Project management is a critical tool for the administration of modern information technology delivery engagements. In the not too distant past, project management was often viewed negatively by technical project teams and customers alike as superfluous work. The project manager was viewed as a mere facilitator at best or a nuisance, requiring unhelpful administrative red tape, at worst. As organizations have grown and their operational maturity levels have increased, attitudes toward project management have evolved. Leadership teams have begun to take a more holistic view of how individual projects fit into their overall business strategy.
“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” –Jack Welch
What Is a Project?
First let’s talk about what a project is…and what it isn’t. A project is a complex, one-time effort completed for a specific purpose, with specific goals, having a clear beginning and end, and constrained by budget, schedule, and resource availability. Projects are customer-focused initiatives, either for internal or external customers—and usually a combination of both. Contrast this with a process. A process is like a project in that it has a beginning, middle, and an end, but a process does not have a fixed scope, schedule, or resources and is often repeated over and over. An organization may initiate a project to upgrade their billing system, but once updated, processing invoices every month would be considered a process.
What Determines a Project’s Success?
There are four main critical success factors for projects and the weight each one has in relation to each other will vary depending on the specific project environment. The four criteria are:
- Schedule—Projects are expected to begin and end at specific times.
- Budget—Projects are expected to be completed within a specific budget range.
- Performance—Project activities/deliverables are expected to meet the agreed upon specifications. The degree with which deliverables meet these specifications is known as quality.
- Customer Acceptance—Similar to performance, customer acceptance is not just an acknowledgement that the project was delivered as specified, but also that the project successfully satisfied the business need that was responsible for its initiation.
The Value of Project Management
IT services projects can be complex with many interdependent work packages, each of which has the risk of negatively affecting the end users of the applications and services within the project’s scope. The project manager’s job is not just to schedule, budget, and coordinate the project team, but also to identify and mitigate potential risks, ensure communications are transparent and effective to all project stakeholders, and be flexible enough to understand that each project will have a unique set of environmental factors that require the tailoring of management activities accordingly.
Choosing the Right Tool
There are several different project management methodologies available today that handle managing projects with different (and sometimes overlapping) approaches. Just as you would choose a tool designed to perform a specific function over a less optimized tool, it is important to select the correct project management methodology that will generate the greatest positive impact given the project specific goals, objectives, and constraints.
- Waterfall—Perhaps the most widely known methodology, Waterfall breaks the project down into distinct phases that are executed in a specific order. Waterfall allows for a high degree of control throughout all project phases, but becomes inefficient if the project’s scope undergoes drastic changes while it is already in process. Waterfall project management is best applied to projects involving mature, well understood products or services.
- Agile—Agile methodologies are significantly different than waterfall, as they were designed for projects that require a high degree of flexibility and speed. Agile is built on the idea of very short delivery cycles known as “sprints,” with significant focus on rapid, iterative progress and frequent, immediate customer feedback on project deliverables. Agile methodologies are best suited for software development projects or any other effort where the product or service requirements are fluid or unknown, such as the creation of a new product or service offering.
The Connection TSG PMO
Recognizing the positive impact that adhering to a standardized project management framework and methodology has to customer satisfaction, all project management activities within our Technology Solutions Group (TSG) are governed by the Project Management Office (PMO). The PMO ensures a uniform customer experience with the delivery of IT services projects, regardless of the specific technologies or technical personnel involved. (This framework is known as the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBoK), a globally recognized standard.) Any given project specific details will be different, but the greater project management methodology, processes, documentation, and communications will be consistent, no matter if the project is standalone or part of a greater program of similar projects.
Bringing It All Together
Project management is a key component in the successful delivery of IT services engagements, ensuring on time, on budget, and high-quality deliverables that provide customers with solutions to their business problems. Projects governed by the standardized methodology across all IT service offerings ensure that realized risk and inefficiencies are minimized while maximizing positive project outcomes.