University of Pittsburgh

Giants of Project Management

Two Katz chaired professors and a graduate of the school's MBA and PhD program are the focal point of an article that reflects back upon the most influential figures in project management research, published in the International Journal of Managing Projects in Business.

The article — which highlights Katz professors Dennis P. Slevin, the Tom W. Olofson Chair in Entrepreneurial Studies and John E. Prescott, the Thomas O'Brien Chair of Strategy, and colleague, Jeffrey K. Pinto (PhD '86, MBA '82), the Penn State Erie Andrew Morrow and Elizabeth Lee Black Chair in the Management of Technology — credits the broad contributions they made to the field, largely through their breakthroughs in defining project success and providing measurement mechanisms. Their body of research has garnered a high number of citations in the field, a clear sign of the influence of their work on other scholars.

The September 2012 article, titled "Critical Success Factors in Projects: Pinto, Slevin, and Prescott—the Elucidation of Project Success," is written by Ralf Müller of BI Norwegian Business School and Kam Jugdev of Athabasca University in Canada. The authors begin with the famous Isaac Newton quote, "If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

"It was quite humbling to see that our work was featured in the article, and at the same time rewarding because we have made a significant impact on the academic and business communities," Prescott says. 

In the 1980s, Slevin, Prescott, and Pinto, published a series of articles that provided a solid foundation for subsequent research. At the time, projects were gaining recognition as a way to achieve corporate objectives; but definitions on project management were diffuse and tools to track success didn't yet exist. "Articles by Pinto, Slevin, and Prescott provided a solid foundation for subsequent research. These articles contributed to the field through concise and clear definitions and measurement scales for success factors, and a practical self-assessment tool based on how the concepts were operationalized," wrote Müller and Jugdev.

Indeed, many of the project management success factors identified by the trio later appeared in the Project Management Institute's literature. The PMI's Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, or PMBOK, wasn't published until 1996, eight years after the seminal work of Slevin and Pinto.

Prescott, Slevin, and Pinto continue to produce new research. For example, Prescott, in conjunction with recent PhD graduate Sean Tsu is adding to the emerging research of industry convergence.  Industry convergence occurs when the blurring of boundaries redraws the competitive landscape.

The effect "creates opportunities for new strategies to emerge, destroys competitive advantages while solidifying others, challenges cognitive maps, and establishes new institutional arrangements," Prescott says.

"We have found that over 50 percent of the industries in which the S&P 500 compete have either undergone or are undergoing industry convergence. As firms initiate strategic responses to industry convergence, they will benefit from the application of project management concepts and tools," Prescott says.