This chapter serves as a snippet to traditional and agile project management methodologies as well as their application in various industries, including consulting firms. An attempt is made to distinguish traditional from agile project management methodologies. The chapter mainly focuses on the merits and demerits of each project management approach and the possibility of blending them, in an effort to improve results in consulting firms. It also gives background to the development of both traditional and agile project management together with the description of numerous driving forces for their adoption in industry. In view of the existence of abundant literature on traditional project management, this work tried not to overlabour that work and rather focused more on agile project management, which relatively lacks scholarly work. Therefore, for TPM, only areas most relevant to this thesis are discussed whilst APM enjoyed a more extensive coverage. The chapter also comprises of definitions of some key terms that relate to both types of project management. In addition the chapter gives a brief review of project management in consulting firms and its implications for the future.

The ensuing literature is a compilation of the theory associated with the major concepts that can be used to answer the desired research questions. The main theoretical bases were identified as Project Management (PM), Agile project management, Traditional project management, Agile versus Traditional methodologies, Agile project, Consulting, Professional service, management consulting, consulting project etc. These theoretical bases were used as keywords in search of information from a number of sources, among them, the project and general management journals found in EBSCOhost, Emerald Fulltext, Science Direct, ProQuest, Wiley Interscience and the various dedicated project management websites (such as PMToday and Gantthead). Some non-project management journals (such as IEEE Software and IEEE Computer) were also a good source of information. Books, working papers and conference papers also provided rich background information. The literature was categorised into theoretical reviews on traditional project management, agile methodologies and consulting firms.

Project Management: A strategic business solution or redundancy?

The failure to implement strategies has generated a world-wide momentum for managers to rethink on alternative ways of strategy implementation (Englund and Graham, 1999). At the forefront of these methodologies is a project and programme oriented approach which seems to offer great promise. According to McElroy (1996) by following this approach top management can be assured of a much greater level of success. This is the reason why there is an industrial wave of paradigm shift from traditional strategy implementation techniques to project oriented ones. The growing interest by organizations to implement their chosen strategies through projects can be shown by the holding of a World Congress on Project Management in Vienna in 1990 that had a central theme ‘Management by Projects’ (Lord, 1993; Hauc and Kovač, 2000).

The potential of project management culminated into its increasing use in new fields (Perminova et al, 2008) such as the public sector (Gomes et al, 2008) and thus project management is now a central tenet of many firms’ business processes (Sauser et al, 2009). A number of successes have been reported by organisations using project management (PapkeShields et al, 2009). In fact Russell-Hodge (1995) postulates that project based management will dominate future business even though history is indicating the other way, with a significant portion of project failures reported elsewhere (Whitty and Maylor, 2009; Sauser et al, 2009; Eden et al, 2005; Atkinson, 1999), most notably the The Standish Group’s Chaos Report (1995) as well as the KPMG report of 2005 which cited 86% of respondents having projects falling short of planned expectations (Papke-Shields et al, 2009). Despite these failures Whitty and Maylor (2009) opine that project management is currently fashionable and not a passing fad because of its ability to successfully implement strategies when properly orchestrated. One other reason put forward by Atkinson (1999) for the continued use of PM even if some projects are regarded as failures is that the iron triangle is sometimes seen as a tried and failed criteria for measuring success.

Furthermore the increasing need for instruments to create competitive advantage (Porter, 1985) is compelling some managers to embrace PM as a panacea to this challenge. This is so because according to Shenhar (2004) as well as Munns and Bjeirmi (1996), projects can be regarded as powerful and competitive weapons for unique and complicated assignments. With the emergence of strategic project leadership (Shenhar, 2004), project management is expected to stamp its authority in all sections of management (strategic, operational and human) and thus it will continue to play a key role as a business solution enhancer. However, there are also challenges that act as setbacks to this transition. One of the major challenges stems from the fact that PM is still evolving and is characterised by traditional approaches on one hand and the newly emerging methodologies (such as agile) on the other. This leaves managers in a limbo on which approach to follow. Despite these challenges, results on the ground show that PM will continue to grow as a preferred management solution since in some organisations project success has become embedded in business success (Rodrigues and Bowers, 1996).

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