What can be done to help ensure successful project management, given what has been discussed?

Actually, there are things individual project managers can do to enhance their skills and knowledge. Of equal importance, the organization can do much to support project management, thereby helping ensure organizational success.

Project Manager Self-development

If you are a project manager, you’ll probably find few surprises here. Self-development is just that ¾ no one can learn for you. Here are a few recommended avenues:

Organizational Support

It is to the organization’s benefit to reduce obstacles to project success. In general, the organization has two avenues available. Help project managers build their project management talents, and reduce organizational obstacles.

To help project managers in their self-development efforts, the organization can:

To reduce organizational obstacles to project success, the organization can:

In Summary

The project manager’s job is more challenging than ever before, and those challenges are unlikely to disappear. But organizations and individuals can do much to mitigate or eliminate the impediments and constraints project managers face

Van O. Wright, Ph.D.
Manager, Product Quality Control

©Copyright 1999 FLI, Incorporated
FLI, Incorporated authorizes you to copy documents published on the FLI, Incorporated World Wide Web site for use within your organization only. When you copy documents, in whole or in part, you agree that any copy you make (printed or electronic) shall contain an attribution of its source and retain all copyright and other proprietary notices contained therein. All other rights reserved.

Volume 10, Number 2 - May 1998 | Volume 10, Number 3 - Aug 1998
Volume 10, Number 4 - Nov 1998 | Volume 11, Number 1 - 1999

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