In this study, we investigated the quantity and impact of worldwide research production in the field of “project management” over the past 38 years. We performed a bibliometric analysis using the Scopus database between 1980 and 2017 to develop an understanding of the evolution of research on “project management.” Using the knowledge of a domain expert in the field of “project management,” we first compiled a set of reliable keywords, which represented the field. Second, we developed a data extraction strategy for searching the phrase “project management” in the title or keyword or abstract of publications by limiting our sources to journals in English. We observed the evolution of this field by analyzing not only the quantity of publications but also their impact (citations) per year and compared their growth trend in four periods. The results of our analysis confirmed that not only the research themes or topics but also the active parties involved in project management research have experienced phonemic changes over time.
Project management has been seen by some scholars as a “specific problem-solving method” (planning techniques and methods), which is somehow similar to optimization theory and applied mathematics and should be part of the engineering schools’ curricula. A different view is promoted by social scientists who are interested in the organizational and behavioral aspects of project organizations (Söderlund, 2004). The origins of modern project management stem from quantitative research in planning-oriented techniques as well as the application of engineering sciences and optimization theory (Söderlund, 2004).
Historically, there has been a debate in the management education community as to whether project management is a practice or an academic discipline. Kwak and Anbari (2009) argued that “[it] is an academic field and one of the key management disciplines that consist of both practical/empirical research and theoretical research, based on solid academic theories and foundations.”
Scholarly publications are a commonly accepted proxy for scientific performance and quantitative innovation research. Publications are the most important output indicator in science. Scientometric and bibliometric techniques are useful tools for evaluating and comparing researchers, research institutes, and countries and also for mapping the growth of any research field (Maheswaran, Kumar, & Sridharan, 2008). While several bibliometric studies on exploring collaborative research trends in different fields have been published, there have been very few bibliometric studies that deal wtth exploring and analyzing research publication trends in project management. These studies mostly provide an overview of their focus fields of study based on commonly used bibliometric indicators.
Presenting an overview of bibliometric studies on project management research seems warranted. Finding the active parties (e.g., institutes, countries, and fields) in this field, how this research area has evolved, and what is its current status is considered central to this study. Deriving a historical perspective by applying a cross-time and multilevel analysis, we observed the evolution of this field by analyzing publications’ quantity and impact (citations) per year and compared their growth trend in four periods. In addition to publication level, we applied the same analysis at institutes and national levels. In this paper, we identified and evaluated the most productive countries and institutes in project management research.
This paper starts with the review of the literature on the development of project management as a field of study by looking at the contributions from both industry and academia in this field and its evolution. Our method of data gathering and cleansing is explained in Section 3. The analysis of the data is given in Section 3. Section 5 identifies declining and emerging areas of research in the field and finally the paper ends with a set of conclusions and discussion.
2 Literature Review
Project management “has to be about delivering business benefit through projects” (Morris, 2003). In addition, it has been shown that organizations have increasingly been using projects and programs to achieve their strategic objectives since the 1950s (Morris & Jamieson, 2004). As highlighted by Turner, Anbari, and Bredillet (2013), “currently, more than 20% of global economic activity takes place as projects, and in some emerging economies it exceeds 30%.” They also noted that “in many public and private organizations some operating expenditures are also project-based. Project management makes an important and significant contribution to value creation globally.”
Söderlund (2004) suggested and discussed a number of research questions which scholars in the project management field should emphasize to build middle-range theories of different types of projects.
As discussed previously and in line with previous studies such as Kwak & Anbari (2009), project management (PM) has two faces, as a practice or academic discipline, which both continue to grow and develop (Crawford & Pollack, 2007), but the main focus might shift from one to another. Therefore, to study the field, we looked at the literature on considering project management both as a practice and as an academic field.
