Good Project Management The Difference Between Success And Failure

Demand--and budgets--are growing for IT projects in 2012, but the lack of proper project management typically results in a failed project, according to a new report from InformationWeek.

February 9, 2012

4 Min Read
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According to the recent InformationWeek: Outlook 2012 report, 75% of respondents see heightened demand for new IT projects. More importantly, IT is getting money to execute on those projects, with 56% saying their companies plan to increase IT spending in 2012 and just 16% saying spending will be cut.

That's good news because appropriate project management is the differentiating characteristic for IT projects that succeed, says the author of a new InformationWeek report. The "Research: 2012 Enterprise Project Management" report found that of the 508 business technology professionals surveyed, only 60% said they had a project management organization (PMO), but 30% said IT initiatives almost always add value to the business. There's a continuing mentality that IT professionals don't require good soft skills, but with IT success being directly related to business success, that's no longer true, says Jonathan Feldman, director of IT services for a North Carolina city and author of the report.

"I think the biggest problem is there are still pockets of 1980s mentality out there where IT people do not need to have good soft skills like written communications, tact, diplomacy, follow-up, follow-through. That's, I think, the biggest problem," he says. All of those skills are necessary for good project management.

PMOs are generally considered to be rather dry and boring by most people, and there are a lot of common misconceptions about project management in general.

"The big complaints are it's bureaucratic, it takes up time, it doesn't provide a lot of value, it's preventing you from doing what you need to be doing in the first place, it ties you up in meetings instead of working, on and on," Feldman says. "There are people who dive for cover when they see a project manager coming down the hall because they're afraid they're going to be put on a task that's a complete waste of their time."

Although it may come across as a waste of time, project management is necessary to keep projects on time and on budget, he says. In organizations that don't have a dedicated PMO, 77% of IT projects are being managed by IT staff. It's not OK to just be a technologist any more (unless that staff member is confined to the data center), and the increasing need for IT professionals with soft skills has been a trend in the making for 20 years, he adds.

The technology-native generation is now in the workforce, and the IT bullying that happened more than 20 years ago is no longer acceptable in the enterprise, says Feldman. The need for good project management is already there, mostly because an organization cannot execute well on a business technology project without soft skills related to project management.Good project management will enable businesses to reap the benefits of consistent, high-quality delivery of innovative IT projects. If project management is done right, it means that IT projects will succeed. Without it, failure is inevitable, and with failure comes a loss of time, money and effort, he states.

Can IT alone manage its projects? No. IT organizations that have their own PMOs attribute only 1% to 1.5% of the entire IT organization's budget to the PMO. They're not going to be able to manage every little project on IT's bailiwick, Feldman says. IT is equipped to handle a large number of smaller projects that don't require a PMO, but for larger projects where failure could mean significant harm to the organization, a PMO can ensure the project is a success. Unfortunately, only 53% of IT projects are always or usually delivered on time, based on responses to the survey. There's plenty of room for improvement.

"I think that by and large IT organizations need to understand that most of their infrastructure is going to be in the cloud in one way, shape or form in the future," says Feldman. "There's going to be very little in the way of internal infrastructure, and they had better bone up on their project skills if they want to keep working there because the projects are where the innovation comes from."

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