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Why a best of breed approach is the future for project management

“Best of breed” is a term usually known from enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. A best of breed solution means multiple different solutions are used based on the business needs and integrated as necessary. The opposite would be an integrated solution from one vendor which is called “best in class”. So, what has this term to do with the future of project management?

Today exist multiple different methodologies how to manage projects – the IPMA standard, the PMBOK, PRINCE2 or Scrum just to name a few. Those methodologies would be “best in class” approaches for project management. Until now managing projects is mostly associated using one standard and with the decision to go either the classic waterfall way or to go agile. A relatively new approach is the so called “hybrid project management” which means to combine waterfall and agile methods for project management to use the benefits of both worlds. This is definitely a step in the right direction but in my opinion not enough. For me the future of project management is a best of breed approach.

When you start your project management career you usually start to manage projects according to one standard e.g. IPMA or PRINCE2. Which one you learn is mainly dependent on the country and the area you are working in. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing bad about learning one standard. And if you start to manage projects having one standard to work with is great. Because managing projects is highly complex and especially in the beginning overwhelming.

But learning and sticking with one “best in class” standard is simply not enough. A project manager needs to gain an overview of all available standards. The ultimate goal is to use a best of breed approach targeted at the very special needs of a projects. Why? Let me explain to you:

Every project is different

Project standards are being used for different industries and project sizes. There is certainly a difference between managing a software development project, the build of a power plant or legal project management.

Every project manager is different

Project managers are humans and not robots. Even though there is a defined skillset a project manager should have, he or she has its individual strength and should be able to live them. If you follow strictly a standard there is not much room for individualism and to use your individual strengths. And without individualism it’s hard to be authentic which makes it hard to be an authentic leader.

Every project team is different

Same as for the project manager applies for the project team – it consists of humans who are simply not all the same. You cannot manage them all with the same approach.

Every customer is different

You also need to factor in the nature of the customer when managing a project. Never forget – a customer can be internal or external. Customers are very different – how they are organized, the skillset of the customers project team, the priority of the project, the availability of resources, … . As a project manager it’s your responsibility to meet the customer where he is and to target your project management approach to it’s need. And not to strictly execute a standard as defined on paper.


The speed of our world is increasing

We live in a very fast paced environment. Developments are made constantly and the world around us is changing. But project management is still very much the same as years ago. Without a substantial transformation it will be hard to keep the pace.

The new generation of project managers is different

Everyone knows the articles on generation y and z and how they think differently. Furthermore, it’s clear that we are in a war for talents. If we stick to managing projects with traditional “best in class” methodologies and don’t draw a more modern and sexy picture of project management it will be very hard to get the best people for this job.

Project management is not only about managing but about leading

The focus in project management on “managing” is in my opinion to high. Leadership is the underrated component in project management. For a great leader it’s clear that he or she needs to deal with different leadership theories and have a broad knowledge in that area. Beyond that it’s clear that learning one approach and executing it in every situation, for every team member is not enough. So why do we think this is appropriate for leading projects?

For me a best of breed approach for project management is the future and the transformation project management needs. We should not stick to one standard and measure project managers on the level of certification; but for their knowledge of different methodologies and for their creativity in combining them to deliver successful projects.

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