Advances in Project Management: For whose benefit? Reclaiming the role of users in projects


By Prof Darren Dalcher

Director, National Centre for Project Management

University of Hertfordshire


Why do we develop projects? Project development and delivery typically result in the creation of new assets and capabilities. Yet, to what extent do we shape the delivery process to reflect the needs and expectations of the ultimate users?

Answering the question is not easy: Perusing the bodies of knowledge reveals very little about users and their role in projects.

The Sixth edition of the APM Body of Knowledge published by the UK’s Association for Project Management begins with the following sentence: “Project, programme and portfolio (P3) management is concerned with managing discrete packages of work to achieve objectives.”

Later guidance elaborates on the role of the project manager, who “must be competent in managing the six aspects of a project, i.e. scope, schedule, finance, risk, quality and resources”. The first real mention of users comes up in the section on change management, which asserts: “projects often conclude with the delivery of an output that is handed over to the client or user organisation.” Even the index offers little further help in elaborating the role, impact or significance of users to a project. The Glossary proves more useful by confirming that users are “the group of people who are intended to receive benefits or operate outputs”.

The Fifth edition of the PMBOK Guide, the PMI’s Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge confirms that users are included amongst the project stakeholders, as “users are the persons or organizations who will use the project’s product, service or result”. It also expands on their role explaining that they may act as representatives or liaisons to ensure proper coordination, advise on requirements, or validate the acceptability of the project’s results”.

The project management bodies of knowledge offer scant information about dealing with users, understanding their needs, obtaining their feedback, establishing buy in, managing their expectations, or even communicating with users.


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Editor’s note: The PMWJ Advances in Project Management series includes articles by authors of programme and project management books published by Gower in the UK. Each month an introduction to the current article is provided by series editor Prof Darren Dalcher, who is also the editor of the Gower Advances in Project Management series of books on new and emerging concepts in PM. Prof Dalcher’s article is an introduction to the invited paper this month in the PMWJ. Information about the Gower series can be found at http://www.gowerpublishing.com/advancesinprojectmanagement

About the Author

Darren Dalcher, PhDDarren Dalcher, PhD flag-uk

Series Editor

Director, National Centre for Project Management

University of Hertfordshire, UK

Darren Dalcher, Ph.D. HonFAPM, FRSA, FBCS, CITP, FCMI is Professor of Project Management at the University of Hertfordshire, and founder and Director of the National Centre for Project Management (NCPM) in the UK. He has been named by the Association for Project Management (APM) as one of the top 10 “movers and shapers” in project management in 2008 and was voted Project Magazine’s “Academic of the Year” for his contribution in “integrating and weaving academic work with practice”. Following industrial and consultancy experience in managing IT projects, Professor Dalcher gained his PhD in Software Engineering from King’s College, University of London. Professor Dalcher has written over 150 papers and book chapters on project management and software engineering. He is Editor-in-Chief of Software Process Improvement and Practice, an international journal focusing on capability, maturity, growth and improvement. He is the editor of the book series, Advances in Project Management, published by Gower Publishing of a new companion series Fundamentals of Project Management. Heavily involved in a variety of research projects and subjects, Professor Dalcher has built a reputation as leader and innovator in the areas of practice-based education and reflection in project management. He works with many major industrial and commercial organisations and government bodies in the UK and beyond. He is an Honorary Fellow of the APM, a Chartered Fellow of the British Computer Society, a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute, and the Royal Society of Arts, and a Member of the Project Management Institute (PMI), the Academy of Management, the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the Association for Computing Machinery. He is a Chartered IT Practitioner. He is a Member of the PMI Advisory Board responsible for the prestigious David I. Cleland project management award and of the APM Professional Development Board. Prof Dalcher is an academic editorial advisor for the PM World Journal. He can be contacted at [email protected].

To see other works by Prof Darren Dalcher, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/darren-dalcher/.