So, there I was, waiting at yet another airport gate, when I overheard a conversation going on in the row behind me. In keeping with traveler etiquette I tried not to listen in. But when I heard the phrases "PMO", "PMI", and "project server" uttered in serious tones I could not help but listen in.
The gentlemen behind me held an animated conversation about the virtues of project management. They waxed eloquent regarding their newfound ability to determine how exactly what was in out what was out of their scope of action. They enthused about the wonders of parallel processing along the critical path and the wonders of modestly accurate use cases.
As I sat there listening, it occurred to me that I take for granted almost every one of the points they felt would change their lives forever. As a project manager of long standing, I don't think about all of the good things which come about because of the way we think. It takes someone outside the profession, someone who just started to wrestle with the iron triangle and it's daemonic children, to really appreciate the improvements we bring over the original chaos we replaced.
In particular a half-way decent project manager:1) Allows the business to have a point of contact for information
I cannot count the number of hours I spend, every week, answering questions only marginally related to the projects I am working on. That's honestly okay; I like it when people call me asking for help after I've lead a successful project for them. It's good for them to call IT to get help before jumping into the abyss. Heck, sometimes we can really help them. Even when we cannot, we can act as a good sounding board and sanity check.2) Gives the business owner a sense of security
Security is not just for blankets anymore. It's hard for anyone to know what a business (even a small one) is really doing on a day-to-day basis. A project manager's job revolves around knowing, within certain limits, what his areas both intend to accomplish and can accomplish within a given time frame. This means that a business sponsor or business owner can be reasonably certain that when he asks a "what is happening" question the project manager will answer it with a reasonable degree of certainty.
In other words, fancy project servers or no, the business owner can get a sense of what's going on just by asking a question. How cool is that?3) Creates a method by which business problems are identified
Teams change all the time. People come and go. Projects come and go. Real business problems tend to linger for the life of the business, since they exist because of rather than in spite of profit opportunities.
Project management provides a sense of continuity in the face of all this change. We record the risks, identify the issues, and help organize the implementation of solutions. All three of these allow us to gradually build an understanding of the shape of problems facing our business and eventually to define the problems in terms all of the stakeholders can understand.
So, there we have it. A little love of project management from someone who has worked on too many IT projects in the last decade to be entirely positive about the profession.