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ISO 21500 Project Management Framework – Business Demands Going Global. I recently took the ISO 21500 International Project Management Workshop and realized something that, as an experienced project manager, I should have understood years ago. I knew this much: most industries are now global. Worldwide workforces, products designed on one continent and manufactured on another, parts fashioned in five dissimilar countries and assembled in a sixth are amazing feats that, half-a-century ago, simply weren’t possible. Over the last several decades entrepreneurs, visionaries and risk takers built intricate operations processes, logistical pathways and communications systems that share information, data and ideas across the globe. Business has been internationalized for decades, that much is certain. But project management—a practice that lies at the heart of business—has only started catching up at the turn of the millennium.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) provides internationally-adopted practices on just about everything. Development on the standard framework for project management, known as “ISO 21500, Guidance on Project Management”, started in 2007 and concluded in 2012. Its creation took vast amounts of compromise and effort to get done; business practices are complicated by culture, environment, politics and more. The ISO 21500 Project Management framework weaves together widely used project management practices from organizations like PMI and IPMA and has international buy-in. The young standard framework is designed to outline ”concepts and processes that are considered to form good practice in project management”. The details of ISO 21500 are vast—yet kindly commonsensical—but its broader vision is clear and with evident kickback.
Companies treat business development as a global practice. Don’t you think it’s time for the project management community to catch up? The publication of ISO 21500 Project Management framework was half the struggle but getting corporations to glom on will get us the rest of the way. Ones that accept the guidance allow project stakeholders to speak from the same playbook, cutting across languages, borders and cultural differences. The subject groups—stakeholders, cost, quality, risk, time, resource, integration, scope, communication, procurement—consolidate recommendations from the best minds, and organizations, in project management around the world. The methods, processes and tools work, not just in North America but also in Europe, the BRIC nations, Africa and elsewhere. Practical adoption of ISO 21500 Project Management framework by companies allows entire projects, not just some of the execution, to be handled in a country thousands of miles from headquarters. It empowers workers that sit in a desk on another continent to initiate, plan, implement and close a project in a way that leadership back home understands and approves of. And it makes collaborating with vendors across borders more predictable—standard project management plans and documents simplify integration.
The guidelines outlined in the ISO 21500 Project Management framework aren’t meant to counteract PMI, IPMA and other standardized practices. Quite the contrary. It fuses them together creating an agreeable pact that, if widely accepted, will bring together global project management with global business development, one Gantt chart at a time.