Commercial management and projects

A long overdue match?

Advances in Project Management


By Prof Darren Dalcher

Director, National Centre for Project Management
University of Hertfordshire

United Kingdom


A quick search for the phrase ‘commercial management’ in the digital version of the 6th edition of PMI Guide released in 2017 fails to come up with a single result. The 6th edition of Body of knowledge from the UK’s Association for Project Management similarly offers no matches. The leading canons of project management knowledge would thus seem to imply that commercial management has nothing whatsoever to do with projects. The apparent disconnect is a little troubling since commercial management has a lot to offer project management practitioners and researchers.

The ignorance of commercial management is even more puzzling given that over the years, a number of decent books have endeavoured to bridge that gap, offering treatises that address the links, connections and common issues. Perhaps the first book to offer such insight and focus on the area is The commercial Project Manager edited by Professor Rodney Turner in 1995. The Foreword to the book, written by Dr. Martin Barnes, Former President of the UK’s Association for Project Management, notes that ‘many projects are not managed with proper consideration of commercial aspects. Only in the last few years have many people realized, for example, that only the most trivial projects are completed without needing well designed contracts between the contributing people and organizations.’

Dr. Barnes uses the analogy of risk management, that had previously been considered as a ‘bolt on extra’ to project management technique, to highlight the need to similarly integrate commercial management into the very core of project management. More critically, he points out that rather than simply fill a gap, Turner’s book first demonstrates an unrecognised gap before duly proceeding to fill it.

Rodney Turner and his team have not taken up space with descriptions of the traditional techniques of project management. … But, for the first time, almost everything which sets the context within which these basic project management functions have to be performed is here. Reading The Commercial Project Manager starkly demonstrates how important the surrounding commercial considerations are to successful project management. Integration of the commercial aspects of the basic technology has often not been achieved. Full integration, based on a clear understanding makes a big difference to the success of the completed project. Strangely, this applies whether the objectives of the project are themselves intensely commercial or not.’ (Barnes, 1995, p. xiii).

Despite the clear potential impact on the profession, well over twenty years following the publication of Professor Turner’s book on the subject and the plea from Dr. Barnes, commercial management remains a relatively perplexing conundrum, still completely unrecognised by the traditional project management sources of wisdom.

What is commercial management?

The Institute for Commercial Management (ICM), established in the 1970s and currently based in Ringwood, Hampshire in the United Kingdom, purports to be the leading international body for commercial and business development staff. Their definition of commercial management positions it as: “the identification and development of business opportunities and the profitable management of projects and contracts, from inception to completion.”


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Editor’s note: The PMWJ Advances in Project Management series includes articles by authors of program and project management books published by Gower and other publishers in the Routledge family.  Each month an introduction to the current article is provided by series editor Prof Darren Dalcher, who is also the editor of the Gower/Routledge 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. 


About the Author

Darren Dalcher, PhD

Series Editor
Director, National Centre for Project Management
University of Hertfordshire, UK



Darren Dalcher, Ph.D. HonFAPM, FRSA, FBCS, CITP, FCMI, SMIEEE, SFHEA 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”. In October 2011 he was awarded a prestigious lifetime Honorary Fellowship from the Association for Project Management for outstanding contribution to the discipline of project management. 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 delivered lectures and courses in many leading institutions worldwide, and has won multiple awards and prizes. He has written over 200 papers and book chapters on project management and software engineering and published over 30 books. He is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Software: Evolution and Process published by John Wiley. He is the editor of the book series, Advances in Project Management, published by Routledge and of the 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.

Darren is an Honorary Fellow of the APM, a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, a Chartered Fellow of the British Computer Society, a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute, and the Royal Society of Arts, a Senior Member of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and a Member of the Project Management Institute (PMI), the Academy of Management, and the Association for Computing Machinery. He is a Chartered IT Practitioner. He sits on numerous senior research and professional boards, including the PMI Academic Member Advisory Group, the APM Research Advisory Group, the Chartered Management Institute Academic Council, the British Library’s Management Book of the Year Panel, and the APM Group’s Ethics and Standards Governance Board. Prof Dalcher is an academic 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/.