2.1 Project management as a practice (industry support on the development of PM)
The history of project management as a practice (profession) may go back to the time the pyramids in Egypt were built or even before that, but modern project management has been developed in the 1950s by the US military through developing concepts and techniques such as work breakdown structure (WBS) and Programme Evaluation and Review Techniques (PERT) (Morris, 1997). The development of tools and techniques, such as CPM and PERT, in 1958 has been seen as the starting point for the modern project management (Snyder and Kline, 1987), which was initiated by defense and construction industry. Later, professional organizations such as PMI (in 1969), APM, AIPM, and IPMA were formed which heralded a new era to develop bodies of knowledge (Turner et al., 2013). In addition to defense and construction industries, information technology (in the 1980s) showed sustained interest and supported the development of the field. Numerous researchers have shown the involvement in these industries with the development of project management as a field of endeavor. Betts and Lansley (1993), investigating papers published in International Journal of Project Management between 1983 and 1992 (for its first 10 years), found that papers mainly reviewed practical experience and literature. They also asserted that “by far the most frequently addressed industry was construction, followed by papers relating to the information and service sector and the process industries” (p. 211). Later, Evaristo and van Fenema (1999) stated that “the current knowledge based on the management of projects emanates from large capital construction projects responsible for only 10% of the projects.” In the survey by Pinto and Slevin (1987), the construction industry constituted 44% of the sample. Later studies showed involvement in other industries such as services or IT.
Themistocleous and Wearne (2000) identified construction (46%) and services (30%) as the two main industry sectors in PM based on the topic coverage in journals. In a later study, White and Fortune (2002) reported the portion of respondents to their survey as follows: over 25% from the IT industry, 8% from engineering, and 2% from construction. It should be noted that these numbers might not be the real reflection of the involvement in industries as a result of “the influence of sample choice on the results” (Crawford & Pollack, 2007), but they show the change of main parties in the development of PM field over time.
“Regardless of the ‘true’ breakdown of project management amongst all industry sectors, it is clear from these studies that project management practice is heavily influenced by research emanating from the construction industry.” (Crawford & Pollack, 2007)
2.2 Project management as an academic field of study
Many published studies have reviewed the PM literature to examine the development of the PM field and track the change of topics covered over time using many different approaches, finding diverse and sometimes contradictory results.
Betts and Lansley (1993) reviewed the papers published in International Journal of Project Management (IJPM) during its first 10 years (1983–1992) using a system of weighted classification. They classified publications based on the industry sector, publishing countries, organizations, institution types (e.g., universities, private practice, and public sector), and departments using authors’ affiliations. They found that the papers addressed a broad range of PM topics in an increasing wide variety of industries but construction was the dominant industry. They also highlighted a lack of proper progress for the development of fundamental theoretical basis for the field.
Themistocleous and Wearne (2000) analyzed the frequency of attention to “Body of Knowledge” topics (of the time) of project management in the papers published in the IJPM from 1984 to 1998. They reported that some topics such as Business need and case, Purchasing, Marketing, and sales have been paid very little attention or no attention, while topics such as Project close-out, Information management, Risk management, Project organization, and Schedule management were the most attended topics during that period in the journal. They also compared the topics’ frequency (based on the number of papers addressing each topic) in IJPM with Project Management Journal (PMJ) for the past 9 years and reported that many topics had comparatively similar attention in both journals.
Morris (2000), examining the most popular topics in papers and book reviews from IJPM, PMJ, and PM Network between 1990 and 1999, found that the main focus was on intra-project management topics (i.e., project context) followed by other topics such as Procurement and the related areas of Finance and Contracts, Project Success Criteria, Strategy, and Requirement Management.
Urli and Urli (2000) studied the project management literature conducting a scientometric analysis approach to identify the association of keywords in the project management-related papers in the ABI-INFORM electronic database published during the period 1987–1996 and categorized the field of PM into three complementary categories: project management tools, activity sectors, and particularities of project management, mainly concentrating on the areas of computers, construction, and R&D.
