The value of 'free'

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As project managers we are constantly aware of the relationship between costs and the value benefits. Whether it be putting together the business case or assessing a change request it’s always about return on investment.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that when the Praxis Framework was launched as a free web site (and now published by the APM in book form) project managers asked “what’s the catch?” The simple response was “there isn’t one”; but that was usually received with more than a little scepticism.

Ten months down the line and people are beginning to believe that something can be free and have value. It’s not always the case that “if it doesn’t cost anything, it can’t be worth anything”.

As project managers we are perhaps a bit jaded when it comes to our perceptions of cost and value. When we are not thinking in project management terms, we are happy to use Wikipedia, Drop Box and Skype to name but three, without any thought that we should really be paying for these services in order to get value from them.

Why can the same not be true of something related to our own profession? Most of project management is about straightforward common sense. For too long this basic common sense has been assembled into Bodies of Knowledge and Methodologies only to have a great big © symbol slapped on the front.

If you want to use diagrams or passages of text from these documents, you have to pay a fee ‘because they have value’. This is like charging project managers for the air they breathe and is untenable if we want the profession to expand and develop.

Those new to our profession need access to the basics openly and freely. Notice that being ‘free’ is not the only, or even the most important, part of that sentence. The value of something that is free is diminished if is not readily accessible or if it is not open to evolutionary changes driven by the more experienced members of our profession.

The time has come to look at how we perceive the basic principles of the discipline of project management. They are mostly common sense and they have enormous value – but that doesn’t mean they can’t be free.

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Posted by Adrian Dooley on 12th Mar 2015

About the Author
Originally a construction project manager, I became involved in the development of project planning software for PC's in the early 1980's. In 1984 I set up a training and consultancy company, The Projects Group, and ran that until its sale in 2008. I was a founder member of Project Manager Today Magazine and Project Management Exhibitions Ltd. From 1996 to 2000, I served on the APM Council. During that period I was the Head of Professional Development and was appointed to the Board of APM Group Ltd. I am now semi-retired but remain on the Board of APM Group. I was heavily involved in the development of the 6th edition of the APM Body of Knowledge and have drawn on that experience to create an integrated framework for P3 management at www.praxisframework.org.

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