Bits and Boxes Increase the Need for Project Managers
Over a century ago, when Taylor and Gantt toiled to make steel plants and textile mills more efficient, they could not have predicted the end result of their work. As social and economic demands pushed project management to the forefront in many companies, new tools and transportation methods underscored the importance of proper project planning.
By the 1970s, large corporations already used mainframe computers to automate many of the processes of project management. Employee schedules, vendor deliveries, and other key data points could be fed into systems that helped project managers set deadlines and priorities. Over time, the processors required to handle these complex calculations shrank to the size of tiny microchips. While the project management tool of choice is usually a personal computer, some project managers find sufficient power in PDAs and smart phones to handle their routine duties.
Meanwhile, the growth of FedEx and UPS as inexpensive, express shipping options changed the nature of manufacturing and distribution. Instead of creating long-term projects that could be refined over time, manufacturers could focus on developing small batches of easily distributed projects. Especially in the computer and auto manufacturing industries, viewing product release cycles as finite projects has increased innovation and minimized employee burnout.
Finally, the project management philosophies espoused by Gantt have taken root in the software industry. With no physical product to ship, thanks to the Internet, developers can use their project management prowess to refine popular titles. Project management tends to be looser in many programming shops, based on the need to maintain quality control and the desire to respond to customer requests.