Kloppenberg and Opfer (2002) reviewed PM research journal papers, PMI conference proceeding papers, doctoral dissertations published in English, and also US government research reports from 1960 to 1999 (totally 3,554 records) and found that emphasis moved from the development and use of automated PM software (in the 1970s) and tools to risk management and earned value management (EVM) (in the 1980s) and then to human resource aspects including team building and leadership (in the 1990s). They also determined that main research themes shifted from large government defense projects to commercial applications in construction, information systems, and new product development. They believed that the shifts gave project management an important strategic role in industry rather than just a corporate mitigation tool in the previous decades.
Bredillet (2006) explored documents in the EBSCO Business Source Premier Database searching the keyword “project management” in abstracts published from 1984 to 2004 and used co-word analysis to understand the main trends in the field of project management. He found that these trends focus on strategic management issues, organizational issues (e.g., effective management and/or use of resources and cost), creation of value for stakeholders, technical issues, and softer issues. He concluded that PM as a field is becoming more focused on the implementation of organizational strategy.
Crawford et al. (2006) identified trends in project management based on reviewing previous studies which have categorized PM topics. They determined some trends as the significant PM topics if at least two studies identified a given topic as significant. Their list of significant trends (topics) based on previous studies included the following: context/environment; information management; leadership; monitoring and controlling; performance; planning; procurement; project organization; quality; risk; and scheduling. They also attempted to expose more recent trends (the topics that have received more emphasis) within the project management literature by investigating papers in the IJPM and PMJ published during 1994–2003 using keyword analysis and categorized 18 project management main topics including 48 individual topics. They reported that “synthesis of results revealed that Relationship Management, Resource Management, Time Management, Cost Management and Risk Management all displayed consistent significance throughout the study period. However, by contrast, Finalisation, Scope and Marketing tended to either be ignored by writers in project management or identified as not being of significance. Project Evaluation and Improvement and Strategic Alignment are both increasing in their significance to the field. Evidence also suggests that the significance of Quality Management and Interpersonal Issues has peaked, and that while these issues have previously been of interest to writers in the field, this interest is waning” (Crawford, Pollack, & England, 2006) (p. 183).
There are alternative views on the evolution of project management. Hensman et al. (2004) reviewed the state of project management in Australia and noted four major areas of focus: 1) use of project management as a vehicle to achieve organizational strategy and/or create new products and services; 2) linking and managing pre-execution (upstream) and execution (downstream) activities within a vastly extended project life cycle; 3) redefining project success criteria from traditional time, cost, scope (related to execution process efficiency) of the commercial value, its life cycle performance, and its environmental and social impacts (both positive and negative); and 4) human resource management and sociocultural and behavioral aspects of projects.
The literature broadly indicates that the understanding of project management has enlarged vastly beyond the original focus on the execution of projects. A comparison of state of play in the 1950s with the current state of play implies a paradigm shift in both theory and practice of project management. The literature review is broadly supported by our bibliometric analysis as described in the following sections.
3 Data Collection and Analysis
3.1 Tracking “Project management” Research
Publications may be used as a proxy for the recent and actual development of emerging technologies and for future potentials (Hullmann & Meyer, 2003). In the following sections, the most popular journals, active countries, and institutes in project management are identified by the origin of the authors. Furthermore, the most important and dynamic subdisciplines within project management research are identified based on the frequency of publications and citations for a range of keywords.
Figure 1 depicts the number of publications per year over the past 38 years. The overall trend shows a slow increase between 1980 and 2002 (except a fluctuation in 1996) followed by a rapid increase until 2008. Surprisingly, the numbers drop dramatically afterward and remain almost static since 2010 with a slight increase again in 2015.
The coverage of papers in our corpus is summarized in Table 1. It lists the journals in descending order of the number of publications for each time period and also the overall 38-year period. In the 2000s, journals such as IJPM, JCEM, IEEE-TEM, and IEEE Software almost doubled their number of publications compared to the 1990s. In addition, journals such as CME (Construction Management and Economics) can be seen to be ranked 3rd in total but was not so active during the first three periods, although it was first published in 1983. Further investigation revealed that CME increased the number of volumes and consequently publications per year since the 2000s. These can explain the sharp increase in the number of publications between 2003 and 2008 as shown in Fig. 1.
