A taxonomy problem in project management

Project management according to PMI is the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project tasks to meet the project requirements. It is made up of a set of activities which can be grouped in five areas:

  1. Initiating
  2. Planning
  3. Executing
  4. Monitoring and Controlling
  5. Closing

Different applications can be used to help to carry out the activities above and they are usually called project management applications.

Throughout my experience, however, the previous name is not the most suitable one because it causes two undesirable situations.

The first one relates to the fact that the inclusion level is too broad. It is too general to say that a program is a project management application.

The second situation happens when the use of the term causes confusion. Maybe people taking part in the communication attribute different meaning to that software category. There are two reasons which explain this fact from my point of view:

  • I do not know programs which cover all the process areas and, in case they exist, they are a minority and are not widely spread.
  • Project managers use a set of programs which cover just some of the mentioned areas (but not all of them).

Therefore, if we take into account both things, we find scenarios where people use the term project management to mean qualitatively different applications and that is the cause of the confusion.

The solution I suggest to avoid these problems is to use the process area name(s) to categorize applications and add this prefix to the project management term. Besides, many times this last part will be implicit and not necessary. As an example, we can say that NavalPlan covers (2) and (4) areas and, thus, would be a planning, monitoring and control tool.

Finally, I would like to end up with a last perception about applications which have among their features:

  • Bug tracking.
  • Time tracking.
  • Wiki
  • Calendar
  • Document management
  • etc

These applications are very common and I do not know a specific term for them, apart from project management. They are used for coordination, for resource collaboration, etc during the execution of certain type of projects.

Having said that, the idea I want to share, is that, according to my proposal, I would call them executing project tools, (3) area.

I will go in depth about project management tools categorization in a later blog entry.

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