My wife studied for and was awarded her PMP many years ago and while she never really used it, she learned some interesting things that she thought she could apply if the need to manage projects arose. However she also felt that a lot of what was required of the candidates was somewhat out of date.
Apparently there are still problems with project management in the IT world, and the Forrester group thinks they're hindering the completion of technology projects. A report completed this summer noted that project management practices haven't evolved at the same pace as development methodologies, which have embraced things like Agile or SOA.
Personally I think that building technology projects, either hardware or software, is just hard. It's complex, and it really depends to a large extent on the particular people that you have working for you. Their talent, their skills, their motivations and desires, and to a large extent, how well they work together. Project management can help coordinate things, but in my mind, it's like licensing costs. It matters, but in the grand scheme of things, it's a very small portion of the total.
The idea of project management, to me, is really an unnecessary one. I've been thinking about this quite a bit ever since I saw Jason Fried of 37 Signals speak. It was almost funny to hear Jason talk about the lack of structures at his company, given that they build project management software, but one of the things that he mentioned was that they are trying to be effective in running the company, and that means that they, in Jason's words, "do more of what works, and do less of what doesn't."
Jason mentioned a number of things they didn't do, like build spec documents and develop Gantt charts (something he says will never be in Basecamp) because they're abstractions. They're not really what you want to build and given an abstraction, it's not only possible, but plausible, that the developer will do it differently than you expected.
I tend to agree with a lot of that and it's why I've tried not to tie projects down too tightly. It seems the more tightly you report on and manage projects, the more overhead that's involved, the more meetings, and the less work that actually gets done. While management might not like a looser style, I think it helps to really work on convincing them to have faith and work tightly alongside development groups rather than manage them tightly.
I guess I think a good project manager is really like a good manager overall. He or she coordinates things and gets out of the way, letting the people do their work.
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