Number of publications based on the source (journal names).
|Journal||# Pub||Journal||# Pub||Journal||# Pub||Journal||# Pub||Journal||# Pub|
|5||Comp & Indust Eng||17||IEEE Software||64||AIC||113||JME||155||EJOR||254|
|7||J Inst. Eng. - India||14||Railway Gazette Int||56||EJOR||102||ECAM||103||IEEE-TEM||226|
|8||Info. & Management||14||TRR||56||IEEE-TEM||102||JCivEngMgt Eng||76||ECAM||202|
|9||Software Eng Journal||14||IJHydDam||56||ECAM||99||JCompCivil||61||IEEE Software||195|
|JIPM: Journal of International Project Management||ECAM: Engineering Construction and Architectural Management|
|JCEM: Journal of Construction Engineering and Management||JCivEngMgt: Journal of Civil Engineering & Management|
|JME: Journal of Management in Engineering||JCompCivilEng: Journal of Computing in Civil Engineering|
|CME: Construction Management and Economics||ExpSysApp: Expert Systems Applications|
|AIC: Automation in Construction||JPIEEP: Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice|
|TRR: Transportation Research Record|
|EJOR: European Journal of Operational Research||IJHydDam: International Journal of Hydropower & Dams|
|IEEE-TEM: IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management||J Inst. Eng.: Journal of the Institution of Engineers (India): Civil Engineering Division|
|IJMPiM: International Journal of Managing Projects in Business|
Table 2 summarizes the top 20 productive countries in this field of study for the four periods of study and also the overall number of publications over the 38-year time period. As expected, the developed countries with high-reputation universities such as the USA and the UK were among the top 5 countries that have published more PM-related papers in journals during all the periods. But the ranking of other countries did not follow a clear trend. For instance, China ranked 12th and 18th, respectively, during the first two periods, then jumped to 6th and 3rd over the last two periods. The biggest surprises are actually for the last period as there are countries such as Iran and Malaysia, which were not among the top 20 productive countries over the past 30 years but were ranked 8th and 16th, respectively, during 2010–2017.
Number of publications based on countries of the authors.
|Country||# Pub||Country||# Pub||Country||# Pub||Country||# Pub||Country||# Pub|
|8||Israel||8||Hong Kong||55||Hong Kong||366||Iran||243||France||680|
|16||France||2||Taiwan||29||South Korea||202||Malaysia||189||South Korea||409|
The data show an exponential increase in the number of publications for most of the countries in the sample. For instance, US institutes were publishing about 25 publications per year on average during the 1980s, while that number had elevated to more than 300 publications on average per year during the 2000s and about 200 during 2010–2017.
Table 3 lists the institutions (mainly universities) in order of the number of publications in PM-related journals. While the US ranked first in Table 2, there is no USA-based institution among the top 5 after 2010 and on aggregate over the whole period. On the other hand, three universities from Hong Kong are on top of the list during the last period (and considering all the publications during the 38-year period of study). Although most of the institutions are fluctuating in rank over time, “National University of Singapore” has been among the top 2 since the 1990s.
Number of publications based on the affiliations of the authors.
