1. Project management has been—and still is—a useful methodology to run and manage standalone projects, such as new product development or the selection and implementation of a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. In this type of project, the project’s targets, scopes, resources, and other parameters are quite obvious and defined by the substance of the project itself. In my examples, they are to develop a new product and to prepare the necessary documentation and equipment for manufacturing; and to have a new ERP system deployed and running where well-trained users are successfully dealing with it and the managers are receiving the information needed in a timely and convenient manner.
Usually, organizations have no problems with this type of project management use—everyone understands it clearly and the methodology is well defined. In addition to engineer-to-order (ETO) manufacturers creating unique custom-made products and usually managing those customer orders as projects, project-driven activities can also be beneficial for assemble-to-order and make-to-order types of manufacturing businesses. For example, an internal customer order fulfilment policy can be created where some orders are segregated as projects, and business processes are defined based on project management knowledge.
2. Project management methodology can also be used in managing internal company changes which, at a first glance, might not seem like a “traditional” project, or might not seem to be a project at all. Here are two examples: a) due to market requirements, a manufacturer has to reduce a cost of a particular product; b) a manufacturer must identify and eliminate supplier-related bottlenecks in the purchasing of key components for the production. In these cases, it is not that easy to recognize project targets, scope, and work breakdown tasks. However, I do believe that this type of business challenge can be characterized as a project, and standard project management techniques can be successfully applied in this case. A company might have multiple projects running simultaneously: special project management software or an ERP system that includes a project management module can be used for these types of projects as well as for standalone projects.
3. And finally, a few words about the matrix structure of a company as an area of project management knowledge and application of methods. As the term suggests, there should be "horizontals" and "verticals," as in a matrix. Let’s say there are traditional functional or department managers, and at the same time there are product managers assigned for for the development and management of particular products or product families. The functional chain of “purchasing, planning, manufacturing, packaging, and shipping” will be our "horizontals", and product managers with their teams will be the "verticals". Our matrix is the intersection of the horizontals and verticals (see fig.1). A product manager can assign different people for the different projects (employees working on the same project are highlighted with blue).
Figure 1. Matrix structure [click thumbnail to enlarge]