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An Empirical Identification of Project Management Toolsets and a Comparison Among Project Types



This article presents the results of an empirical investigation of project management practice. Practice is investigated through the study of the extent of use of a large number of practices, tools, and techniques specific to project management. A sample of 2,339 practitioners participating in a large-scale international survey is used for this article. The sample size and the diversity of contexts in which the respondents are working render the analysis feasible and the results reliable. The data is analyzed to identify patterns of practice. More specifically, using principal component analysis, the research identifies patterns that demonstrate that practitioners use project management tools and techniques in groups or “toolsets.” A brief attempt is made to compare results with A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) (PMI, 2008) Knowledge Areas and Process Groups. The article also shows how practice varies with the management of different types of projects: engineering and construction; business and financial services; information technology (IT) and telecommunications; and software development projects. The identification of these variations has important consequences for practice and for the study of practice.