|Affiliation||# Pub||Affiliation||# Pub||Affiliation||# Pub||Affiliation||# Pub||Affiliation||# Pub|
|1||Stanford Uni||6||Stanford Uni||29||HK Polytechnic Uni||175||HK Polytechnic Uni||114||HK Polytechnic Uni||308|
|2||Philips Research||6||Nat‘l Uni of Singapore||26||Nat‘l Uni of Singapore||115||Nat‘l Uni of Singapore||105||Nat‘l Uni of Singapore||256|
|3||MIT||6||Loughborough Uni||24||Loughborough Uni||106||RMIT (Australia)||94||Loughborough Uni||196|
|4||Uni of Manchester||5||Uni of Manchester||24||City Uni of HK||105||Queensland Uni of Tech||83||The Uni of HK||184|
|5||Uni of Texas at Austin||5||Uni of Strathclyde||22||The Uni of HK||98||UCL||81||Uni of Manchester||175|
|6||Naval Postgrad. School||5||IBM||20||Uni of Texas at Austin||79||UNSW Australia||75||City Uni of HK||169|
|7||Uni of Brighton||4||MIT||20||Pennsylvania State Uni||70||Aalto Uni||67||Uni of Texas at Austin||160|
|8||Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs||4||Arizona State Uni||19||Uni of Illinois@ Urb-Cha||61||The Uni of HK||66||UNSW Australia||146|
|9||Florida InterNat ‘l Uni||4||Carnegie Mellon Uni||19||Stanford Uni||58||Hanledshoyskolen BI||62||Aalto Uni||145|
|10||Manufacturing Systems||4||IEEE||18||Uni of Alberta||58||Tsinghua Uni||58||RMIT (Australia)||144|
|11||Georgia Institute of Tech||4||UC Berkeley||18||Aalto Uni||58||Uni of Manchester||56||Pennsylvania State Uni||139|
|12||Technion-Israel Inst Tech||4||Uni of Salford||17||UC Berkeley||57||Loughborough Uni||55||Queensland Uni of Tech||138|
|13||Siemens AG||4||Tel Aviv Uni||15||Technion-Israel Inst Tech||56||Uni of Tech Sydney||55||Stanford Uni||136|
|14||Northwestern Utilities Ltd||3||Uni of Wolverhampton||15||Uni of Salford||55||Uni du Quebec Montréal||53||Uni of Alberta||123|
|15||Arizona State Uni||3||HK Polytechnic Uni||15||Tsinghua Uni||54||City Uni of Hong Kong||51||Purdue Uni||123|
|16||Los Alamos Nat‘l Lab||3||Purdue Uni||15||Delft Uni of Tech||53||Tianjin Uni||50||UCL||120|
|17||Merck & Co., Inc.||3||Uni of Texas at Austin||15||Uni of Maryland||53||Iran Uni of S&T||49||UC Berkeley||119|
|18||Uni of Bradford||3||Uni of Southern California||15||UNSW Australia||53||Uni of Tehran||49||MIT||118|
|19||Purdue Uni||3||Pennsylvania State Uni||14||Texas A and M Uni||51||Norges Teknisk-Natur. Uni||48||Arizona State Uni||116|
|20||Oregon State Uni||3||Cranfield Uni||14||Purdue Uni||50||Umea Uni||Texas A and M Uni||116|
Although five industry-based institutes (i.e. Philips Research, Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs, Manufacturing Systems, Siemens AG, and Merck & Co., Inc.) can be listed among the top 20 productive institutes in the field of PM in the 1980s, there was no industry-based institute among the top of the list afterward except IBM which was only during the 1990s. This may suggest that industry played an important role initially in developing this field by producing academic publications in journals, while originally only few universities were involved in the PM research.
3.2 Project Management Research Trends over time
To identify the trends during the development of the project management field, we used the keywords listed in each publication. We presumed that the more a keyword is used in publications the more it characterizes the importance of the topic in publications of the period. Thus, we used keyword frequency to determine the main focus of the research conducted by the scholars and practitioners during each period and how the field has evolved (developed) over time. Table 4 summarizes the top 20 keywords that have been used frequently during the four time periods and over 38 years. It is worth stating that “Project Management” has been removed from the analysis, while it has been used more frequently than any other keyword, our aim was to discover the topics that were related to project management.
