Business Day, 30 October 2002, Principles applied in diverse fields

INITIALLY, only engineering students studied project management and the emphasis was on the scheduling of construction projects. Since then, the principles of project management have found application in fields as diverse as banking, AIDS-awareness programmes and sports events.

Herman Steyn, professor of project management in the engineering and technology management department at the University of Pretoria, says the emphasis has moved from merely scheduling to a multidisciplinary approach.

"Project management now includes aspects from the disciplines of people management, financial management, risk management, the law of contract, procurement management and quality management. In certain cases, safety, health and environmental management all contribute to the discipline of project management.

"The applicability of project management methods to managing under conditions of uncertainty and change has led to it being applied to community service projects, information technology, the financial and service sectors as well as government and semigovernment organisations," Steyn says.

He says project management is essential in all economies, especially in developing economies. Not only is it necessary for the development of infrastructure but also for endeavours such as the redevelopment of the taxi industry.

Furthermore, it remains essential for the mining, petrochemical, telecommunication, electricity supply and construction industries.

"A project manager normally builds his or her career within a specific industry. Experience in such an industry, as well as qualifications relevant to such an industry, is important," Steyn says.

He says despite the fact that project management is no longer the exclusive domain of engineers, there are 85 postgraduate engineering students in electronic, electrical, mechanical, chemical and other engineering disciplines who chose project management as one of the subjects this year.

"Altogether there are around 550 engineers, information technologists, construction managers and other professionals taking either project management as a postgraduate subject or studying towards a master's degree in project management at the university ."