The most frequently used author keywords based on the number of publications.
|Keyword||# Pub||Keyword||# Pub||Keyword||# Pub||Keyword||# Pub||Keyword||# Pub|
|1||Management techniques||20||Scheduling||29||Construction mgt.||332||project||377||construction mgt.||720|
|2||Planning||17||Planning||28||Construction industry||302||construction mgt.||368||project||676|
|3||Management||12||Construction||27||Risk management||187||Construction||242||construction industry||482|
|4||Data processing||12||Management||24||Scheduling||141||risk management||230||risk management||441|
|5||Software engineering||7||Project scheduling||23||Knowledge mgt.||139||Management||173||construction||438|
|6||Systems development||7||Project planning||21||Simulation||132||construction industry||172||design||401|
|8||Risk analysis||6||Risk mgt.||19||Construction||113||project success||138||simulation||301|
|10||Expert systems||6||Risk||18||Optimization||91||construction project||134||knowledge mgt.||274|
|11||Organization||6||Construction mgt.||16||design||89||knowledge mgt.||130||case study||242|
|12||Organization & methods||6||Heuristics||15||NPD||78||Simulation||126||risk||228|
|14||training||5||PERT||14||Managing projects||76||case study||123||cost||199|
|15||Forecasting||5||training||14||Decision making||75||critical success factors||109||uncertainty||191|
|16||software project mgt||4||PD||13||Case study||73||Sustainability||106||production planning||189|
|17||Control systems||4||Evaluation||13||Management||71||production planning||105||PD||186|
|18||Decision making||4||Integration||13||Production planning||71||project performance||104||project success||179|
|19||Performance||3||Risk analysis||12||Information systems||68||genetic algorithm||97||construction project||174|
|20||Systems analysis||3||design||12||Information mgt.||68||Cost||96||information system||172|
The results showed more focus on software/IT industry and technical issues (e.g., tools and optimization techniques and estimation methods) during the 1980s and 1990s. The focus seemed to have changed to construction industry, risk management, and soft skills (e.g., innovation, leadership, and knowledge management) since the 2000s. Sustainability and mathematical programming tools such as genetic algorithms have been the other trending keywords since the 2010s.
The number of citations that publications receive is considered as a tool to measure and quantify the impact of publications (Abbasi & Jaafari, 2013; Abbasi et al., 2014; Lehmann, Jackson, & Lautrup, 2006) and therefore is a suitable proxy for measuring the importance and influence of scientific works these represent. Thus, we repeated the analysis by listing the number of top keywords that have been cited more instead of keywords repeated in more publications. Table 5 summarizes the author keywords of publications and the sum of citations each keyword has received. It reflects almost similar trends to those generated based on the frequency of keywords as summarized in Table 4 (i.e., excluding keyword citations), despite the fact that “scheduling” and “project scheduling” keywords are among the top 20 most cited while they are not in the top frequently used list.
The most cited author keywords.
|Keyword||# Cit||Keyword||# Cit||Keyword||# Cit||Keyword||# Cit||Keyword||# Cit|
|1||Scheduling||196||Case study||1789||Construction mgt.||6331||Construction mgt.||1727||Construction mgt.||8273|
|2||Performance||174||IS research method.||1663||Construction industry||6318||Risk mgt.||884||construction industry||7174|
|3||Project objectives||173||Ethnography||1663||Risk mgt.||4962||Production planning||837||risk management||6642|
|4||Success||167||Interpretivist persp.||1663||Knowledge mgt.||3246||construction industry||795||scheduling||4046|
|5||Lagrange multipliers||155||Critical perspective||1663||Innovation||3078||Project success||763||Construction||3961|
|6||Integer programming||155||Hermeneutics||1663||Scheduling||2989||Construction||708||Knowledge mt.||3854|
|7||User satisfaction||125||Field study||1663||PD||2859||Knowledge mgt.||601||PD||3601|
|8||Software development||120||Performance||910||Critical success factor||2857||critical success factors||571||Case study||3577|
|9||Software engineering||114||Parallel program. En||854||Construction||2818||Project performance||540||Innovation||3514|
|10||Life cycle||104||MPI-2||854||Simulation||2077||Simulation||497||critical success factors||3470|
|12||Project requirement||65||Portability||854||Project scheduling||2009||China||455||Project scheduling||2803|
|13||System design methods||65||Benchmark||854||Managing projects||1955||Sustainability||426||Project success||2616|
|14||Risk analysis||62||Risk mgt.||777||Uncertainty||1860||IT||402||Performance||2480|
|15||Systems analysis||61||PD||593||Software development||1792||Case study||396||NPD||2367|
|16||Cost overrun||60||software metrics||567||Optimization||1759||Project portfolio mgt.||393||Uncertainty||2360|
|17||Development time||60||Scheduling||549||Learning||1745||construction projects||392||productivity||2328|
|18||System Devel. Practic||60||software PM||546||Productivity||1715||Complexity||392||Change management||2292|
|19||Development Results||60||Project scheduling||533||Decision making||1675||Sustainable develop.||369||Learning||2239|
|20||System Devel. Planning||60||Methodology||494||IT||1639||Collaboration||351||optimization||2208|
Tables 4 and 5 list only the top 20 keywords due to the limitation of this study; clearly, the study left out a large range of keywords. Therefore, to analyze further the topics in PM, we attempted to use a large proportion of keywords, clustering relevant keywords and comparing the clusters over the four periods. VOSviewer1 software was used to construct maps of keywords based on cooccurrence data (it can be used for any other types of bibliometric items such as authors and publications). VOSviewer is a freely available application for “constructing and viewing bibliometric maps” (Comfort, 1994). VOSviewer is used for constructing a network (and subnetworks or clusters) of keywords and visualizing them considering a distance-based visualization technique in which the distance between any two keywords, in the keyword cooccurrence network, replicates their relationship’s strength.
Figure 2 shows the cooccurrence maps of the keywords with high frequency (>50) in the PM publications between 1980 and 2017. Different colors represent different clusters of keywords, and the distance among the keywords shows their relationships’ strength. The font size of the keywords depicts their frequency.
The red cluster of keywords (middle top of the diagram) mainly reflects construction management issues such as labor and productivity and also relevant techniques such as BIM (building information modeling), automation, and information management. The pale blue cluster (mid-left of the graph) reflects “organizational and behavioral topics,” such as “leadership,” “trust,” “virtual team,” and “partnering.” The light green cluster echoes “education/learning” topics that closely overlap with the yellow cluster reflecting enterprise challenges such as innovation, change, and implementation. The pink cluster can be classified as software development issues and relevant project control factors (i.e., cost and schedule) and forecasting techniques (neural network and EVM). The green cluster (mid-bottom of the graph) reflects project scheduling techniques, e.g., CPM, PERT, optimization, and resource allocation issues. As summarized in Table 5, this category attracts more attention, on average, than other categories, i.e., receiving more citation despite less frequent use of them. The bluish cluster (the bottom right side of the graph) can be classified as risk analysis and management, referring to techniques for dealing and interpreting risks and uncertainties such as “simulation,” “system dynamics,” and “decision-making” tools.
Figure 3 depicts different clusters of keywords, reflecting the research themes, for each period. Research areas/topics such as “tools (systems/software),” “organizational issues,” “education,” and “project control (techniques)” can be seen during the 1980s. But in the 1990s, more focus was seen on “project control (techniques),” “risk control,” “tools (systems/software),” and “communication.” Soft skills and “construction”-relevant studies as well as more diverse keywords on project control (techniques) and tools were seen more in the 2000s. Case studies can be seen more strongly during the last two periods. Organizational issues, such as governance, change and PMO (project management office), and closely related topics on project success (left bottom of the figure), appeared to be new areas receiving more attention since the 2010s as more diverse keywords can be seen for each topic.
4 Conclusion and Discussions
To study the development of the project management field and also understand how it has evolved over time, we constructed a database, comprising information on 25,784 journal papers published in English over a period of 38 years from 1980 to 2017. Unlike the majority of previous studies, we did not limit our datasets to specific journals or countries. Our database comprised all project management papers published in all journals in English in all fields.
Using the publication data, we presented an overview of bibliometric studies, which traced the emergence of project management research areas. Our study demonstrated how theoretical and applied research in project management has evolved over a 38-year time span. Following the study by Hullmann and Meyer (2003), it is safe to assume that the findings indicate the recent and actual development of research areas as well as their future potential applications in the field of project management.
There is no doubt that PM as a field is growing rapidly through not only the number of publications in academia but also membership in professional bodies. The range and diversity of keywords extracted from the selected publications demonstrate a widening of perspective and development of new dimensions of the field of project management with ramifications for both research and practice. The growth in research activities over the study period broadly correlates with the growth in the number of practitioners joining professional associations in this field presumably to widen their perspective and acquire new skills. As an illustration, PMI membership grew from about 334,000 in 2010 to 445,000 in 2017. Our findings support the earlier findings by Crawford, Pollack et al. (2006) that project management as a field of endeavor has experienced step changes rather than incremental development. It is too early to assume that PM has entered its maturity phase even though the number of publications has plateaued post 2010.
A broad overview of Tables 2–5 highlights that the more developed a country is the more diverse is the range of industries and applications of PM. Whereas in the past, PM was closely associated with the civil and built environment and the defense industries, nowadays, it is in common use in virtually all sectors of the economy, such as the IT and information systems, manufacturing (product innovation), finance and service industries, and arts and culture (events). Safety and sustainable management are among the new topics of interest in the project management field since 2010 attracting greater attention in the academic publications by scholars and researchers.
Our findings show profound changes in the PM field of study from both a theoretical and application perspective. We have shown that the focus of research and application changes in different industry sectors, but this is not static as the focus has tended to change over time even within a given industry sector. Another finding of this study is that academic institutes in Asian countries have contributed greatly to the development of this field through publications in the recognized journals.
The authors submitted that the evolution of project management as a field of endeavor over the past 4 decades is a response to the ever-increasing complexity presents in projects, programs, and organizations. This is backed by the rapid rise in the number of papers and scientific works published in this field as well as the range of keywords in the last period of the study (2010–2017) compared to the first period of the study. Projects and programs are being designed and delivered in an increasingly complex regulatory, commercial, political, social, environmental, and organizational context, and there is thus a greater need to understand and develop new insights in terms of responding to a broad and complex range of needs, from citizens who demand better infrastructure and social services to customers and clients of commercial products and capital assets who have to operate in an increasingly competitive and globalized environment.
Bredillet, C. N. (2006). The future of project management: mapping the dynamics of project management field in action. Global project management handbook: planning, organizing, and controlling international projects. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Comfort, L. K. (1994). Self-organization in complex systems. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory: J-PART, 4(3), 393–410.
Hensman, N., Valenta, K., & Jaafari, A. (2004). Project Management in Australia: state of play and trends. Paper presented at the Sixth International Conference of International Research Network of Organizing by Projects (IRNOP VI), Abo Akademi University, Turku.
Hullmann, A., & Meyer, M. (2003). Publications and patents in nanotechnology. Scientometrics, 58(3), 507–527. https://doi.org/10.1023/B:SCIE.0000006877.45467.a7
Lehmann, S., Jackson, A. D., & Lautrup, B. E. (2006). Measures for measures. Nature, 444(7122), 1003–1004. https://doi.org/10.1038/4441003a
Maheswaran, S., Kumar, R.D. Sathish, & Sridharan, K.R. (2008). Research publication trends in structural engineering based on Journal of Structural Engineering. Annals of Library and Information Studies, 55(1), 17–26.
Morris, P.W.G., & Jamieson, H.A. (2004). Translating corporate strategy into project strategy: realizing corporate strategy through project management.
Morris, P. W. G. (1997). The management of projects. Thomas Telford.
Morris, P.W.G. (2000). Researching the unanswered questions of project management. Paper presented at the Proceedings of PMI Research Conference 2000: PM Research at the turn of the millennium.
Morris, P.W.G. (2003). The irrelevance of project management as a professional discipline. Paper presented at the 17th World Congress on Project Management.
Pinto, Jeffrey K, & Slevin, Dennis P. (1987). Critical factors in successful project implementation. Engineering Management, IEEE Transactions on(l), 22-27.